Fathers Building is Rededicated

The Fathers Building, more commonly called “Pop Hall,” was rededicated last evening, nearly nine decades after it was constructed through the generosity of Lawrenceville’s Fathers Association. Taking its place alongside what is now Woods Memorial Hall, Pop became the School’s second major classroom building and, to paraphrase remarks made by Board President Tom Carter ’70 P’01 ’05, once again is a symbol of the devotion and support Lawrentians extend to their alma mater.

Pop Hall reopened this fall following a two-year renovation that gutted most of the interior and turned the undeveloped space between Pop and Woods Mem into a landscaped courtyard. In leading the dedication ceremony, Head Master Elizabeth Duffy H’43 thanked, in particular, Sue and Mort Fuller ’60 P’89 ’01, principal donors to the project, and Jeremy Mario ’88 P’16 and the Mario family for their generous support.

“We are enormously grateful to the alumni and parents who, over many generations, have made our campus an environment that supports the utmost levels of teaching and learning,” said Ms. Duffy. “We are especially grateful today to the Fuller and Mario families and others who made the dream of renovating and modernizing this building a reality.

“Mort and Sue Fuller stepped forward early in the Bicentennial Campaign with their commitment to the Pop Hall renovation,” she continued. “The Fuller family has deep roots at Lawrenceville, and their involvement is closely intertwined with the history of the Fathers’ Building and the School.”

Jeremy Mario spoke on behalf of the Mario family, which provided principal support for the courtyard, and Mort Fuller spoke for the Fuller family, including Sue and their daughters, Liza Fuller ’89 and Tracey Langfitt ’01. “Because of the design vision of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and the disciplined supervision of Lawrenceville project managers Gary Skirzynski, Kevin Lysick and James Kesilman, the renovated Fathers Building is far more remarkable than Sue and I imagined when we began the project,” Mort commented. “The Fuller family is proud and honored today to be among the many benefactors of this great School whose roots we share.”

Ms. Duffy also recognized the additional donors who so generously joined the Fuller and Mario families in supporting this endeavor: Bob Howard P’64 ’68 GP’93 ’04; Clara and Joe Tsai ’82; Gail and Dick Barrett ’67; Myeongjin and Guenho Lee P’11 and Jimin Lee ’11; Amanda and John Waldron ’87; and the Getz Family – Sandy and Bert Getz ’55 H’56 and Susie and Bert Jr. ’85 – through the Globe Foundation.

The following text is reprinted from the commemorative booklet prepared for the dedication.

The Fathers Building Then and Now

The Fathers Building, or the “New Recitation Building,” as it was called before receiving its official name, was dedicated in September 1925 and dubbed “Pop Hall” soon after. The building was constructed through the generosity of the newly formed Fathers Association, one element of a growing base of support among Lawrenceville parents and alumni. It was also the first in a series of buildings, designed by the New York architectural firm of Delano and Aldrich, that grew up around the Bowl and represented a significant expansion of the School’s footprint.

The Fathers Association, led by a slate of trustees that included William Adams Delano, class of 1891, and Mortimer B. Fuller, class of 1896, solicited its members to raise the $200,000 needed for a second classroom building to relieve extreme overcrowding. Memorial Hall, now Woods Memorial Hall, the primary classroom building at the time, had been constructed to serve 180 boys and a dozen masters. By the time ground was broken for the new Recitation Building in 1924, the School’s enrollment had swelled to nearly 500 students, taught by 43 faculty.

With 21 classrooms, administrative offices and more, The Fathers Building served Lawrenceville exceedingly well for many years. The statue that graces the first-floor rotunda is a reproduction of a Greco-Roman bronze known as Il Fedele, “the faithful one,” and for more than 100 years, Lawrentians have been rubbing its foot for luck in exams. The wood-paneled offices bordering the rotunda accommodated the Head Master, Registrar, Dean of Faculty and their assistants, and dedicated reception rooms for parents and alumni occupied part of the first floor. The basement provided an ideal work space for School publications, which included The Lawrence, The Lit and the Olla Podrida. It also housed the School bookstore, a faculty billiards room and the Milk Bar, which furnished 500 boys with milk and crackers assembly-line style every morning at 10:30. A large faculty room was centered on the north side of the rotunda on the second floor. In 1936, the building’s classrooms adapted easily to the introduction of Harkness tables.

As the School continued to grow, the Head Master’s, Registrar’s and Deans’ offices moved to Mackenzie and were replaced by other administrative offices. Pop Hall became the dedicated home of the Foreign Language and Religion and Philosophy departments. The publications offices remained, and the bookstore became the Frederick W. Gerstell Used Bookstore. The Milk Bar was converted to an examination hall and later to storage, and the billiards room fell into disuse.

When a revolution in technology placed increasing demands on the building’s infrastructure, it became time to take a hard look at Pop’s other needs after almost nine decades of wear and tear. The Bicentennial Campaign, a fundraising campaign that coincided with Lawrenceville’s 200th anniversary, offered an ideal opportunity to incorporate a top-to-bottom renovation of the Fathers Building among its fundraising priorities. Early on, inspired by Mort’s family ties to Pop and to Lawrenceville, Sue and Mort Fuller ’60 P’89 ’01 stepped forward with the lead gift. Others followed, most notably the Mario family and Jeremy Mario ’88 P’16, who led the redevelopment of the courtyard between Pop and Woods Mem.

The result is a fully restored, revitalized and modernized Pop Hall. New flooring, new paneling, fresh paint and mechanical upgrades were only the beginning. The lower level, which had been looking more and more like a basement, was exposed to natural light with expanded windows and landscape modifications that surround the building’s perimeter. The exterior concrete at the basement level was replaced by marble face, and at the back, this lower level now opens onto a stone patio, with steps that lead to an upper tier in the shape of a Harkness table and a courtyard ringed by all-new flowers and shrubs. Inside, the lower level is a technology powerhouse, home to the IT Help Desk, digital language labs, the School’s Communications Office and student publications offices, video production facilities, and our own “genius bar” for students and faculty seeking tech support.

The building’s first and second levels have been restored to their former glory. The rotunda gleams, and Il Fedele is back from storage, also refurbished. The Dean of Residential Life, Day Students office, Registrar, and International Programs office have new or renewed homes. Harkness tables have returned to their classrooms, and the changing requirements of the Foreign Language Department have been met with new, modular Harkness tables, retaining the beauty of the originals while delivering advanced functionality.

Working closely with the Fullers, the Philadelphia-based architectural firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, designers of the glass-walled Apple Stores, sought to achieve Mort and Sue’s vision for a renovation that was “Apple Store on the lower level and Smithsonian on the first and second floors.” There can be no doubt that they have succeeded.

Originally published in 2013.
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