Off-Campus Houses Given Names for Both Obvious Characteristics, Inside Humor

Emily Williams

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Whitman is a college with colorfully named houses. Sometimes those house names are based on inside jokes, puns and strange intricacies about the house. Other times, the reason for the name is staring the viewer right in the face. Many house names change with the residents, but other names are founded upon years of tradition which go beyond a mere four-year education at Whitman. The Watershed and the Barn are both prime examples of houses steeped in tradition.

The Watershed.  Photos by Devika Doowa.

The Watershed’s kayak paddle sign. Photos by Devika Doowa.

The Watershed

The Watershed is a very well recognized off-campus house, distinguished by its kayak paddle address marker and sign above the porch. Many people assume that the Watershed was named by a group of kayakers that lived in the house nine years ago.

But according to juniors Claire Martini and Nathan Liechty, who are current residents of the Watershed, the house actually got its name much earlier when a group of geology majors lived there. The “Watershed” name actually refers to the geological form of a watershed.

“In geology, all of the watersheds in the U.S. are divided up by Hydraulic Unit Codes. 705, the address of the house, refers to the Powell’s Creek Watershed, a particularly exciting watershed,” said Martini. “When the first geology majors took hydrology, they decided to name the house the Watershed as a sort of pun.”

Later a group of whitewater kayakers moved in. One of their parents now owns the house and rents it out to Whitman students.

“The owner of the house bought it while her son was at Whitman, but since she lives in California she depends on the residents to find someone new to take over the lease when they leave. As a result there’s been a pretty rich tradition of passing it down amongst siblings and people with shared interests in the outdoors,” said Martini.

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The legacy of the house, Liechty said, is “People who like doing things outside, like hanging out with friends and like having a good time on Friday nights.”

The last couple of years there were weekly or semi-weekly potlucks at the Watershed that added to its distinct vibe. This semester there is a new set of people in the house and the potluck tradition is picking back up again. For Liechty and Martini, the history behind the name and the tradition of the Watershed are cool parts of living in the house.

“I like that there’s some history to the house and I think that inspires the people who live there to build into that history and leave their mark,” said Liechty. “We have lots of discussions about what we’re going to do to improve the house and leave our mark on it.”

The Barn

The Barn

The Barn

The Barn got its name in a much more straightforward way: It looks like a barn. Although the name is simple, the barn is steeped in tradition and history.

Delta Gammas have lived in the house for 30 years. The story goes that the house was originally a professor’s house, and when the professor retired a group of DGs asked for the property to be donated to the school.

“These DGs came in blouses that were buttoned all the way to the top and full-length skirts and knocked on the door and said that they were going to use the house for Bible study,” said senior Anna Conrad. “It ended up not being a Bible study house.”

The inside of the Barn

The inside of the Barn

“The whole house is like a DG museum. There’s just so much stuff that’s old, so much history. It’s really cool being a part of that,” said senior Rachel Shober.

A huge part of the Barn tradition is the neighbors. Neighbor Noah, as the Barn girls call him, has been a friend of the Delta Gammas who have lived in the Barn for years.

“If you live in the Barn, you need to be friends with Neighbor Noah,” said Shober.

Neighbor Noah, who often brings the girls wine or hard cider from the company he works for, has a Delta Gamma ping pong paddle in his kitchen window that faces the Barn.

When Conrad came back to the house early over winter break to take her written exams, Neighbor Noah concernedly called the police because he thought there was an intruder.

“Somebody started knocking on the door at 11:30 p.m. I walked downstairs in my pajamas and it was Neighbor Noah and the police, [who] thought that someone was breaking into our house,” she said. “It was so sweet of him to be that concerned. It just made me feel so much better knowing I wasn’t all by myself, that there was some support system in the neighborhood.”

The Barn

The legacy of the Barn lives on when DG alumnae who used to live there come back to visit. The Barn’s rich 30-year history lives on in the character of the house.

“One of the coolest parts is that we get visitors all the time that used to live there that are off in the world now,” said Shober.

Every group that lives in the Barn adds their own flair to its tradition. This year the group of senior girls take things to a silly level.

“We like to refer to ourselves as ‘barnimals,'” said Conrad.

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