Architecture adventures: the faces behind the buildings

Marianna Packer, Fred Armstrong and James Forcina are the faces behind some campus buildings’ names. (The Seal 1936, The Seal 1937)

A common joke told by ambassadors to prospective students is that the College’s central building is named Green Hall because “it’s where all your money goes.” Though it’s humorous because financial services operates out of this building, it’s not at all true. Several weeks ago, I went over the various people that our residence halls are named after, but since campus tour season is upon us, I will now do likewise with non-residential buildings.

Let’s start with Green Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus (a time capsule from 1931 was discovered this past summer in its cornerstone). This central campus building was named for James M. Green, principal of the College, then the New Jersey State Normal School at Trenton, from 1889 to 1917. In those days, “principal” was equivalent to president.

Another original building is Kendall Hall, which was named for Calvin N. Kendall, who created the Office of the Commission of Education in 1911. He also served as New Jersey state commissioner of education and later as the president of the department of superintendents of the National Education Association. Since 1985, new buildings on campus have been designed to reflect the Georgian Colonial architecture of original buildings like Kendall and Green.

This explains why the Brower Student Center, opened in 1976, does not match well with the buildings around it. It, too, however, was named for a College president — Clayton R. Brower. Brower was president from 1970 to 1980 and was a professor and department head before that.

Nearby Packer Hall was also named for a member of the College from the time in which it was constructed (1932). Marianna G. Packer was an instructor of physical education and hygiene and the head of the health and physical education department from 1932 to 1945.
Starting at the College a year before Packer was Armstrong Hall’s namesake Fred O. Armstrong, professor and chairman of industrial arts from 1931 to 1958. According to the College’s engineering website, a scholarship is presented in Armstrong’s name to certain incoming freshman engineering majors.

Not far from Armstrong is Bliss Hall, which saw many years as a men’s dormitory. Don C. Bliss was the principal of the College, then the Trenton State Normal School, from 1923 to 1930.

Although it is the former art building, Holman Hall’s namesake was not involved in this field. Alfred P. Holman was an English and speech professor from 1947 to 1975 and served as English department chairman.

Next to Holman is Forcina Hall. This building’s namesake is James J. Forcina, who served in various administrative roles from 1959 to 1978, including professor of education, dean of instruction, vice president of academic affairs and executive vice president. Forcina was also an alum (class of 1937) and was involved with many clubs, including The Signal, as a student.

Although the Library has no namesake, its predecessor did. Roscoe L. West Hall was only recently reopened as a multi-purpose building. It served as the College’s library for decades, and it currently houses the Career Center and large conference and lecture rooms and is planned to be the home of the David Sarnoff Museum. Roscoe L. West was president of the College for 27 years and is also the namesake of Roscoe the Lion.

The most peculiar namesake on campus would appear to be Loser. I have to admit that I was a bit judgmental when I first saw Loser Hall, but like everyone else I quickly learned to pronounce it correctly with a long “o” sound. This building was named for Paul Loser, who served as superintendent of the Trenton Public School System from 1929 to 1954.

With so many buildings lacking proper names (just painstakingly obvious ones; I don’t think anyone mistakes what the Music Building is for), we have all the more reason to take pride in those with namesakes. Who knows? Maybe some of the people we know today will one day have a building named for them.