Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chapter 3: "Portals" or "A Tour and the Blessing of Exhausted Batteries"

As I assembled these pictures for this post, I realized that almost all of them were of doors or gates. Those that weren't, were ( save one) taken from the viewpoint of the doorway. This is probably not unique, and I likely only noticed because of my frame of mind as I toured my alma mater campus for probably only the 3rd time since graduating 24 years ago. More on that later...or perhaps even in another post if this one goes on too long. Or if I never come back to it, it may be rather obvious, the things I might say, kind of like the ubiquitous Commencement Address.

These are the Grecourt Gates, brought over from France (or maybe a replica) in the early years of the College. There is a widely published story, but I don't remember the details. Shortly before I came to Smith, an image of these gates became the new college seal. The impetus to replace the old one is another whole story. Anyway, the building behind the gates is College Hall, and in the early years I believe it housed most of the administrative functions of the college. I just remember its halls being very cool, the ceilings high, the floors very shiny and your footsteps echo in the halls (or squeak if you are wearing sneakers). The door hinges creak and I think there are transom windows above as you enter each office. The doorknob plates (I'm sure there is a more correct architectural term, escutcheon, maybe) were brass and intricately decorated. The kind revered in Victorian home magazines.

My friends (Ophelia '86 and Anne'87) and I ('85) went to Alumnae Hall first. (Don't let "alumnae" throw you - it's the Latin plural for the feminine alumna, in lieu of the usual alumni, plural for alumnus; Smith being, after all, one of the few remaining women's colleges.) We picked up campus maps to help us identify the new buildings and re-acquaint us with some of the old.

I loved the carvings around this doorway and I knew the squirrels on the top corners would hold special meaning for my husband. (To our delight, some friendly little squirrels have been doing some "carving" at the portals of our home!) Here is the same doorway viewed from the other side - the long view. My friend Ophelia helped me out by "peopling" the space. And my friend Anne "peopled" this function room for me. It was a large room with lots of furnishings and huge windows and I should have taken more pictures. But this one pic gives you an idea of its grandeur.

I liked this smaller room, which appears to be a dining room. Very traditional furnishings. There's probably a story behind the furnishings and decor. Not depicted here is a lovely fireplace to the right of the table.
A mini-gate into a mini-courtyard. I really don't think this was here when I was here. I think it was added to give some importance to an approach to the new Bass Science Building and the attached new Science Library. You can just see the corner (brick) above the granite post on the right. The brick building on the left is.........
Morris House. I began spending time studying with other science geeks at Morris House in my junior year. Then I moved there for my senior year, all the way from the house next door, Lawrence House, where I spent my sophomore and junior years. If you have eagle eyes, you may be able to read the brass plate to the left of the door, indeed identifying the entrance as belonging to "Morris House". Can you also see me reflected in the glass of the door?
My senior year, my window was probably the middle of the three you see just above the porch roof. I shared a "suite" with Candace. A suite really only meant you had a single door leading off the main hall to four individual doors, to 2 single rooms and 2 closets. I don't know why they were built that way. Some of the suites coupled a single room with a double room, and at one end of the hall, there was a door leading to a suite of 4 rooms, 2 doubles on the front and back corners of the house, and 2 singles in between. I wonder where Candace is and what her life is like.....
Morris House was locked up, but there was a housekeeper in Lawrence House counting linens. She let us in, let us roam around, pulled out photo albums and yearbooks, with us in them, looking young and sassy and thin. She remembered me(maybe) and I think I remembered her! She had started at Morris House about the time I was there. We were amazed and touched by how much she remembered and seemed to truly care about the college and the students. She told us a little about the cuts in staff and how some of the upkeep had truly gone by the wayside.
This is a picture of the room I occupied (a single!) when I was a sophomore at Lawrence House. I was tremendously overwhelmed and under-funded when I was there, so this is pretty much how it looked when I lived there. Lots of the girls plushed-up their rooms with carpets, beautiful coordinated bedding and curtains, and real artwork, like matted, framed in glass and properly hung from the picture moulding (molding?) at the ceiling. (We weren't supposed to leave nail or thumbtack holes in the wall-papered plaster, and I'm sure nobody ever did.) The desk and chair are different, and that's about it.

And finally, a snap of Helen Hills Hills Chapel. The story is Helen Hills married a relative, and so her married name is Helen Hills Hills. It is used for interdenominational functions. I attended Sunday morning services many times in my freshman year, being an alto in one of the freshman choirs. I remember nothing but the music. And let's face it, a major reason I sang in the choir, was for the Easter trip to sing at West Point. I don't regret a single second of rehearsing, getting up on Sunday morning for services, etc.
Aren't you glad my batteries quit? I only have very few pictures (and memories) left to go......

1 comment:

Ophelia said...

My dearest Wendy,
All that education and my claim to fame is that I've "peopled" one of the photos on your blog. My mother will be so proud!