6 things you may not know about University College at Western

University College at Western is undergoing multi-million dollar renovations and CBC London got a behind-the scenes tour of the landmark building.

The multi-million dollar makeover has uncovered some old stories and a few surprises

University College is one of Western's oldest buildings. Once considered cramped, dark and decrepit, the nearly century-old building is undergoing a multi-million dollar overhaul. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

University College is undergoing a $34 million dollar restoration project that aims to restore the landmark building's original beauty. 

The refurbishments include state-of-the-art classrooms, a new reading garden on the east side of the building as well as all new plumbing and electrical infrastructure.  

Not only will the renovations add some new aspects to the old building, but they've also kicked up some long forgotten secrets that were buried away in the 95-year-old structure. 

Here are six things you may not have known. 

Tower dedicated to war dead

The Middlesex Memorial Tower stands atop University College hill as it has for the past 94 years. While the building itself was built in 1922, the tower wasn't completed until a year later. 0:44

The Middlesex Memorial Tower is probably the most recognizable part of University College. The structure was originally dedicated to the men from Middlesex County who died in the First World War. 

University crests from across the globe

Western University's purple and white crest is among a number of crests set in stain glass in Conron Hall, University College's largest lecture theatre. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Each panel of stained glass that adorns Conron Hall carries a crest from a different school somewhere in the world. As part of the renovations at University College, there are plans to add light bunkers on the inside, so that the stain glass lights up at night. 

Light shines through the stain glass inside University College's Conron Hall. As part of the improvements to the building's largest lecture theatre, officials say they plan to install lights to project light outwards after sunset, so the stain glass lights up at night. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Look down, waaayyy down

While few students ever care to look down at the floors while shuffling off to the class, they are very rare in Canada. Terrazzo flooring has its origins in 15th century Italy and is used in St. Peter's Basilica and Washington's Mount Vernon. 0:41

How many students do you think ever bothered to notice the palatial floors at University College as they went to class or ran to get to an exam on time? The type of flooring used in the building is called terrazzo, which has its origins in Renaissance Italy. It's made from chips of marble or glass embedded in cement, then polished to a shine. 

Kentucky rocks

Crews working on the restoration of University College have gone to great pains to find a match to the building's original limestone facade. The rock is distinct because it carries naturally occurring iron deposits that rust when they come in contact with rain. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Mustangs might bleed purple and white, but you might have noticed that University College seems to bleed rust. It's thanks to the original limestone, mined almost a century ago from a quarry in Kentucky. When the iron deposits in the stone come in contact with rainwater, it oxidizes. While the original quarry has long ago been exhausted, crews went to great pains to find a new source of stone for the restoration work. 

London underground

Take a trip to a place where few people ever get to see, the over 400 metres of service tunnels that bring water, electricity and heat to Western's iconic University College. 0:49

The service tunnels that run beneath University College help bring light, heat and water to a number of buildings on-campus.

They run from the campus power plant near Alumni Hall to the Physics and Astronomy building and over the years maintenance crews have added hand-written signs to prevent workers from getting disoriented underground. 

Raccoons, birds and high heel shoes

The tell tale footprint of a raccoon left behind in the dust along the ballustrade overlooking Conron Hall, University College's largest lecture theatre. The animal was one among many discovered by workers during renovation work on the building. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The renovations have uncovered some wild discoveries, including a raccoon, who had decided to take up residence in Conron Hall.

The animal was released back into the wild almost as soon as it was discovered, according to officials at Western, but it's far from the only critter who calls University College home. Crews discovered barn swallows making their home on the building's roof while doing restoration work. 

Fred Janzen, the project manager of the multi-million dollar renovations at University College, stands inside the maintenance tunnels that run below the 95-year-old building. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

One of the oddest finds though found in one of the original sections of the building's cement roof, completed in 1922. 

"We've found evidence of what was going on," Fred Janzen, the restoration project manager told CBC News. "Including a ladies' shoe print that was put into the concrete back when it was wet in 1922."

"Don't know how it got there, but these are the kind of interesting things you find." 

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: