Old Well reopens

The Old Well has new accessibility features for the start of the academic year. Renovations completed over the summer include the installation of a sloped pathway that connects the surrounding brick pavers with the upper platform of the Old Well.

“The Old Well is one of the most photographed icons in our state. It brings our community together every day, and especially tomorrow when we celebrate FDOC and our tradition of the first sip,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said on Aug. 20, when the Old Well officially reopened. “Yet for decades, it hasn’t been truly accessible to every member of our community. That changes today, and I am so grateful to the many people who worked together to make this possible.”

University Photographer Johnny Andrews made photos throughout the construction process and shares a look at the work that went into renovating this priceless gem.

A finger pointing at a blueprint.

May 24, 2023

While renovations began at the end of May, employees from UNC facilities and University contractors were planning the work months before.

A worker removing a pair of bricks.

Aerial view of a worker removing bricks from the ground.

June 6, 2023

Brick pavers had to be removed during the project so that the ground could be leveled before the construction of the sloped pathway, said Daniel Widis, University landscape architect and project manager for the renovation. The grades around the north side of the Old Well had to be raised to make the path accessible without the need for adding a formal ramp with handrails, Widis said.

Four workers, one kneeling and the other three standing, working to measure the depth of a well.

A look into the interior of a well.

June 8, 2023

Ever wonder what the actual well under the Old Well fountain looks like or how deep it is? Widis said the workers who measured the depth determined the well was approximately 45 feet deep.

Two students using shovels to dig into the ground next to a well. Two onlookers are in the background.

June 9, 2023

While the area was blocked off for construction, Summer School students in the Field School in North American Archaeology class were able to check the area around the Old Well for historic artifacts. In this photo, Mary Beth Fitts, adjunct assistant professor, and Heather Lapham, adjunct associate professor, help direct their students during a small excavation of the soil.

A worker using surveying equipment next to a well.

June 15, 2023

Campus Surveyor Scott Rodgers used surveying equipment to locate known reference points for the Old Well drain line as renovations continued.

An overhead view of workers having a meeting in the interior of the Old Well structure.

July 11, 2023

Work continued throughout the summer. On this July day, members of the renovation team met up to discuss the project’s progress and schedule.

Three workers using a wheelbarrow to transport granite slab.

July 17, 2023

By mid July, workers had moved the first granite slab into place for the new sloped pathway. Widis said Mt. Airy granite was used to build the pathway. “The 1954 Old Well reconstruction used Mt. Airy granite throughout for the stairs and plinth,” Widis said. “Continuing to use this local material was an easy decision. A key driver of the project was to make this new sloped path feel as integrated and connected to the existing Old Well as possible.”

Workers putting a fountain into place above a well.

Aug. 16, 2023

Workers return the fountain to its home at the Old Well as accessibility renovations on the structure continue. David Sichi, carpentry shop supervisor with UNC Facilities Services, said the solid stone fountain weighs approximately 600 pounds. Although the fountain returned, the plinth that the fountain once stood upon did not, resulting in a fountain that is slightly lower and more accessible than before.

A person using a wheelchair on a sloped pathway approaches the fountain of the Old Well on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Aug. 20, 2023

One day before the start of the fall semester, the Old Well officially reopened at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Kathryn Sorensen ’04, an assistant clinical professor in the occupational science and occupational therapy division of the UNC School of Medicine, was one of several individuals to make use of the new sloped pathway.