More than one person was wowed after walking through St. Paul’s School’s new Community Center on January 5. Following a year of construction, rooms that had lain empty for months were quickly bustling with curious students, faculty, and staff.
The estimated $7 million project, funded by 29 parents and alumni, is the School’s first step to creating a centralized gathering space for the community and moving its arts program, currently situated in modular classrooms behind Memorial Hall, to the academic quad.
Fourth Formers Sam Hobbs and Brian Cowhey were quick to try out the Center’s pool table in the Won Family Lounge, located on the garden level overlooking the dam by Library Pond.
“There are just so many possibilities,” said Hobbs. “We haven’t had something like this on campus, something where all the students can come together and have a fun time.”
During the course of a year, members of the SPS facilities team, Ben Jorgensen, Paul Lachance, Derek Russell, and Joe Jackson, shepherded craftsmen from Harvey Construction Corporation of Bedford, N.H., Ann Beha Architects of Boston, Mass., subcontractors Longchamps Electric, Multi-Weld, KPMB Mechanical, Granite Glass, Hampshire Fire Protection, MasCon Masonry, among others, in more than 60,000-person hours of work.
The Community Center is located in a structure originally built in 1928 to 1929 that has served SPS in a variety of ways; first as a dining hall, with additional faculty and guest apartments on the upper level, and most recently as the home of the Arts Department and gallery. Crews used 13 miles of wire and cable, three miles of pipe and conduit, nine tons of ductwork, and 29 tons of structural steel and rebar to create the vibrant two-level space. Their efforts also include 149 historically accurate windows, complete with zinc caning replacements, showering the common areas with natural light.
A blend of original materials was kept, such as the entry hall’s slate floors and wood-paneled walls. Modern furnishings in bold colors and various textures lend to the structure’s new identity as the School’s social center. The first floor houses the new Cafe, mailboxes, and seating in two adjoining rooms known as Raffini Commons. Alongside the Won Family Lounge on the garden level is the Baxter Dean of Students Suite, the Tao Family Project Room, and the Robert G. Holt Jr. ’85 Radio Station, home to 90.5 FM WSPS. The entire space overlooks the Ronald J. Clark Terrace, a granite courtyard with a fire pit.
"It was cool to see how many people were in here smiling," said Cowhey. "It's awesome to see how it has transformed the School as a whole. It is good to give students something to look forward to."