The Faculty House: Better than yours

The days when Perry and Tyler were fraternities are long gone, but one very exclusive house still remains on campus. In fact, it’s so exclusive that no students are allowed to use it without permission or invitation, moving it up to a whole new level from the likes of Yale’s Skull and Bones or Princeton’s Ivy Club. The house is an unassuming brick building on the corner of Park Street and Route 2, and it’s called the Faculty House. Only the elite members of the College staff as well as community members and alumni who have memberships are openly permitted within the building.

It’s easy to see why the Faculty House tries to keep students out – rank has its privilege, and one thing for sure is that the College doesn’t want students’ greasy fingers touching the historical portraits and fresh floral arrangements.

Everything about the Faculty House, which was built in 1938, is grander than any student house. The great room boasts a huge space with two sitting areas, made up of mostly new chairs, classic Persian rugs and a grand piano. Development Officer Chris Robare, who toured me around the building, said that the interior designer chose chairs that would match the color scheme of the rugs. It reminded me of how the dorm desk and desk chairs kind of match the color scheme of the hardwood floors – kind of.

The room has a large painting of Clark Williams with his dog, the man who donated his home for the College to use as a faculty house. The room also has a beautiful wood paneled ceiling that warms up the room, not to mention the hearth – the wood comes from Williams’ old home in Virginia, because he wanted to bring a piece of his home to Williamstown. The great room is in the center of the house and leads to most of the other rooms on the first floor, including the “old private,” a meeting room, the “ladies’ lounge,” a pretty little sitting area with old chandeliers and newly painted sage walls, the library and the dining room.

The library is a small, wood-paneled room that seems to be frozen in time with its well-preserved grandfather clock and ancient-looking portrait of philanthropist Frederick Ferris Thompson. You won’t find any copies of Harry Potter here: along with the paintings, the books in this room have been around since the origins of the Faculty House.

Next, Robare took me to the dining room, which has been newly furnished with chairs and expandable tables. The dining room is generally open from Monday to Friday for lunch. Members and faculty can eat for $7.50, about the same cost as lunch at Greylock, except the employees at Greylock wear baseball caps instead of vests and bow ties, and the food at the old ’lock is a little more, uh, unpretentious.

Down the stairs from the dining room is the lower lounge, also known as the Alumni Center, where many lectures take place. This sprawling space has yet another grand piano and brand new wicker chairs. But as Robare started to walk back toward the stairs, I quickly stopped her to ask her if I could see the basement. She smiled and said, “You mean, the bowling alley?”

So I followed her down yet another flight of stairs and was surprised to find myself surrounded by dingy walls in a seemingly deserted basement. “We call this area a work in progress,” Robare said. All I saw at first was an old pool table, but the Robare took me around a wall, and there it was: two shiny, long lanes with candlepins on one end and small bowling balls on the other, along with a few benches. Robare then explained that despite its appearance, the bowling alley is far from unused. In fact, there is a bowling league that meets four days a week: it’s made up of nine teams of faculty and staff members. The fact that the alley is candlepin adds a special retro New England flair, and the little glass fridge stocked with soda and beer gives it a homey feel. The Faculty House basement is undeniably cooler than Luetkemeyer Lounge. Seeing it made me feel like a child who could see Magic Kingdom in the distance while trapped in Epcot: really, really cheated.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the basement eventually, but it was to see another side of the Faculty House unknown to most. Robare took me up the back staircase, up to the second floor, and showed me meeting rooms that used to be guest rooms for prospective professors. The rooms are musty and look fairly untouched, but each has a private bathroom, making me wonder how long it would take staff members to realize if someone was squatting there. After all, the Faculty house is so central on campus – it’s a lot more conveniently located than most dorms. The rooms are fairly spacious, too, and have big windows. I wonder what the conditions will be like for the students who get last pick in their neighborhoods for next year –

At the end of my tour, Robare explained that the new window treatments, paint and furniture had just come in over Spring Break. While they renovated in terms of interior decorations, the house remained structurally untouched. Robare said that the Faculty House worked with Truex Cullins architects and an interior designer. “They really were able to capture the essence of what the club is all about. When we were planning the improvements, this was really important.” Unfortunately, this essence can perhaps be captured on one big sign that says, “Students: Please use the Luetkemeyer Lounge.”