Randall House To Be Torn Down

Students and Teachers gather in front of the Randall House on the first day of the school year. Photo: Caitlin Jones

As one drives past Pace, the iconic Pace Castle and the Randall House are two distinguishing features of the school’s campus. But on Jan. 1, the red brick house with the large white columns that serves as the front of the Lower School will be torn down. The Randall House has been a part of Pace since the Randall family property was bought in 1977.  

According to “An Unfinished History of Pace Academy” by Suzi Zadeh, Pace was able to buy the house along with the five acres of land surrounding it for $300,000, which was less than market value at the time. But as owner Luther Randall said, “I do not wish for my father’s home around which I have cherished memories, to be off and on the market but rather a permanent institution which would further the education of fine arts.”

The Pace campus was limited to the Castle until the Randall House was added as a fine arts center on Nov. 6, 1977. Pace was cramped for space before this addition, and the purchase allowed the school to add designated classrooms for art, music and language classrooms.

In 1983, the current lower school building was added to the back of the Randall House, allowing for the expansion of classroom space while preserving the house. After the construction, the Randall House went from simply housing classrooms to having offices, a boardroom and two classrooms, as it still functions today. 

The news that the Randall House will be torn down was hard for students and families who have been at Pace since Lower School to hear. “I can still remember getting out of my car on the first day of school and seeing the Randall House with Mrs. V (Anna Valerius) standing at the front door,” said junior and lifer Madison Martin.

“I am sad to see the Randall House go, but happy that Pace is continuing to improve,” said senior George Adams. “Although, it will be different driving past Pace when I come back from college.” To honor the Randall house one last time before it is torn down, Pace alumni met for breakfast on Dec. 5 and said goodbye. 

Despite the sadness on the part of some to see the iconic structure torn down, the change is necessary. “That house lacks a couple of key and important features,” said Head of School Fred Assaf. “It has no ADA access or fire suppression, and security is very challenging.” Although the Randall house possesses a charming feel that many people love, the safety concerns combined with a lack of space made the demolition unavoidable. “We need to build something that serves the needs of our students and teachers better,” said Mr. Assaf.

Although the number of students at Pace will remain the same, many new programs are being instituted in the Lower School to enhance the students’ learning experience. In particular, the current music space is only one classroom and the school wants to provide more space for music programming.

Another program limited to one classroom is the science department. As STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs have been growing in the Lower School, Pace administrators want to provide an adequate amount of space for lower schoolers to get interested in STEM.

The new space will also offer classrooms for the Academic Resource Center (ARC), which helps students, especially those with learning disabilities, manage school more effectively. “The ARC has grown tremendously, and we want to provide the ARC [with adequate space] all the way through,” said Mr. Assaf. The library will also be completely redone. 

The renovation will not only add classrooms, but also update the cafeteria, playground and meeting spaces in the Lower School. Right now there is no full kitchen in the Lower School, so food is brought over from the main kitchen in the Inman Center. The cafeteria will be redone so it includes a full kitchen where the food can be cooked.

“We are going to totally redo the playground; we are calling it the world’s greatest playground,” said Mr. Assaf. The new playground will include new rubber matting and a slide that goes from the pre-first terrace to the playground. The playground renovation is not limited to the outside, as a gymnasium will be added on the same level where kids can have indoor recess. This gym space can also be used by middle and high school teams as gym space gets tight in the winter.

A meeting space similar to Knights Hall in the Middle School and Fuqua in the Upper School will be constructed for lower school functions. Parent meetings, alumni events and fundraisers are currently taking place in the cafeteria, but soon the new space will host all of these functions. 

The construction project will take about 16 months. Pace will avoid displacing students by creating temporary offices for people who currently work in the Randall House. “We did not want to displace the lower schoolers, because it would be really complicated with the youngest children,” said Mr. Assaf. The space will be smaller until construction is finished, but will be greatly expanded upon completion. The goal is to have everything finished by the start of the 2021 school year.


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