It’s move-in day and I’m in the basement of Jewett looking for spare headboards. Jewett House, fondly referred to as “Vassar’s hotel” for its castle-esque parapets, red brick face and owl-shaped gargoyles, is the crown jewel of the quad. As the tenth tallest building in Poughkeepsie, the tower provides the best views of campus.
But upon arriving, I was stunned by the miniscule size of the dorm rooms. Those of my hallmates that were unlucky enough to be assigned a corner room found that there was truly not enough square footage to fit desk and bed alongside each other; we descended into the basement in search of spare furniture, to create an inevitable setup of lofted beds with desks squeezed underneath. Seventh-floor resident Max Brennerman ’25 recounted the experience: “It was pretty terrible. Originally my roommate was under me, because we had bunk beds, so I would have to put my feet in his face and climb up every night. And it was like this terrible island; when I arrived, I could not leave, because it would be too much of a hassle and there would be too much noise. Then I got my bed lofted, so he was no longer under me, but I was still about ten feet in the air. That was a struggle sexually and emotionally.”
Yet I believe, in some strange way, that this endeavor brought the seventh floor closer together. Indeed, it was a team effort to hoist the mattresses above our heads to settle, suspended, roughly three feet from the ceiling; plus, “I love your duvet cover” is a much more interesting icebreaker than, “Where are you from?”
From my experience, the small size of Jewett’s dorm rooms manifests worst in closet space. To any future residents, I offer one piece of advice: command hooks will be your best friend, because you simply will not have enough room for an adequate number of clothing hangers. To accommodate for more storage space, my bed is adjusted to its tallest possible height, housing bins of sweaters and t-shirts alongside my laundry hamper. Unfortunately, this poses a problem every night: the bed is simply too tall. When it is time for lights-out, I hoist myself up on my desk, using it as an improvised step-stool, to clamber into bed.
Between the coffin-sized dorms is a shared common area, equipped with a sofa, an armchair and four desk chairs that compliment a skinny table. Residents of the seventh floor embraced the shared room early on, decorating the walls with paintings and photographs, tossing in handmade quilts and garage-sale rugs. Personal finishing touches make the room homey and comfortable, fostering a sense of community among students. Honorary member of the seventh floor fellow-group Lydia Wright ’25 enjoys the common area just as much as my hallmates: “I did sleep there for many nights,” she said. While in between moving dorms, she crashed on a blow-up mattress in the corner. The common area has been a consistently lovely gathering space, the backdrop for shared birthday celebrations, watercolor parties and late-night conversations. It is a place to eat homemade apple crumble on the floor, to dance to MUNA’s “Silk Chiffon” in the middle of the night; where art finals are painted, television shows are binged, and secrets are exchanged. Where good memories are born.
Besides size, Jewett is distinct in two other feats: its elevator and its bathrooms. The former is fairly inconvenient in its inaccuracy. Each button must be pressed a minimum of three times before the falsely promising red dot illuminates; I say “falsely” because oftentimes, the elevator will bring you to a different floor altogether. Occasionally, the elevator stops between floors, leaving you floating in the air, a helpless captive. Something about nightfall makes the elevator especially act up; it oscillates between floors at random. However, a dysfunctional elevator is certainly better than no elevator at all; I’m spared the humiliation of dragging my laundry bag down the stairs, for which I am sincerely grateful.
The bathrooms, besides the cabbage-like smell, are clean. All other houses should envy the ninth floor renovation; the mirrors have installed bright lights evocative of Broadway makeup mirrors, and the floors are beautifully tiled. “It’s always a pleasure to use the Jewett bathrooms…I love the Jewett bathrooms, I think they’re very nice,” Cora Hume-Fagin ’25 quipped.
The encompassing question of Jewett–does size matter?–has a complicated answer. While living in such close quarters can be frustrating and awkward, there is also a certain attribute of intimacy to be appreciated. “The size of Jewett makes for a close-knit fellow-group,” Sasha Zweig ’25 admitted. She is correct; some of my best friends are my neighbors, a truth I find incredibly special.
Just curious — what are the actual room dimensions?
My class was assigned to Jewett for our 35th reunion. I was appalled at the room size—a “double” is SO much smaller than before the renovations. Ultimately my partner and I moved the dressers and desks into the hall so we’d have some floor space. I’m glad Vassar ingenuity helps you find ways to cope, but quite honestly I wouldn’t ask a gerbil to live like that.
Margaret Sanborn ‘73