As far as rumors and legends at this school go, there’s enough material to fill an entire “Weird (TC)NJ” book. Just walk around campus and it’s hard to find an area that doesn’t have some sort of mystery or lore attached to it — including the buildings we live in. Was Centennial Hall an elementary school? Was ABE a nursing home? Norsworthy a small hospital? Let the debunking begin.
When looking from the outside, Centennial Hall certainly looks like an elementary school. Records like the College’s annual reports and catalogs from the mid-1950s nevertheless show that it was built solely for residential purposes. Its design was actually heralded when it was built in 1955 (marking the College’s 100th birthday, hence the name “Centennial”), despite what many students think of it now.
“The new dorm will provide the most modern quarters to those lucky enough assigned to it,” enthused the Signal editors in an issue from that year. The editors of the 1956 Seal even went so far as writing, “Centennial Hall brings to campus the spirit of the next hundred years … its clean lines presage a future of dynamic achievement, both in the forward lines of architecture and of education. The bright colors foretell a future design of active living … thus creating a model pattern for the future.”
There was nevertheless an elementary school linked with the College at the time. This school, the Lanning School, still stands today, although it is across the street on Pennington Road and was never actually located on campus. For decades, however, the Lanning School was used as a “demonstration” school for the College’s students of education. According to “The Demonstration School of the Trenton State Teachers College,” a report authored by College administrators in 1937, there were plans for a high school to be constructed on campus so that those studying upper education would receive first-hand experience. Later records show that these plans were abandoned, however, due to a lack of funds brought on by the Depression and World War II.
As for Allen, Brewster and Ely Halls, the rumor that they were once a retirement facility or nursing home (which I have only heard from a few people)is also untrue. Like Centennial, these buildings were constructed for residential purposes and were in fact the first dormitories on the College’s current campus. Interestingly, there appear to be no records that provide any sort of basis for ABE being confused as having been a nursing home, other than the fact that the buildings are very old. There are nursing homes in Ewing, only one of which dates back to the 1930s, according to the facilities’ respective websites.
The legend that Norsworthy Hall was a small hospital is different from the other two in that it is partially true. As detailed in the College’s official annual reports from 1932 to 1972, one wing of Norsworthy was an infirmary, while the rest of it was residential. In its earlier years, a full-time nurse lived there among the students. In 1973, a section of Bliss Hall (which was then transitioning from a men’s dormitory to a faculty office building) was made the College’s health center, and Norsworthy became completely residential.
I have heard from several people, however, that not only was Norsworthy a hospital, but it was a psychiatric hospital. An explanation for the origins of this misconstrued belief could simply be a mixing of facts: Naomi Norsworthy, for whom the building is named, was a well-known figure in the psychology world and wrote a book on children’s psychiatry, and of course, as I mentioned earlier, the residence hall had an infirmary in one wing. But at no point was the building ever a full hospital, much less one for psychiatric purposes.