Last month our extended visit in “Destination: Ewingville” found us in the 1930s at the birth of a college campus on grounds formerly occupied by several farms, portions of an old racetrack, and a popular dining spot.
Throughout the ’30s, and beyond, there was much construction necessary to realize a campus among the woods and farmland. The Depression, and Emergency Relief Projects, resulted in construction costs being less than they might have been at another time. Classrooms and lecture halls, administrative offices, dormitories, recreational facilities, and many types of infrastructure all had to be created on land formerly owned by CV Hill, Susan Titus, Fred Wenzel and the Blackwell-Green family.
The move for the N.J. State Normal School from the area around Clinton Avenue in Trenton to the Hillwood area of Ewing could not be complete until sufficient facilities and buildings for students, faculty and support staff were ready to be occupied or used, which finally happened in 1936. The name of the institution was then changed in 1937 to the N.J. State Teachers College at Trenton—yes, even though it was technically in Ewing. Construction, completion and dedication ceremonies continued for many years as the college created the structures and facilities necessary to fulfill its mission of educating the educators.
In full disclosure, I am proud to say that I am employed by the contemporary iteration of this institution—The College of New Jersey. While every large business or institution has its occasional “bad apples,” I have consistently found the people at TCNJ—faculty, staff and students—to be thoughtful, inquisitive, generous, considerate and highly capable in their area of expertise or knowledge. It is a satisfying and enjoyable workplace on a very beautiful campus.
So, when I walk around the campus and see the names of the buildings, I often find myself wondering about the person whose name has been given to a building. As the campus was created and developed, many buildings needed to be named. Who were these people so honored? While buildings today are often named for individuals who donate a significant sum of money to an institution, it was not always this way. Names often honored a much-respected and highly esteemed individual.
The campus has many buildings named for individuals, including many of those constructed in the 1930s which are still standing and in daily use. Here but are a few:
Green Hall, the main administration building with the iconic clocktower, was dedicated in 1931 and named for James Monroe Green, PhD, LLD, who graduated from the N.J. State Normal School in 1870 and became its principal or president, from 1889 to 1917. (No relation to the Green family whose historic farmhouse still stands on the campus.) Presiding during a time of much growth, he did much to raise the school’s educational standards, improve the curricula, and increase the student body.
Roscoe L. West Hall/Library (which is no longer a library) was also completed in 1931 and given the utilitarian name of “The Library” until it was renamed sometime after the presidency of Roscoe L. West, 8th president of the institution (1930-1957) and a nationally respected educator and advocate of teacher education.
Kendall Hall, named for Calvin N. Kendall, N.J. State School Superintendent and the first state commissioner of education, who successfully unified schools in N.J., and raised educational standards across the state.
Women’s dorms Allen, Brewster and Ely were also constructed in the early ’30s and were named for: Miss Elizabeth Allen (1854-1919), Class of 1869, teacher, teachers’ rights advocate, and first woman president of the N.J. Education Association; Miss Alice Brewster, beloved English teacher at the Model and Normal School; and Miss Sarah Ely, Class of 1866, student and mathematics teacher at the Normal School.
These are only six of dozens of namesakes whose lives and accomplishments were meant to be recognized and remembered long after they were gone. May their memories and the buildings so graced stand long and proud.
Happy holidays to all!
Information for the November and December columns was derived from “Time: The Great Teacher, A History of 100 Years of the NJ State Teachers College at Trenton, 1855-1955,” by Rachel M. Jarrold and Glenn E. Fromm (1955).