The building of Abbott Dining Hall started with a crisis of overcrowding (and subsequent noise complaints) for the Fifth Form. By 1950, the senior class and associated masters had not only outgrown Upper House’s living quarters – Fifth Formers resided in Belknap, Kinnan, the Lodge, Upper, Wayside, Maple, Van Dyck, and Wagener Houses – but Upper’s original dining hall which absorbed the common room had exceeded capacity. Head Master Dr. Allan Heely decreed that the class would be split in half during meal times between Upper House and The Lodge. Although this solution considerably eased crowding and lowered noise levels (tablecloths were also employed to absorb sound), masters and the administration feared that by splitting the class into two groups during such a prime socialization point they would inevitably sever friendships and create rivalries. As a means to potentially combat such results, a contingency plan of “alphabetically shuffling” students between dining halls was reportedly formed but accounts lack as to whether it was implemented.
Old Gymnasium, 1959
Abbott Dining Hall, 1963
Edwin Lavino, ca. 1950
Dr. Bruce McClellan H' 1957, 1958, 1960 GP' 10 and Mrs. Abbott
Records indicate though that by 1956 the School recognized that a new dining facility was necessary and took the first steps to achieving that goal by including it the 150th Anniversary Fund campaign. Seeking five million dollars by the School sesquicentennial in 1960 (with $450,000 earmarked for the dining hall), the School embarked on its first large-scale, cross-country financial drive, which exceeded expectations and drew $5,643,421.60 from over 3,260 donors. Funds were combined with insurance payouts from the loss of the School’s first official gymnasium to a fire in 1959 and a new dining hall for the Fifth Form was officially earmarked for construction.
Designed by Philadelphia architect Walter Frederick Thaete (1911-1986) and then-President of the Lawrenceville School’s Board of Trustees, Edwin M. Lavino (1885-1976), Abbott Dining Hall was technically a modern expansion of Upper House. With a floor plan encompassing 19,250 square feet, the hall’s exterior mimicked Delano & Aldrich’s Colonial Revival campus surrounding The Bowl, with brick walls, a flat roof, and a limestone trim. The building’s interior, however, was much more modern and complex, with small Colonial accents. Contractors broke ground for the dining hall on February 12, 1962, and officially opened on January 25, 1963.