Anybody Home? The Future of the Head’s House

It sits in a copse behind an unassuming parking lot: a brick building much like the others at Lakeside, yet never used for instruction or administration and supposedly frequented by only one family and guests of the regular parties they choose to host. “Supposedly” because almost none of us has actually seen anyone navigate the snaking asphalt to come to the brick entrance or pass under manicured trees and a white archway that enfolds the robust wood door. No student has smelled smoke from its rising chimneys, heard the creak of a chair from its posterior sunroom, or ever ventured inside themselves. 

This enigmatic structure is the Head’s House, the permanent residence of heads of school since 1931. However, with Dr. Bynum’s much-anticipated arrival on campus, he’s decided not to live in the house, citing that he doesn’t need so much space. Thus, the established purpose of the home has entered into question, with proposed changes offering exciting new possibilities. 

The history of the Head’s house begins one year after the completion of Lakeside’s original four buildings on this campus in 1931. William Boeing, a Lakeside trustee and founder of the Boeing Company, invested $10,000 of the necessary $25,000 to construct the building for the school (the remaining funds were raised through community donations). 

Henceforth, the house was occupied successively by heads of the school starting with T. R. Hyde (1931-1934). Minor renovations, such as a deck installation (which would later prove to be insufferably noisy with the construction of I-5), occurred intermittently throughout this time, with one major renovation in 1989 to significantly expand and modernize the home in design and function, as well as make it more conducive to fundraising events. To achieve this, the deck, kitchen, patio, ground floor, plumbing and wiring (both from the 1930s), and even parking lot were either enlarged or improved upon. Since 1999, the structure has housed Mr. Noe, his wife, and two daughters. 

The first piece of major news concerning the future of the Head’s House rests in its title. Dr. Bynum and the administration are renaming the building this year to reflect the Head’s decision to not use the home. Presently, “the Schoolhouse” is the favored name, though it is by no means definitive. “I picked that [name] informally; it was a little off the whim,” Dr. Bynum says. “I essentially wanted to advertise that it’s no longer for housing Heads but instead will be a space for the community, and changing the name was a wonderful and effective means of communicating that.” He adds that his office would be receptive to student input on a possible alternative name, and that once students have settled in, he’ll be able to meet with them more regularly on such conversations. 

[Dr. Bynum has] decided not to live in the house, saying that he doesn’t need so much space for just himself.

Beyond simply its title, the newly-christened “Schoolhouse” will also observe significant changes to the purpose of its ground floor. The location of many fundraising and social events, the ground floor has long been a crucial facet of the larger structure and Lakeside, and such events and gatherings will likely continue throughout the coming years, says Mr. Bonar, one of the Upper School assistant directors. However, in addition to such functions, the Schoolhouse will also be used by various collectives, including clubs, affinity groups, the Parent Guardian Association, advisories, and more. Dr. Bynum also intends to meet in the Schoolhouse  regularly with Upper School advisories during activity periods. 

The only uncertainty lies upstairs. According to Mr. Bonar, save for the ground floor and yard, the house is essentially bedrooms, leading the administration to question what renewed purposes for these rooms might be. 

So can we expect to see a ball pit in Bernie’s washroom or a swimming pool in the attic? Unfortunately, no. Notwithstanding, the current favored solution does present exciting opportunities for community-building and (arguably) greater utility than ball pits or pools: offices. Several employees in myriad roles who aren’t always around campus, typically due to limited space, are essential to the school’s operation. As Mr. Bonar explains, with the Schoolhouse’s excess space comes a unique opportunity to raise efficiency and bring together all facets of the school to strengthen the wider community: “We have our business office and our development office [who are somewhat or wholly off-campus], and so, you know, we’re looking at how we can increase efficiency and better the school as a whole, especially for our students.”

There is also one final question of whether the Schoolhouse’s conversion would be permanent, or if it will be used as a residence again in the future. The answer is largely dependent on value. “If that space turns out to be something super cool,” Mr. Bonar says, “I could see it continue. At the same time, if a new head of school comes in many years from now and they have a massive extended family and need the bedrooms, then it’ll change.”

From its construction in 1931 to its present existence and role on campus, the Schoolhouse has always remained a figure of the background, a deeply established tradition. With Dr. Bynum’s decision not to live in it, the Schoolhouse now finds itself in a novel position. It is at the forefront of invigorating new possibilities for community-building as well as that of the greater changes that will invariably occur in the “Bynum era.”