Rooms With A View
The words in the University of Kansas Alma Mater about the campus atop Mount Oread being “glorious to view” once held particular resonance for the women who roomed at an independent residence hall known as Campus House located just north of the Kansas Union at 1245 Oread Avenue.
“I lived on the third floor and had a gorgeous view of the campus from the west window,” recalled Mary Virginia Hogan Hoppes, who boarded at Campus House from 1941-43. Others, such as former resident Mary K. Booth Ridgway, remembered watching the passing parade of student life, which took on a decidedly military air during the height of World War II when Army and Navy trainees “marched and sang their way down Oread Avenue to their meals in the Union.” And six years after the end of that conflict, Marjorie Zinn Beems lived in a Campus House room with “a lovely view of the new campanile” that had been built to commemorate KU’s Second World War fallen.
At times the residents of Campus House were themselves on view, particularly when they donned swimsuits and sunbathed on the hall’s broad south-facing porch.
Campus House came into being on October 4, 1939, when this large wooden-frame dwelling owned by Mary and Joseph Goode was officially sanctioned by the University administration as an “organized house” for independent women students not affiliated with a sorority. The following weekend, the Campus House residents celebrated their new status with a hayride and weiner roast, to which they invited the Goodes and a few male student friends.
The home at 1245 Oread continued as an “organized house” until 1949 with Mrs. Goode as housemother. According to University records, the name “Campus House” was chosen by residents simply because the building was “right on campus.” (Technically, it was right across the street from KU’s main entrance now occupied by the Docking Family Gateway completed in 2006.)
Joseph and Mary Goode had moved to Lawrence in 1934 from their farm in Johnson County so that their three younger children could attend KU. (Henry, the family’s oldest child, had graduated from the University in 1930.) Mary Virginia Hogan Hoppes, who was also a niece of the Goode’s in addition to being one of their boarders in the early 1940s, claimed that the Goodes chose to purchase the house on Oread because their son William “had heart disease as a child and they wanted to provide housing so that he wouldn’t have to climb the hill for college classes.”
The house at 1245 Oread had been built about 1907 as headquarters for KU’s chapter of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. According to the Pi Phi chapter records, the group outgrew this house in 1914 and a larger one was built for the sorority at 1246 Mississippi, just down the hill to the west.
After the Goodes acquired 1245 Oread, they began renting out rooms to male students to help make ends meet. In 1939 they decided to accommodate women instead, and soon the place became home to over a dozen KU coeds.
In the 1940s, the 1200 block of Oread still had the look of a residential neighborhood, albeit one dominated by student housing. The broad porch of Campus House, at the south end of the block, faced the Kansas Union across 13th Street (which then cut through between Oread Avenue and Mississippi Street).
To the north was a small restaurant, Brick’s Café, adjoined by another “organized house” – also for women students – known as Hillcrest. At 1221 Oread was Westminster Hall, a facility operated by the Presbyterian Church that also provided dormitory space for women until 1946. Beyond Westminster was another rooming house known as Kreye House (later Cutter House). Among the buildings on the other side of the block was the Henley House, a facility operated by the Young Women’s Christian Association that included a housing co-op for female undergraduates.
Nearby blocks to the east and north were also lined with large houses, many of them home to University students. Lodging in private rooming houses often did not include kitchen privileges, and the neighborhood was dotted with small cafes that served a largely student clientele. Besides Brick’s at 1241 Oread, these included the Rock Chalk at 618 W. 12th, the Cottage Café at 1144 Indiana, and the College Inn and Jayhawk Café in the 1300 blocks of Tennessee and Ohio.
Food was also available at the Kansas Union snack bar and cafeteria, where the grand total cost for a day’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner came to just $1.25.
Campus House provided neither meals nor kitchen privileges, but its residents had only to cross 13th Street to eat at the Union. Helen Kaiser Gianakon, who lived at the house through 1949, recalled that there was “always someone in the house to go to meals – two or three or more. Good food & good company.”
The number of young women staying at Campus House varied, with 14 to 16 pictured in annual group photos in the Jayhawker yearbook. The women lived in rooms on the second and third floors. Most of the rooms were double occupancy, with one or two singles. They all shared a bathroom on the second floor.
On the first floor, a large hallway and living room were available to the roomers. Another parlor and the kitchen were part of the Goode family living quarters.
Because the house was situated on a steep hill, two apartment units in the basement had outside entrances. The Goodes – and occasionally one or two of their grown children – generally used these quarters. At one point, a married Goode daughter, Margaret Clark, who was a graduate of KU School of Medicine, lived there with her young son while her husband, also a physician, served abroad in the military. Dr. Margaret Clark went on to a long career as a general practitioner in Lawrence, retiring shortly before her death in 1978.
As part of the reminiscences of former Campus House residents collected by Fred McElhenie of the Department of Student Housing in June 2002, Lavonne Simpson Raymond, who lived in the hall for two and a half years, recalled that “The rooms by today’s dorm room standards were spacious but quite Spartan…Laundry of sheets and towels was provided weekly but that was about the extent of the amenities. But no one complained.” Marjorie Zinn Beems described the “stark furnishings of my room” consisting of “two desks… two dressers, the rocker, a bookshelf and a double bed. My roommate kept a radio on her desk. A cleaning lady came in mainly to sweep the floors and clean the bathroom.”
The living arrangements may have been plain, but they offered one major advantage over many of the other quarters then available to KU students. At a number of halls, all residents slept in bunk beds crowded into a common sleeping room. A survey of student lodging conducted in the summer of 1946 revealed that cramped conditions were all too common.
J.M. Mott, MD, director of the Douglas County health department, expressed concern that overpopulated sleeping rooms in student housing could contribute to the spread of upper respiratory illnesses. Despite Mott’s objections, however, the University continued to require only two feet of space on all sides of each set of bunk beds. By contrast, Campus House residents enjoyed comparatively spacious sleeping and studying arrangements.
Marjorie Zinn Beems noted “for the most part, the house was inhabited by older girls, many working their way through school.” The lodgings and social life at the Goode house were no doubt somewhat spare, especially compared to the goings-on at the neighboring Pi Beta Phi sorority, just down the hill along 13th Street. But as Mary Virginia Hogan Hoppes described the situation, the limited budgets of Campus House residents did not mean a lack of fun. Being a backyard neighbor to the sorority house, she recalled, “We got the benefit of the ‘serenades’ that the frat singers provided. Our understanding was that the Pi Phi’s were the wealthiest girls on campus. While the coeds at the Campus House didn’t have the parties and social events that sorority girls enjoyed, we ‘independents’ weren’t bound by sorority rules and enjoyed each other.”
The residents of independent houses may not have followed sorority guidelines, but they were hardly allowed to do as they pleased. Instead, a KU entity called the Women’s Executive Council set rules of conduct for all women enrolled in the University and governed social events and life in general. “We had University closing hours which were enforced by Goode,” recalled Janet Wiley Kaiser. Closing hours, quiet time, social events and even visits from male students were all defined by the Council’s dictates. As housemother, Mrs. Goode played an important role in enforcing proper behavior, making sure, among other things, that male visitors met with their dates in the living room and did not venture above the first floor.
Former resident Lavonne Simpson Raymond recalled with some amusement the consequence for her of the strict social guidelines. After two years at Campus House, she married in the summer of 1949, but returned to 1245 Oread the next fall to live there while finishing her final semester of school. “However, since I was married I was not allowed to stay upstairs with the other girls but was fixed up with a room in the basement.”
In spite of rules that seem overly protective by present-day standards, the residents of independent halls could enjoy active social lives. The women of Campus House hosted occasional informal parties in their first floor living room and often joined with other organized houses to put on more elaborate affairs such as formal dinner dances. All enjoyed the Christmas and graduation parties given by Mary Goode.
On a less formal note, the housemother and student resident Hope Burtch often entertained the other residents by playing the grand piano in the living room. The women also enjoyed overhearing big band music from the Kansas Union building during the frequent dances held there.
The most popular part of the house seems to have been the broad south-facing porch, where “lots of boys visited,” according to former resident LuEllen Hall Paustian.
Here the young women sunbathed, chatted with both male and female friends, and watched the world go by. Sometimes these observations had an ulterior motive, particularly during the World War II years. According to Doris Klindt Moore, “We used to time our going to eat when we anticipated our favorite sailor would come marching by!”
The presence of the Navy men also must have considerably changed the view out the west windows of Campus House. On the ridge beyond Marvin Grove was Strong Hall, where hundreds of machinists’ mates were quartered. Strung out along the back of Strong, facing the grove, were clotheslines where the hundreds of Navy men put their laundry out to dry.
By the end of the decade, the Campus House era was coming to a close. In 1949, Mrs. Goode told her roomers that she and her husband had decided not to continue running their place as an organized house for the University due to their advancing age. However, the Goodes permitted a few residents to stay on to finish their degrees.
Through its ten years of housing University coeds, many women had come and gone in Campus House. These women later remembered the place, and especially their housemother, with fondness and respect. As alum Helen Kaiser Gianakon summed up her experience, “I can think of no better way to have lived on KU’s campus…Mrs. G’s gracious humility was there in every corner of the house – and I think we may have been too young to diagnose what we were experiencing. She was kind – for very little rent money.”
Today little remains on the 1200 block of Oread to reflect the tone of life there in the 1940s. A multilevel parking garage occupies the site of Campus House and its neighbors to the north. Thirteenth Street stops at Oread, no longer running through to Mississippi along the north side of the Union. One large old frame house still stands at 1209 Oread, but newer buildings dominate the streetscape, including apartments and the Ecumenical Christian Ministries building at 12th Street, and the Boots Adams Alumni Center at the other end of the block. The look of the neighborhood may have changed, but the campus to the west – as the residents of Campus House knew many years ago – remains “glorious to view.”