A "Cap"stone Project for the Next 100 Years!
At Cap and Gown Homecoming on November 11, 2017, Tom Fleming, our Graduate Board Chair, announced the approval of one last major building project for Cap and Gown –
a Garden Study Room along the Roper Lane side of the club.
Thanks to the generosity of Howard Cox '64, this unique addition to the Cap and Gown Club will henceforth be known as the Cox Wing!
The cox wing
In October 2011, we held the grand opening of the Friend Wing including the Class of 1973 Dining Room. Since then, we have been able to successfully renovate many other parts of our historic clubhouse including both the unisex second floor and officers’ third floor bathrooms. We have also rebuilt our chimneys allowing us to resume fires in the Class of 1969 Living Room. While the club looks fantastic, we knew there were issues to address.
The Cap House Committee under the able leadership of Karl Pettit ’67 and Mike Erdman ’57 retained local architect and Cap alumna Louisa Bartle Clayton ’93 to put together a plan to deal with the following considerations:
Storage: The decision to go geothermal severely affected the amount of storage in the club and eliminated the plans for an employee staff room. The lack of space has not only impacted the staff and their ability to do their jobs, but has also drawn the attention of the new fire marshal who has pointed out multiple code violations. We also currently rent expensive external storage space not convenient to the club.
Event Space: Even with the additional space in the Friend Wing, the club rents tents for numerous student and alumni functions. The tents are both expensive and cover up the beautiful lines of the rear of the club. Student functions such as winter formals are held in cold weather. The fire marshal has recently begun enforcing a regulation that prevents tents from being connected to the main building, calling into question their functionality when they are needed most.
Shade: We are fortunate that our big back yard, which is on the south of the club, can host so many wonderful events. When we do not have tents, there is no exterior shade either for the events or the normal operations of the club. This also is a negative when we rent the club for weddings in the summer despite the geothermal air conditioning.
Study Space: Thanks to University-funded Wi-Fi, many members use the club extensively during the week to study. The brightly lighted Class of 1966 Sun Room is particularly popular, but space is limited.
Finding the Solution
Louisa Clayton and the Cap House Committee came up with a solution to deal with these issues, despite the constraints of our current configuration, by proposing a covered terrace over a storage room on the side of the club along Roper Lane. As we further discussed the objectives and cost, we realized that with current building technology, we could have an open air space that could also be used in the winter by enclosing the space.
Site constraints, including the location of geothermal fields in the back of the clubhouse, led us to the underutilized space on the west side of the club. This location would allow efficient access from the current clubhouse, on both levels, particularly if we could eliminate the ugly fire escape from the second floor to the ground floor. It would also mean deliveries could be made to the club from Roper Lane, rather than blocking our one lane driveway as is the case now.
Was this wonderful concept too good to be true? Yes, indeed, if we could not get a zoning variance, which was far from a minor task. Our club manager, Dennis Normile, said we needed to be able to seat 96 more people for our major events to eliminate the need to rent tents. Building cannot take place within 25 feet of a roadway, and we needed to come within 3 feet of Roper Lane for a space that would meet our needs. The only way to know for sure if we could get permission was to present detailed and costly plans to the Princeton Zoning Board.
Karl Pettit led the charge to hire a professional team including architects, engineers, zoning lawyer, and even a concept planner. After a bidding process, the club retained Michael Farewell, the architect of the Friend Wing to come up with a design that met all of our objectives and was consistent with the architecture of our historic structure, particularly important, as it will be visible from the street.
To support our case for town approval, we contacted the University, the owner of Roper Lane, who agreed to not object, and we received strong letters of support from our closest club neighbors on the street. Armed with all of this as well as considerable patience, as the town dictates the timing, we received the zoning variance, the support of the historic commission, and unanimous approval by the Princeton Planning Board in October.
We will have two seating configurations, one for events and one for every day use. For many months of the year, the window panels will be open. During the winter and during rainy periods, these panels will reappear from the respective corners. A gas log fireplace, similar in design to the one in the living room will provide additional ambience and supplementary heat.
We will be adding a beautiful North Terrace and Garden to make better use of our large, walled front lawn. The front of the Cox Wing with its glass-panel walls will open directly to this outdoor space.
In recent years, many of the clubs have been in catch-up mode, relative to the University’s renovations and expansions to meet the needs of a larger student body. Historically, Cap has had one of the smaller clubhouses. With this 3,540 square foot addition, counting both above ground and below ground space, we will be among the larger clubs.
We are now getting ready to break ground! The project was sent out to bid to several contractors, and we are in the process of finalizing the selection and signing the contract. We’ll be holding a groundbreaking ceremony at Reunions and beginning the construction right after graduation. This will allow the worst part of the construction to be completed over the summer so we can finish the project during the next school year and have a grand opening of the Cox Wing at Reunions 2019.
Our Fundraising Goal
Our campaign goal for the Cox Wing is $1.2 million. We have received pledges of nearly $600,000, over 65% paid, but we need your generous support to reach the goal.
This will be the last expansion project for the club and the last opportunity for naming opportunities. We have wonderful naming opportunities for the Cox Wing, and we encourage you to explore these opportunities for yourself personally or for your section to create a legacy at the club.
We dedicated the second volume of the Cap History to our staff. No living being personifies the club and its impact on all of us more than our club manager of 38 years, Dennis Normile. We want to create the Dennis Normile Staff Room, with pictures of current and former staff. Please send us any pictures you might have.
We will have an appropriately placed plaque in the Dennis Normile Staff Room with the names of all alumni who contribute $1,000 or more to this effort ($500 for classes of 2007-2011; $250 for classes of 2012 and younger). This is a great way to thank our wonderful staff. They think of Cap and Gown as their house, and take care of it that way.
From our two oldest living Cap and Gown members who have both donated for the Cox Wing making the Class of 1938 the first class to reach 100% participation!