In The Stephan Archives

Frederick Law Olmsted: Landscapes for the Public Good
(May 2022 to April 2023)


The Lawrenceville School’s historical significance is partially derived from the distinctive landscape design of Frederick Law Olmsted, universally regarded as the seminal landscape architect. Olmsted’s vision shaped outdoor spaces across North America, proving that functionality could be beautiful. We observe the bicentennial of his birth in 2022.

Olmsted was also notable as a journalist, social critic, and conservationist, but a man shaped by the context of his time. Olmsted’s most famous publication, Journeys and Explorations in the Cotton Kingdom, was written during his journalistic tour of the Antebellum South and continues to spark debate among scholars over its controversial language, questionable tone, and depictions of slavery. Olmsted insisted his signature work, New York City’s Central Park, be committed to egalitarian ideals, but its creation also ruthlessly demolished and displaced Seneca Village, a predominantly Black community. His approval of this land seizure complicates Olmsted’s legacy of social consciousness and equality. Historians and The Lawrenceville School have begun to explore this legacy in a way that frames Olmsted and his momentous work as part of a much larger American story, in a context that considers the histories of all of its people.

Much of this exhibit was created by Oak Spring Garden Foundation and the National Association for Olmsted Parks for the Olmsted 200 campaign. The Lawrenceville School has been granted permission to supplement the exhibit, which is generously on loan to the School from these two organizations

Online Exhibits

Hamill Letters

Samuel M Hamill 600 dpiAn exhibition of letters to Samuel McClintock Hamill (1812-1889) and Hugh Hamill (d. 1881) relating to The Lawrenceville School.

Samuel McClintock Hamill originally came to Lawrenceville as teacher of the Latin and Greek languages, having just graduated from Jefferson College in Pennsylvania.  During his directorship at Lawrenceville, Hamill received the degree of D.D. from Hanover College, Indiana.  Principal for nearly fifty years, Dr. Hamill named the school Lawrenceville Classical and Commercial High School and co-directed the institution with his elder brother the Rev. Hugh Hamill, who taught classics.  Noted more for wise management and firm but generous discipline than for innovative teaching philosophy, Dr. Hamill cultivated Lawrenceville’s prestige and enrollment while leaving intact the traditional curriculum and methods with their emphasis on memorization and recitation.

Under the Hamills’ care, the school flourished and student enrollment grew from eighteen boys in 1837 to sixty-eight boys and a faculty of six in 1849.  Lawrenceville’s increasing fame and the respected reputation of Dr. Hamill were reflected in his 1850 appointment as chairman of a Select Committee to report on the “Whole Subject of Instruction and Training” before the National Convention of the Friends of Public Education held in Philadelphia.  Ten years later, Lawrenceville boasted a student body of nearly one hundred, a number that temporarily dropped during the Civil War years.

By 1865 and despite Hamill’s conservatism, changes began to occur in the form of school schedule revision, a new gymnasium, and the introduction of organized sports.  In 1879 Dr. Hamill sold the School for $25,000 to the residuary legatees of the late John Cleeve Green, a first cousin to Mrs. Matilda Hamill and one of the first students of the school at its founding. As part of the contract Dr. Hamill agreed to continue directing Lawrenceville until a new principal could be secured.  His collected records and those of the school were lost when his home for retirement, built in the Lawrenceville orchard, burned down in the winter of 1887.  Dr. Hamill moved to Trenton and, almost two years later, passed away on September 20, 1889.  He is buried in the Lawrenceville cemetery.

The Facade of Woods Memorial Hall

Edith Memorial Chapel and Memorial Hall

Romanesque in style and completed in 1890, Woods Memorial Hall was designed by the architecture firm Peabody & Stearns as The Lawrenceville School’s main academic building.  As the institution’s physical embodiment of education in the 19th century, numerous references to the School’s original curriculum carved in Longmeadow brown sandstone adorn the building’s northern facade.  These carvings evoke a bygone era yet, retain lessons in history for all Lawrentians. 

Bearing Witness Project

Rania Shah Print 2020Over the course of its 210-year history, The Lawrenceville School community has experienced moments of challenge and uncertainty. The past year has tested our spirit but built us stronger; the COVID-19 pandemic upended normal school routine and the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd were a call to action.

Lawrenceville student activists sought a meaningful expression in the midst of such emotional turmoil and the result was the Bearing Witness project.  As explained by Assistant Dean of Faculty Alison Easterling in the introduction to the project shared with students, faculty, and staff:

“We want students to understand that they are each and all members of a community where they are valued, and that it’s the way of this community in times of trouble, whether outside the gates or inside, to give time and space to reflect on momentous events and powerful feelings.”

In lieu of final exams, students spent the final two days of the school year using class time to create an “artifact” that reflected their personal response to the turmoil of spring 2020. The artifacts were collected by the Stephan Archives to document the community’s response to this difficult time both individually and collectively.

More than 300 students, faculty, and staff responded with submissions in a multitude of formats that represent the creativity of Lawrentians, including:

  • Poetry
  • Speeches and monologues
  • Artwork and photographs
  • Lesson plans for classes or self-education
  • Personal reflections
  • Essays
  • Film and music playlists
  • Statistical analysis projects
  • Videos and slide presentations
  • Prayers

This digital exhibit includes the submissions that best lent themselves to an online format, and whose creators granted the School permission to share. Curator Sarah Mezzino commented:

“The breadth of submissions from the School community was curatorally and emotionally overwhelming in both scale and scope.  Balancing the physical limitations of the online platform with an exhibit theme — ‘Experiencers & Witnesses’ — was a challenge that could not have been achieved without the ongoing help of both the OMA and a student focus group.  This exhibit is the result of months of collaborative work and represents a fraction of the Stephan Archives’ holdings.”

The full body of submissions to the Bearing Witness project have been collected by the Stephan Archives and will be retained as a “snapshot” of the School community’s response to the unique challenges of spring 2020.  Because of the personal nature of the submissions, not all materials will be available for research until restriction periods have passed.

From Our VILLEage to Our Town

Thornton Wilder FramedCelebrating the 100th anniversary of Thornton Wilder’s appointment to The Lawrenceville School Faculty as a French instructor, The Stephan Archives in collaboration with The Summer Reading Committee is thrilled to highlight Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning theatrical work, Our Town.  One of many seminal pieces created by Wilder during his prolific career, Our Town has been produced by The Periwig Club twice — in 1966 and 1993.  Please join The Lawrenceville School community as we remember Wilder throughout the 2021-2022 academic year.

Aldo Leopold’s Lawrenceville Hikes

Clickable map with archival documents

Leopold_1904_map_50Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) was a member of The Lawrenceville School’s class of 1905. After graduating from Lawrenceville and the Yale School of Forestry, he went on to a distinguished career in the fields of ecology, conservation, forestry, environmental ethics, and land management. While a student at Lawrenceville, Leopold wrote home almost every day to his family in Burlington, Iowa. In his letters, he describes natural history hikes he took throughout the greater Lawrencville area ranging from Trenton to Princeton. This map was created in June 2018 by Lawrenceville School students participating in the Leopold Scholars program with assistance from school faculty and staff. Students read Leopold’s letters and his biography and then visited approximate locations referred to in his letters and in the map he drew shortly after arriving in January 1904. Placemarks for each site include a photo taken between June 15-17, 2018, as well as a link to an original letter written by Leopold of that general site. These original letters are provided courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Digital Collections. For more information about Aldo Leopold and his legacy, please visit the website of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

The History of Abbott Dining Hall

VMA Concept Sketch Cropped 2Dedicated to the sixth Head Master of The Lawrenceville School, Abbott Dining Hall has hosted numerous wedding receptions, dances, and conferences, and served thousands of meals to the community for nearly sixty years. During this time the hall has been reimagined and reconfigured, most noticeably during the 2018 renovation. Join The Stephan Archives and your classmates in celebrating the hall’s history – from inception to the present!

Learn more about the initial construction of Abbott and the evolution of the dining hall at Lawrenceville by visiting The History of Abbott Dining Hall: Digital Exhibit.

Photos from the Coachman Collection

Candid photos taken by brothers Walter Fossin Coachman L1913 and Charles Rogers Coachman L 1917 in various locales between approximately 1913 and 1920.

House Football: A Lawrenceville Tradition

This exhibit explores the history of House football at the Lawrenceville School and its impact on the community.

Past Exhibits

Periwig’s Favorite Playwrights! (May 2017 to April 2022)

periwig_sq_powerpoint_graphic-e1556131136329bCelebrating its 125th Anniversary, the Periwig Club has showcased plays written by playwrights who were so prolific and so talented that their works graced The Lawrenceville School’s stage multiple times over the last century.  From comedies to tragedies, the plays that these individuals created helped shape Western thought, emotion, and humor.  Join your classmates in The Stephan Archives to celebrate the Periwig Club and its favorite playwrights!

Teaching & Trekking through the Tropics (May 2019 to July 2022)

image (2)Following in the steps of Aldo Leopold’s legacy, Dr. John L. Clark has spent his career in the pursuit of discovering and documenting plant diversity. As the Aldo Leopold Distinguished Teaching Chair in Environmental Science and Ethics, Clark directs annual research expeditions during summer and spring breaks to Ecuador and Cuba for Lawrenceville School students where they too can participate in biodiversity scholarship through experiential learning. Travel enthusiasts, scientists, and art aficionados will be delighted to see 24 enlarged, full-color O’Keeffe-like images of new and thought-to-be-extinct flowering plant species in photographs taken by Clark and now displayed in the Fathers Building. Candid photos of students, faculty, and Aldo Leopold (Courtesy of the Leopold Foundation) are also on display. This exhibit is designed and sponsored by The Stephan Archives.

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