A History of Joys through the Dow Residence
Written by Caroline Welton
Perched on Hillsdale Street next to the Sigma Chi fraternity house, the Dow Residence, fondly known as the Paul House, provides a quirky and welcoming presence on campus. People know it for the pancake breakfasts residents host for freshman women on Saturdays in the fall, or for its Gatsby and Harry Potter parties. Or perhaps you’ve heard the folklore of the house’s friendly resident ghosts.
In an odd sequence of events, I knew I wanted to live in the Paul House even before I had been accepted into Hillsdale my senior year of high school. I’m the sort of person who will always read a whole website, and it was in browsing the descriptions of all the dorms that I found pictures of the lovely Victorian house with the blue door, white columns, red brick, and the distinctive garret—and learned that it was the oldest dorm on campus. The idea of living somewhere where generations upon generations of students had lived and laughed, studied, and created memories excited me. Having a connection to a deep-seated history makes a place seem more interesting. I showed the pictures to my mother and told her I was going to live there; to which she responded I had better make sure I get into the school first!
When I arrived on campus and met a few people who were living in the Paul House, I found it had a reputation unto itself, even in addition to the long history which had initially thrilled me. Residents eagerly shared tales of the tower garret at the top of the building, a nice place to curl up and study with some hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon; the long-since cemented-up tunnel in the basement, which used to lead to the Sigma Chi fraternity house; the mysterious spaces unaccounted for in the floor plan; and the alleged ghosts, Paul and Dow, who like slamming doors in the night or fiddling with the radiators.
These legends provide amusement and a way to share the quirky nature of the Paul House with others on campus, but I have found something even more special here in the community. It’s a word thrown around often at Hillsdale, but not without reason. Since we only have nine residents right now, everyone has to pitch in to help with events and activities. We had our own team for homecoming activities last semester, with ten people at the time, and I launched myself into the activities. I helped choreograph Mock Rock, stayed in the student union for five hours staking out a spot for the banner, ate spicy chicken wings, and played on the trivia team. The fact that I felt like the team really needed me made it so much more fun to participate heavily.
I’ve also enjoyed putting on the events we do each semester, because they provide an opportunity to connect with the house and its residents, and share some of the specialness of this place with others on campus. Gatsby Party in the fall requires a lot of set up, and I spent an afternoon with my RA and one of my roommates hanging balloons from the ceiling and filling jars with spray-painted beans and peacock feathers—and talking about everything from Marvel movies to our favorite eras of history. It’s also a neat time to reflect on the history of the house, since the party is 1920s themed, and the house has seen generations extending past that. There’s something so fascinating about knowing that hundreds of people before me have probably sprawled on that dining room floor with the uneven boarding, walked up the beautiful spiral staircase past the blue floral wallpaper, and sat in my room.
That’s why I love the Paul House: it has a rich history of joys residents have shared before me, and a strong community in which I can build my own history of joys.
Share in the joys of a few other Hillsdale dorms
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Caroline Welton, ‘22, plans to study Politics and Latin, and thinks one can always choose to have a good day. This is primarily done by laughing at oneself a lot, but is of course aided by pleasantries such as rainstorms, Beethoven, Russian literature, and long conversations with friends.
Published in May 2020