Finishing touches were added to the interior and exterior of the Portlock Black Cultural Center days before students moved into the new building late August. The center, located at 41 McCartney St., at the corner of McCartney and Hart streets, now serves as a residence for three students and offers expanded spaces for student gatherings, lectures, and meetings for students who identify under the Black/African diaspora. 

The project began in 2017 through initial discussions with students and alumni who noted multiple limitations that existed due to lack of space in the previous center. Plans for the new center coincided with the second phase of the College’s McCartney housing project, which required removal of an existing historic building designed by Easton architect William Marsh Michler, Lafayette Class of 1893. Michler, who is known for the reconstruction of Pardee Hall following a second fire in 1987, is associated with other homes located in College Hill. 

The new Portlock Center features the EPI Riley Temple Gallery, a large gathering space on the first floor to accommodate community events and lectures. The multipurpose space is also used as a living room by residents and for casual student meetings. The expansive first floor also offers a dining room, kitchen, and an accessible bedroom, if needed. An expansive finished basement fit for social gatherings is also available for student use and is accessible via stairs or an elevator. A 400-square-foot rear patio for outdoor events and gatherings provides additional space. Upstairs are private residence quarters, including three bedrooms, the Aaron O. Hoff Library, and a separate gathering space.  

Repurposed materials from the original building, including brick from the fireplace, the newel post from the foyer, as well as existing books, art, and accessories that give context to the history of Portlock Black Cultural Center, have been incorporated into the new home. Furnishings and decor also were sourced from Black-owned businesses. The home also features a beautiful piece of art donated by retired Prof. Rexford Ahene that he acquired from Ghana this past summer, entitled The Hairdresser, depicting African hair culture. 

Last March, on the College’s Founders’ Day, alumna Heidi Ludwick Hanson ’91 contributed a lead gift to support the expansion and revitalization of the new center. An open house and dedication is planned to take place during Rivalry Weekend (Nov. 18-19). Details for both events are below:

History of the center

The center opened as the Malcolm X Liberation Center in 1970 on part of the site that is now occupied by Farinon College Center. The center was relocated to 101 McCartney St. in 1990 and renamed in 1999 for David A. Portlock, assistant dean of academics, who had passed away three years earlier. Portlock joined the College in 1968 as a part-time consultant to the dean of students before becoming assistant dean of students in 1970 and assistant dean of academics in 1975. During his time at Lafayette, he helped create several programs, including the Black Cultural Center and the Association of Black Collegians. 

Support the center

Named spaces are still available! To learn more about ways you can support this initiative, including an opportunity to join with classmates and contribute a collective gift, contact Emily Walker, assistant director of major gifts, 610-330-3261 or

View photos of the new center: