How a 'Big, Green Box' Became a Gathering Place for the Ages

A large group of people within a dining hall or cafeteria
The Pub in 1975, pre-remodel

The stories behind the 1843 Room and how it became a hub for Holy Cross students.  


First, there was a box (and a student with an idea, who takes it to the president of the College because, why not?). Honestly, a student knocking on a college president’s door and asking for money to improve the campus bar seems like a world-class stunt, the action of a person who’s either on a dare or the losing side of a bet. But in the spring of 1982, Mike DeLacey ’83 thought nothing of approaching legendary Holy Cross President Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., ’49 to chat about converting a former bowling-alley-turned-makeshift-pub in the basement of Hogan Campus Center into a bonafide campus watering hole.

Nearly 40 years later, sitting in Crossroads, the dining area adjacent to the bar today known as The Pub, DeLacey smiles and shrugs in recounting the tale. In the moment, it didn’t seem like an act of particular temerity: “I just thought it could be more than just a big, green box and that somehow it should stand for something,” he says. “It wasn’t just about decorating but, rather, helping to create an experience. I thought that patrons, while bonding over a beer, might learn — even if through osmosis — something about the College and its alums of the past.

Memories from The Pub

“The Pub was basically the upperclassmen’s living room. You never needed to go there with anyone else; you could just walk in from wherever you were and feel at home. You were guaranteed to see people you knew or to meet new people. Jesuit sightings were also common, specifically Fr. K and Fr. Paris. I had some of my best conversations with those guys. Bartending there, I basically felt like I was getting paid to host a house party with friends.” — John “Johnny-O” O’Neill ’89

“And you don’t know any better when you’re that age, so you just go knock on the president’s door,” he continues. “And then, somehow, you wind up with the vice president — Fr. Harman — who, instead of saying, ‘This is a crazy idea; get away, kid’ or ‘We don’t want to deal with the liability,’ gets back to you and says, ‘Yeah.’”

Rev. Paul F. Harman, S.J., was vice president at the time and the person to whom Fr. Brooks delegated the request. Fr. Harman, in turn, consulted Anita D. Kapp, board of trustees member, wife of John J. Kapp Jr. ’52 and mother of John J. Kapp III ’81 and Andrew Kapp ’84. Her design achievements included the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (The Meadowlands) and the corporate offices and team facilities at Madison Square Garden. (She was also responsible for the orange and purple color scheme of Dinand Library’s interior in the 1980s.) Kapp suggested that DeLacey might begin the project by collecting and framing campus memorabilia.

News of the “1843 Room Proposal,” as it was called (a nod to the year the College was founded), circulated around campus. The Lower Pub Committee was formed to look into the feasibility of a sound system, a popcorn machine and a portable stage. Students Peter Lloyd Brown ’84, Jack Fowler ’83, Dino Casagrande ’83, Marybeth Burke ’84, Kathleen Phipps ’84 and Vickie Willis ’83 were appointed to a second committee charged with reviewing memorabilia submitted for consideration as wall art.

DeLacey set about drawing up plans and soliciting donations of memorabilia.

Newspaper clipping featuring a picture of a man holding a beer tap
Black and white photo of a middle-aged man with glasses in a white shirt, dark tie sitting and leaning on a desk
Album cover for "The Cars", a woman behind a steering wheel, with a hand on the wheel and her forearm on her head

 II. Then came the paraphernalia: “Nowadays, if you put that ball of gum Rinto a glass box and put it in a gallery, it’d sell for thousands of dollars.”

In a 1982 interview with “The Crusader,” DeLacey shared his vision for the space:

“The 1843 Room can, and should be, a uniquely Holy Cross pub that couldn’t be found on any other campus — a pub worthy of the name the 1843 Room. [It] should stand as a tribute to the goals, ideals and accomplishments of the Holy Cross community.

"I want people to know the reason for the founding of an Irish Roman Catholic institution. It was because we couldn’t get into the more established Ivies. It would be a shame if we lost touch with this past now that we have become more accepted.”

Memories from The Pub

“As a student supervisor, I checked IDs at The Pub door Friday and Saturday nights. One Saturday night in 1977, our boss told us that there might be some ‘weird’ record company people around that night who might want to enter The Pub; we were to let them in without question. Apparently, there was a band playing in the ballroom upstairs, and they were being scouted for a recording contract. Sure enough, there were a number of non-HC people in Hogan that night. When I was relieved of my second-floor Pub duty, I went upstairs to the ballroom to check out the band. They were from Boston and were known as The Cars. Very few people were there listening. A few months later, they released their first album and the song ‘Just What I Needed’ was blasting out of many a dorm room window shortly thereafter.” — Frank Foster ’79 

The College gave DeLacey a budget of $4,200 (about $12,300 today) and permission to approach departments and areas on campus for contributions. The response was enthusiastic and overwhelming. From the chemistry department, DeLacey received old microscopes that he wired for table lamps. Decommissioned church pews, provenance probably Fenwick Chapel, were donated for the creation of a “conversation pit.” The biology department’s macabre sense of humor manifested itself in an offering of nonhuman skeletal remains. The theatre department offered production posters.

A meat scale and paneling arrived from Kimball. The campus print shop created self-adhesive wallpaper from old issues of the college newspaper. A spiked farm tool with a crank, which had been gathering dust in one of the Fenwick towers, was converted into a planter. A scallop shell niche, the kind that typically frames a church statue, became housing for a television. From the Field House’s stores came a small-scale replica of the New York Athletic Club’s Winged Mercury, which was installed behind the bar. Vinyl records and albums arrived from the music department. Ken Happe ’58, associate professor of classics, came up with inscription that sat over the bar: In Vino Veritas. About 100 members of the campus community, including electricians, carpenters, plumbers and frame makers from facilities, pitched in to help. A maintenance crew checked in daily, as DeLacey and others worked while the radio repeatedly played Men at Work’s then-current hit, “Down Under.”

Visual arts major Mary Jaeger ’83 designed the logo: a beer mug emblazoned with “1843 Room,” which was featured on pub marketing materials and bumper stickers. DeLacey did have to take a pass on at least two donations. One, from James M. Mahoney ’37, Holy Cross librarian, was a gift decades in the making. “It was a bag filled with all the scrapings of gum, a ball the size of a melon, from under the long oak tables in the library,” DeLacey remembers. “Mr. Mahoney kind of saw some merit in that, which I give him great credit for.”

Memories from The Pub

“My favorite Pub story involves studying for the LSAT while one of my closest friends prepared for the MCAT. The fall of our senior year, I knew I wanted to go to law school and my friend Anthony Squillaro ’09 wanted to attend medical school. We made a pact that if we didn’t see each other out on Caro Street during our studying weekends, we’d each buy the other a beer in The Pub every Tuesday night until our respective exams were over. Ten years into practicing law, I still look back at this time fondly (and thankfully). And Tony is now a very successful surgeon in San Francisco.” — Mary Kate Brennan ’09

Gag reflex aside, it was kind of fun and avant-garde if viewed through a Dadaist lens, he says: “Nowadays, if you put that ball of gum into a glass box and put it in a gallery, it’d sell for thousands of dollars. Mr. Mahoney was ahead of his time.”

Diehard Dadaists might also have approved of the Field House employee who, upon hearing DeLacey’s donation pitch, pointed to a jockstrap-filled laundry cart in a corner: “Can you do anything with those?” 

 III. And all raised a glass and toasted their success.

In February 1983, about a year after DeLacey’s first conversation with Fr. Brooks, volunteers received an invitation to a “Thanks-Giving” celebration in the 1843 Room hosted by the Campus Center Board of Directors, the Hogan Campus Center — and Michael DeLacey. The invitation is among the many pieces of personal memorabilia DeLacey has preserved from that time. Pictures of the finished 1843 Room, with its dark wood furnishings and low lighting, have a “Game of Thrones”- meets-Hogwarts vibe.

In DeLacey’s scrapbook, the “ThanksGiving” invitation shares space with a 1982 Parents Weekend beer and wine list advertising Budweiser, Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon and Jacques Bonet Champagne. Geyser Peak was the bigspender option at 75 cents a glass.

By any standard, the redesigned 1843 Room was a hands-down success. Student newspaper The Crusader proclaimed “Good Pub is Good Investment” and quoted Fr. Harman who said, “Great job. Looks great.” On its opening night, attendees donated $1,100.

Dozens of caricatures of students who attended The Pub


Memories from The Pub

“My best memories were of bartending and playing OutKast on replay as the DJ, serving 2-for-1 drafts to my fellow seniors and changing kegs that I swore weighed more than I did!” — Michael Meyers ’98

Soon the 1843 Room, increasingly referred to simply as “The Pub,” was a central fixture in seminal events in the life of a Holy Cross student and was often the first stop on a 21st birthday and where a person ended up after 10 p.m. Mass on Sunday nights. It launched the satiric comedy troupe The Not Ready For Fenwick Players. Predecessor of The Crusadists, The Not Ready For Fenwick Players comprised juniors and seniors who performed for their classmates on Spring Weekends from the early 1980s through the early 2000s.

Over the years, another tradition, the annual creation of the Pub Rat poster, developed. This involved Pub-regular seniors waiting in long lines to sit for a caricaturist who would draw their likenesses on a poster headed with the words “Pub Rats,” which would subsequently be framed and hung on the wall, a tradition that continues to this day. 

Memories from The Pub

“The Pub was fairly empty that night. I was checking the IDs of the first Rarrivals. There had been a rugby match on campus that day and a few of the visiting team’s members were early visitors; I believe they were from Bates. It was a small group, maybe four or five men, whose partying had started prior to their arrival. They exhibited a real joie de vivre and, as I glanced inside, I saw two of them standing on tables, reaching for some HC memorabilia hanging from the ceiling while the others cheered them on. I looked around for someone burlier than me to bounce these muscular guests. Out of options, but committed, I assumed my mother’s posture — hands on hips, feet planted in a take-no-prisonersstyle — and spoke with confidence: 'What do you think you’re doing?’ I said. 'Get down from there right now and move on.’ I had no reason to believe that this would be effective but, lo and behold, the ones on the tables looked down at me sheepishly, climbed down, and they departed without further incident. It’s been on my Two Truths and a Lie list ever since.” — Jeanine Stewart ’86

Student DJs such as Rob “DJ Sully” Sullivan ’89 provided The Pub with a soundtrack. During Sullivan’s tenure, The Talking Heads, The Cure, INXS and David Bowie were staples, along with discrete songs of the day: Rick James’ “Super Freak” and Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines,” “She Drives Me Crazy” by the Fine Young Cannibals and The Nails’ “88 Lines about 44 Women.” The 1843 Room had no music collection of its own, so student DJs had to haul their own music to the sound booth for their shifts each week.

Jeremiah “Chip” O’Connor ’83, then Pub manager, now the College’s director of auxiliary services, was really into music, Sullivan recalls: “And we DJs loved the idea of doing it. And it was a great gig, $25 bucks an hour, which was huge money for not having to do anything other than what I would’ve been doing anyway.”

“DJing — that was magical — in hindsight, that is. I don’t think I recognized it at the time, but it really was. I remember a classmate of mine, Tim O’Keefe ’89, nicknamed me ‘DJ Sully,’ which I always thought was hilarious because as a little kid I made it clear to people that I didn’t want to be called ‘Sully.’ So no one ever called me that, but Tim did. And, by that point in my life, I didn’t care. He’d be like, ‘Hey! DJ Sully!’ and it became my identity, my way of finding my place at Holy Cross. And I loved it.”

IV. And change is just what comes next.

Much of the memorabilia gathered by students back in 1982 was removed when The Pub was renovated in 1997. In 2021, no trace remains of the retrofitted lamps or the farm machinery. The pews, the card catalog, the niche and the steamer trunk have been replaced by high tops and barstools. 

“I was a Pub Rat in 2005. The Pub was open either Tuesdays or Wednesdays and Fridays at that time; the weekday night was the more popular night. On that night, The Pub was packed before the crowd made it out to the local bars. Friday night was much quieter and attendance on Fridays determined who would be a Pub Rat. At the end of the year, all of the Rats had sweatshirts made with our name and ‘attendance rank’ on the sleeve. I was #2.” — Robert Lynch ’05

The once hunter-green walls wear a coat of purple paint. Yet traces of the 1843 Room remain for those who know where to look. Its walls still bear some of the memorabilia DeLacey painstakingly matted and framed over winter break back in 1983. The black-and-white photographs of United States presidents and Holy Cross commencement speakers Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson are still there, joined by a picture of Pope John Paul II with the Holy Cross Choir when it performed at the Vatican in 1989. And some of the Pub Rats posters are there, too, albeit the more recent ones. Today’s Pub is a lighter, brighter, more contemporary experience than that of the 1843 Room in its early days.

The spirit of the space remains, though. In fact, in times of great stress or tragedy, The Pub has been a place of solace for students such as Darnell Weir ’04, who tended bar for his classmates.

“The shift I remember would be the one on 9/11. After the day’s events and trying to catch up with my family in New York, sitting in The Pub with a couple of buddies felt like the most normal thing to do. One of my best friends at HC, Doug Hommel ’02, passed away a few years back, and if there’s anything I’ve learned about people and bartending it’s this: Lend an ear when you can; lend a hand when you can. Enjoy the small moments. Don’t take them for granted. Laughter with your friends is an elixir for many of life’s ills. I found The Pub was a place of comfort, joy and companionship. I’d bartend again in a heartbeat.”

Memories from The Pub

“I was selected as a Pub Rat for the 2014 poster. Tuesday nights, my friends and I would go have a few beverages and support our talented friends who performed at Crossroads’ 10-Spot, a small stage where students played music, sang, THE 1843 ROOM / 5 5 read poetry and did comedy. Some nights, we’d leave our backpacks and books in the stacks at Dinand and grab a quick beer or two before heading back. It was a great way to break up the week of work, but also just really nice to have a place to go on campus as well.” — Dominic Dipersia ’14

Over the years, The Pub’s days and hours of operation have changed, too. In its heyday, the 1843 Room was open seven days a week, later reducing to one to two nights weekly. In the era of COVID, there have been fewer Pub Nights than in years past, but a coterie of students are continuing the tradition, with a new twist. Last fall, class of 2022 members Jules Cashman, along with friends Connor McNerney, Lucy Rizzo, Will Rehm and Charlie Reynolds, worked to move the weekly Pub Night outdoors, under a large tent that nearly encompassed The Hoval. 

“Holy Cross Dining Services really kept everything going this fall,” Cashman says. “They’re the best and really dedicated.” Later in the semester, The Pub hosted Friendsgiving before Thanksgiving break, as well as a Christmas gathering. Cashman notes that President Vincent D. Rougeau even stopped by a Pub Night last fall.

Nearly four decades later, DeLacey is pragmatic about the changes that have occurred over the years. “The 1843 Room was a creation; it wasn’t historical,” he says. “I wanted to create that experience of living with and celebrating our history, and we took what was formerly a bowling alley and did something with it that was kind of fun. It was an adaptive use or reuse project, as opposed to a preservation project.” 

Memories from The Pub

“My first time at The Pub I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was a sophomore and in the Chamber Singers, and we had just finished performing a set of jazz songs in Crossroads. The performance went better than we anticipated — people wound up pushing the tables aside to dance — and afterward, the seniors went to The Pub. I was just 19, but my friends insisted I join them. So, in the spirit of the evening — the theme of our set was “Speakeasy” — I ducked under the rope and we had a blast. Senior year, my friends and I spent most Tuesday nights at The Pub. Whether we were taking a break from studying or coming to unwind after working a dinner shift in Kimball, Pub Night was always a welcome break. And though we made plenty of good memories as Pub Rats, my first clandestine visit will always be my favorite.”  — Tim Rice ’16

After Holy Cross, DeLacey made a career for himself in historic preservation, which primes a person for the inevitable advance of progress, he says.

“Change is just what happens and that’s OK,” he notes. “It’s a good thing. I was sort of surprised when I came back and The Pub wasn’t the 1843 Room I remembered. But it was also not a big deal because I had moved on. What becomes interesting in that moment is that you can look back and see evolution.”

DeLacey gestures to the accessibility ramps in Crossroads: “Those are good things. We weren’t thinking back then how very difficult it would have been for someone in a wheelchair to negotiate the 1843 Room. And diversity is a good thing. When I look at some of the earlier Pub Rat posters, the caricatures, they’re not as diverse as the student body is nowadays. Change is a good thing.”

And to quibble over whether metal barstools are an improvement over oak pews is to miss the point, DeLacey says. That The Pub still is, is what matters. There is space enough for history and progress — and an ever-expanding archive of memory because what was a big, green box has become the room where it happened for thousands of alumni.

“There are events, like the Catholic Mass, or holidays, like Christmas, or places, like Scrooge’s bedchamber, where past, present and future come together,” DeLacey says. “I think many Holy Cross friendships are like that, and at least some of those friendships found common ground in the 1843 Room.”