Then and now: The curious case of the Kendall Hall plaque

Then and now: The curious case of the Kendall Hall plaque

Calvin N. Kendall Hall was the fourth structure completed on the current campus, built to accommodate student assemblies and musical and theater productions. As a performance center it represented a marked improvement over the cavernous, third-floor auditorium that was in use at the original Trenton campus. Kendall had two theaters, both of which had stadium-style seating, as well as a costume shop and dye room. It also contained faculty offices, classrooms, and soundproof practice rooms.

The curtains first rose in Kendall on June 21, 1932, for a student production of Washington, the Man Who Made Us. Four days later, an official dedication ceremony was conducted during that year’s  Commencement exercises.

This plaque, which presumably hung in Kendall for decades, was rediscovered last summer.

It seems reasonable to assume that the plaque created to honor the building’s namesake would have been hanging inside the hall by that point, most likely somewhere in the lobby. We say “most likely” because no one we’ve talked to remembers seeing it hanging in Kendall, and we’ve been unable to find any photos that show its original placement. Architectural drawings for the building, which include every detail imaginable down to the design of Kendall’s ornate, custom lighting fixtures, provide no indication of where the plaque was placed, and Guilbert and Betelle, the architectural firm that designed the building, performed its own disappearing act decades ago. 
(But that’s a story for another issue.)

Assuming such a placement—a safe bet, says TCNJ’s campus architect Lynda Rothermel-Kane—the 43 ½” x 28″ bronze sign likely remained hanging in the lobby for at least the next five decades, during which time the hall was the setting for myriad concerts, commencements, plays, musicals, operas, classes, talent shows, entrance exams, lectures, and speeches, as well as the occasional protest and, tragically, one still-unsolved murder. 
(Also a story for another issue.)

Kendall closed in 1988 for renovations, and various delays kept the building offline for nearly five years. When it officially reopened in spring 1993, Kendall featured a new wing housing a TV studio and Black Box Theater (later renamed for the late Don Evans); new studio space for WTSR; new seating, lighting, and sound systems in the main theater; and a new lobby. Absent from that refurbished lobby, we presume, was the plaque. It seems likely it would have been taken down prior to construction work getting underway; perhaps when that work took several more years than originally planned, the plaque was simply forgotten about.

It might have remained that way had a TCNJ employee (who asked that his name be withheld) not stumbled across it last summer, mixed in with items that were marked for the trash. The employee took the plaque back to his office for safekeeping until it can be reinstalled in its original hanging place.

That’s something both Rich Kroth, director of arts facilities, and Dale Simon, theatre coordinator and technical director for Kendall’s Main Stage Theatre, are anxious to see happen. Neither Kroth nor Simon, who have worked at TCNJ for 19 and 18 years, respectively, (and likely know their way around Kendall as well as anyone else on campus) recalls ever seeing the plaque hanging in the building. But the plaque represents a piece of the 
College’s history, and that’s worth preserving, said Simon.

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