Its architecture is eclectic, a mix of New England Shingle, ornamental Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival styles with Pacific Northwest touches. Local basalt, clay from campus, and Puget Sound fir and red cedar were all used in its construction in 1895.
In those early years, Stevens Hall was not only an all-women’s residence hall but a social center for the students of Washington State. This is where they would come together—for dances and dinners, teas, readings, and receptions.
Today, Stevens Hall, placed on the National Register of Historic Places and steeped in tradition, remains women-only, and its residents tend to form close bonds, often opting to live here all four years of college.
J. Philip “Phil” Gruen, an associate professor in the School of Design and Construction at Washington State University’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, believes that’s very much due to design. When it was built, during WSU’s formative years under President E.A. Bryan, he says, “There was what seems like a very conscious attempt to try to create a place for young women, who were living away from home for the first time, that really felt like a home.”
In that way, Stevens Hall differed from the other campus buildings of that era. Designed by Seattle-based architects Timotheus Josenhans and James Stephen, who had also designed the nearby Administration Building (now Thompson Hall) in an imposing Romanesque Revival style, Stevens Hall instead resembled a rambling mansion broadly characteristic of a summer home one might find amongst the nineteenth-century East Coast elite.
“The Crib was there. And there was old College Hall, old Ferry Hall, Thompson Hall, and old Mechanical Hall—and not a lot else,” Gruen notes. “All of those designs look back to some ideal. They were connected to a desire to establish this place as something substantial, an agricultural and mechanical college that would attract people and provide a dignified kind of education, not just to train workers but also provide vital training for people to manage that process, people who would contribute in big ways to the economy and growth of the state. To do that, the University built buildings that had a connection to the past. We’re talking about building a stately image of a place that was scarcely settled by European Americans at that time. Photos from that era show an uncultivated hill of bunchgrass.”
Stevens Hall complemented those early ideals by providing a sense of domesticity. And, throughout the decades, women who lived there seemed—and continue to—appreciate that feeling. They talk of the edifice—with its creaky stairs, formal reception rooms, basement lounge, and campus and city views—as home.
Here, former residents and a couple of male alumni share their memories of living in or visiting Stevens Hall, the oldest residence hall and second-oldest surviving building on the WSU Pullman campus.
Dancing, dining, and pulling candy
Clarence Hix (1909 Civ. Eng.)
Clarence Hix, who attended Washington State College from 1905 to 1909, then worked for the school from 1911 to 1957 as an instructor and, later, the school’s bursar, recalled attending candy pulls at Stevens Hall, where he was also often invited to dine and dance. In an interview recorded in 1980 for an oral history project now housed at Washington State University Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), Hix recalled how, as a student, he lived and waited tables in the men’s dormitory Ferry Hall, which had a dining room.
“Stevens Hall, where the girls lived, also had a dining room, and they had some extra places there. And so they allowed the girls there to choose people to invite … I happened to be one of the lucky ones … and so I ate my lunch meals at Stevens Hall with the girls. … And, later, one of them became my steady,” Hix said.
He was a good dancer, having taken lessons before college. Nearly always after evening meals at Stevens Hall, Hix said, “We’d go into the playroom and dance until the head of the hall would come down and we would all disappear. There were windows there, and we’d get out of them. We weren’t supposed to be there.”
Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be dancing after dinner in the playroom. But, he was invited to plenty of “private parties” at Stevens Hall, too, “when the lady in charge would stage a candy party or something like that. … (we would) just get together and make candy, talk.”
‘In bed by 10 p.m.’
Iva (Davidson) Matsen (1916 Foreign Language & Lit.)
Iva (Davidson) Matsen remembers fudge-making parties in the basement “playroom,” where dances also took place. She was secretary of her junior class, then served as secretary of the entire student body. She sang in student productions of Il Trovatore and Faust as well as with a church choir, the school’s women’s choral club, and a women’s double octet called the Treble Clef Club. Clarence Hix (see previous entry) was her math instructor. In a typed questionnaire dated April 3, 1984, and now part of MASC, Matsen recalled “strict rules” at Stevens Hall.
“About every two weeks the girls were told to gather in the parlor where the dean gave us very emphatic rules of conduct,” she wrote. This included the oft admonishment to “always put on gloves before going out.” The “before” was underlined.
The dean of women, Rhoda M. White, was housemother. Matsen noted she was “a very proper, domineering, unfriendly person.” Her assistant, Miss Johnson, was “much more liked and friendly, sympathetic. But she had to carry (out) orders and always made the rounds at night to see that every room was dark at 10 p.m.”
Male visitors were allowed “if previously announced and did their visiting in the public rooms,” or the entrance lounge and parlor. Drinking and smoking weren’t allowed. This was “checked by Miss Johnson frequently.” And, for any kind of rule breaking, residents received “stinging rebukes by Miss White.”
That doesn’t mean residents didn’t push the limits. “Since we were ordered to have lights out and be in bed by 10 p.m., the only way to have fun after that time was to cover the bottom of our (apartment) door with a rug so Miss Johnson on her rounds could not see the light,” Matsen wrote. “Then we quietly made fudge candy on my chaffing dish and enjoyed ourselves happily.”
The fashion of the day included “dresses at top-of-shoes length. White middy blouses with big black ties. High-heel shoes.” Matsen noted, “I felt very extravagant when I paid $4 for a pair.”
Helen Keller visited the hall when Matsen lived there. “You can imagine our excitement when the famous Helen Keller was a guest,” she wrote. “In the lounge, she talked to us, we all shook her hand and said a few words. I’ll never forget her rasping mechanical way of talking. No wonder. She accomplished much. Deserved all her fame.”
Living at Stevens helped Matsen “to overcome extreme bashfulness.” She noted, “What I liked best was the friendships I made. Lasting friendships, and of more satisfying character than I had met elsewhere.”
Of her fellow Stevens Hall residents, “many, including myself, went on to teaching. Aside from Home Economics practical applications I think few went on into jobs other than homemaking. It was a great place to meet one’s future husband.”
She married her “college friend,” Joe Matsen (1916 Econ. & Hist. ), who went onto become a lawyer in Seattle. He died in 1980. At the time she filled out the Stevens Hall questionnaire, she was 92 and “living happily” in a retirement. Though, she wrote, “I have enough ailments to join him soon.”
Mrs. Hoig and hot soup in warm weather
Marion (De Coursey) Clement (’29 Music)
Marion (De Coursey) Clement lived at Stevens Hall during her freshman year from 1924 to 1925. She was on a music scholarship “and felt I had to do my best.”
Edward R. Murrow was in most of her drama classes and had the lead in the majority of the school plays for which she served on the production staff. She was also a very active accompanist, often performing at faculty parties. In fact, that’s how she came to live at Stevens. She lived in old World War I barracks when she first came to campus.
“Mrs. (Anna Constance) Hoig heard me play while I was visiting some of my friends at Stevens, and she immediately asked the dean of women if I could be transferred to Stevens, which was heaven after the barracks,” Clement recalled in her typed Stevens Hall questionnaire, filled out in the early 1980s and now part of MASC. “I liked the old-fashioned grandeur. Mrs. Hoig insisted that we be ladies”—Clement typed “ladies” in all caps—“and many mannerisms and so forth have been of benefit to me during the years.”
Mrs. Hoig had happened to be Clement’s seventh-grade teacher in Puyallup. At Stevens Hall, “She had very strict rules, was quite prim and not sympathetic to a young student,” Clement recalled. “All male visitors were entertained in the reception room and were in full sight of Mrs. Hoig at all times. No drinks were allowed at any time. Also, we were required to be home on weekend (nights) by 12 o’clock, and Mrs. Hoig stood at the door, waiting and watching, and the door was locked at midnight. I think she practically smelled everyone’s breath.”
Clement slept on the sleeping porch “in all weather” because the hall was full and “there was not enough room for beds in the rooms.”
The dining hall was in the basement. “I know we always had soup in warm weather because Mrs. Hoig … thought hot soup made us feel cooler! College boys were the busboys and some were so good-looking. We sat at tables of four or six.”
And, she noted, “our hair was always marcelled, and our skirts were long.”
Her uncle, Frank H. Gloyd, was then commissioner of agriculture for the state of Washington. “He surprised me one morning by having me called from class to report to the president’s office ‘immediately,’” Clement wrote. “I was terrified!”
Mrs. Hoig and Roscoe
Gladys (Kerns) Bell (x’30 Music)
Gladys (Kerns) Bell studied piano and voice. She was a member of the Glee Club, the hall pianist, and accompanist for her church as well as students on campus. In her typed Stevens Hall questionnaire, filled out in the early 1980s and now part of MASC, she remembered the “beautiful drawing room, antique dishes, and generally warm tones”—as well as Mrs. Hoig.
“I did not dislike a thing about living at Stevens. I loved it,” she wrote. “The evenings, after dinner, were pleasant and included dancing, in the Rec Hall. … We learned how to be a guest, hostess, or waitress—including the time the president of the college came for dinner. Our food was average to good. Sunday had only two meals.”
She also remembered that “freshmen wore green hats,” and “the senior bench was used only”—and only was typed in all caps—“for seniors.”
She met and married her husband, Roscoe Bell (’27 Ag., ’30 MS Ag.), in Pullman. They wed in 1927 when they were both still students and went on to have four children and live around the world–in Idaho, Oregon, California, Utah, Alaska, Egypt, Wisconsin, and Virginia.
“Mrs. Hoig did not care for my husband, Roscoe, when we were going together. She did however, enjoy and like the fellow I had ‘run around’ with for most of the year. She tried counselling me in every way why I should not go with Roscoe and should go with the other fellow. But I married Roscoe anyway, and ten years later, as I was having lunch with Mrs. Hoig, I asked, ‘Mrs. Hoig, don’t you have something to say about Roscoe’s accomplishments—he was a (professor) at (University of Idaho)—since you thought he was a ne’er-do-well?’ She hesitated, and said, ‘Gladys, I have very seldom made a mistake in judging character, but I certainly did with Roscoe. I’m sorry.’ This whole thing personifies Mrs. Hoig to me. She was a great lady, and I consider her one of my greatest college acquaintances and friends.”
‘Loved it from the first day’
Marian Thompson Arlin (’41 Home Ec.)
Her love affair with Stevens Hall began in high school. Marian Thompson Arlin attended High School Weekend, staying in a first-floor suite in Stevens Hall with the four young women who lived there. They “really extended themselves to be hospitable,” even rounding up dates for the potential Cougs, “and I went home hopelessly enamored of Stevens Hall, Washington State, and Pullman in the springtime,” Arlin wrote in her typed 1985 questionnaire, now a part of MASC.
“I cancelled my arrangements with the University of Washington and forthwith sent in an application to WSC with the request that I be placed in Stevens Hall ‘if at all possible.’ I suspected later that the bursar had a copy of my letter framed and hanging on his wall as except perhaps for an occasional student wanting to room with a close friend or relative, or a family tradition … nobody but nobody”—she underlined “nobody”—ever asked to be placed in Stevens Hall. Mothers came all the way from Spokane to wangle their daughters our of Stevens Hall and into more desirable quarters. (The “new dorms”— North and South Hall—were the newest and most sought-after housing.) But I never regretted my impulse, and loved it from the first day I walked up the steps and in that big front door until the day my parents took me home after graduation.”
Arlin lived in Stevens Hall all four years of college. She was a member of the ski and home economics clubs, as well as Fish Fans, the synchronized swimming club. Sophomore year, she was also a member of the Spurs.
By then, Stevens residents dined in the basement dining hall of McCroskey Hall. “Dinner on Sundays was an occasion, with white tablecloths, cloth napkins, and music,” Arlin wrote. “A student from the music department played piano throughout dinner and accompanied another student, either singer or instrumentalist, in a performance between dinner and dessert.”
Libbie B. Hoag was the housemother. “She was very petite and, most of us thought, the most attractive housemother on campus,” Arlin recalled. “We were always proud of how she looked, especially when dressed for a formal ball or tea. Some former residents recall her as having been overly strict about suppressing giggling during ‘quiet hours,’ but I guess I wasn’t much of a giggler because that never bothered me. I always thought she was the greatest.”
Quiet hours were enforced “with room doors open, radios off, and tippy-toeing down the hall to the bathrooms. I don’t know how effective these measures were—probably we were all moved to study or not study more by personal considerations than by dormitory regulations.”
One “unforgettable” campus tradition was Open House. “This social affair took place in the early fall as soon as everyone was well settled in to living quarters and classes. During the extent of a single evening, every man (except those with perhaps better judgement) from every group house on the campus visited every women’s house. Smaller men’s groups stayed for seven minutes; larger groups were allotted fourteen. It sounds unbelievable, but it actually worked, thanks in part to the dauntless leaders who blew police whistles to round up members and dashed them out the door and on to the next house on schedule. … I doubt that Stevens Hall was considered one of the more desirable destinations, but we had some pretty cute girls and there were some interesting liaisons established. My freshman roommate met and subsequently dated a fellow named Norman Arlin (’41 Elect. Eng.), who I was to encounter and eventually marry fifteen years later.”
Christmas and JFK
Joanne (Bingham) Brown (’64 Speech & Hearing Sciences)
Joanne (Bingham) Brown remembers her time at Stevens Hall “with great tenderness. We were all so young and innocent. Those were the pre-Vietnam years, and I think we were lucky to experience a college like that was almost straight out of an Andy Hardy movie. The times changed so very dramatically after we left.”
Brown lived in Stevens Hall all four years and served as dorm president her senior year. “I loved the lilacs that surrounded Stevens Hall,” she wrote in her typed 1982 questionnaire, now a part of MASC. “I’ll never forget them. I also loved the coziness of a small Victorian dorm. Ferry Hall had been redone that year. But Stevens Hall had been restored. There was a big difference. It gave you a sense of pride.”
She was at Stevens the day John F. Kennedy was killed. “Leanne Lukens (see later entry) ran from the third floor all the way down the back stairs to the basement yelling that the president had been shot,” she wrote. “It was so unreal.”
One winter, “I do remember when we had a silver frost and it was bitterly cold and Dean (Catherine) Northrup announced that we could wear pants to class. My, how times have changed!”
She loved Christmastime at the dorm. “Christmas in Stevens Hall was something to remember. It was like something out of a Night Before Christmas book. Usually, the more artistic girls got together and decked out the living room. The Christmas of 1963 was the best, with garlands abounding.”
It was also tragic. Housemother Gail Gilpatrick died, Brown recalled, “while reading a silly poem to us at our Christmas party in 1963. It was a devastating experience for us all. She had written a crazy poem including the names of all our hometowns. She had just read something about ‘the girls from Seattle’ … and she put her hand to her head and collapsed. … We laid her out on the yellow couch in the living room, but she was gone before the fire department came three minutes later. I remember no one knew quite how to express condolences. As president of the dorm, I stayed in the living room for the next few days (with the flu) and received all the other housemothers and people on campus who knew her. … It was all so sad as the dorm was decorated the most beautifully I had ever seen it … I hope it was consoling to her that a hundred of her girls were with her at the end and she left us on a laughing note.”
Dressing for dinner
Leanne (Lukens) Brown (’65 Ed.)
Leanne (Lukens) Brown lived in Stevens Hall from fall 1961 to spring 1964. At that time, an average of about 100 women lived there. Due to a large enrollment her freshman year, though, “I think we had 125. … We had three floors and rooms with one to four women in each. Each room was a different dimension and size. No two were alike, so in the spring we chose our room by seniority.”
As a freshman, she was placed in a basement room with three roommates. At the end of the first semester, one moved out, opting for one of the newer dorms, “so we had only three girls in our room. At that time, the basement rooms were occupied by freshmen. As I said before, we were able to select our rooms by seniority so, of course, we moved upstairs our sophomore year.”
The housemother lived in an apartment on the first floor, just off the main entrance and up four or five stairs, “kind of behind the living room,” Brown recalls, noting Stevens Hall also had a resident assistant. “The resident assistant was a gal paid to sit in the housemother’s residence when the housemother couldn’t be there. My junior year, I was the resident assistant. As I recall, I was not responsible for overnight (duties) but for occasional evenings when the house mother was out. We had a very sweet lady for a housemother my sophomore and junior years. … She started a Secret Santa activity as well as many other activities to encourage camaraderie among the girls. She wrote a poem mentioning each girl’s name as her address to the girls at the Christmas party my sophomore year. My junior year she had written a poem mentioning each girl’s hometown. Unfortunately, as she was delivering this poem, she collapsed … and died. This was traumatic for all of us! As I recall, the Dean of Women came over to assist us with this devastating experience.”
The Christmas party was held the evening before Christmas break so, Brown notes, “we were all able to go home the next day.”
Stevens Hall did not have a dining room by then, “so we walked across the street to Wilmer-Davis Hall for meals. We would gather in the living room of Stevens around 5:30 p.m. to walk across the street for dinner. We dressed in dresses or skirts and sweaters for dinner. At that time, the campus dress code called for women to dress in dresses or skirts every day except Saturday morning when we could wear pants. We said or sang grace before every dinner and sometimes stayed after dinner to sing songs or visit. All dinners were sit-down and served family style at the tables. On Sunday afternoon around 12:30 p.m. we had a ‘dress dinner’ where we wore ‘church clothes.’ Again, we would gather in the Stevens Hall living room and walk across the street together. We did not have an evening meal on Sunday, so many of us had small appliances in our rooms to heat soup or we would go to the rec room in the basement of Stevens Hall, where there was a range we could use. We waited for everyone at the table to be served before eating and waited for everyone at the table to be finished with their dinner before leaving the table.”
The rec room had another perk. “Many ladies gathered to watch TV from time to time in the basement rec room as I can’t remember of anyone who had a TV in their room,” Brown says. “Most of the rooms had sinks in them which, at the time, we thought was a luxury. The University provided bed sheets and pillowcases, which we changed every ten days. We provided our own towels and comforters for our beds.”
There was one telephone on each floor in the hallway and, Brown recalls, “There was a tablet and pencil or pen near the phone to write messages on. There wasn’t a receptionist, just anyone walking by at the time answered it and summoned the person or wrote the message. I can’t remember, but I think we had a limit on time we could use it. Girls walked freely in the halls in slips, pajamas or whatever. There were no men allowed in the halls, and if there was a repairman on the floor someone would yell, ‘Man on floor!’”
There was a curfew of 9:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday nights, and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We had to sign out if we were leaving and state where we were going if it was after dinner in the evening,” Brown says. “We had to sign in when we returned. Most of the time, the housemother was at the front entrance at curfew times to check on things. All entrances, except the main entrance, were locked after dinner.”
Brown “loved” living at Stevens Hall. But her senior year, in fall 1964, marked the first year women could live off campus. “So, of course, I had to taste the ‘freedom’ of apartment life,” she says. “I moved with one of my original roommates from my freshman year and two other friends from Stevens to an apartment. We often visited Stevens after our move. The women there were like our family away from home.”
Finding and sharing aloha on the Palouse
Shirley (Kodani) Cavanaugh (’65 Speech)
When I left my childhood home in Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, in September 1961, to my new one at Stevens Hall, I had absolutely no idea what awaited. I was a 17-year-old who had never been to the mainland, what we islanders call the continental states. In those days, students from Hawaii didn’t go on campus visits, the Internet wasn’t born, and my only orientation to WSU was through the hard-copy catalog.
Just after a month at WSU, I received a special delivery letter from my mom, telling me that my grandmother, who had lived in our same household, had suddenly passed away. Phone calls from Hawaii in those days were expensive and my family—with five younger siblings—couldn’t afford the call.
Due to the cost of airfare, I wasn’t able to fly home for the funeral. Knowing I was sad and homesick, my mom sent a letter with money to Mrs. Wade, my dorm mother, telling her about my grandmother’s passing and asking if she would host a birthday party for me. My birthday is Nov. 11.
Nov. 12, as my friends and I were heading out to a movie in downtown Pullman, my roommate feigned a headache to stall our movie outing while waiting for the cue to tell me Mrs. Wade wanted to see me. When I was told that Mrs. Wade wanted to see me “right away,” I nervously thought, “What had I done?” As I walked into her apartment, a group of girls yelled, “Surprise!” I stood stunned with my mouth wide open.
A sad time turned happy, thanks to my mom, Mrs. Wade, and my new friends at Stevens Hall.
At WSU, when people found out that I was from Hawaii, they assumed I knew how to dance the hula. Thankfully, I took lessons for a year while in high school to prepare for college life on the mainland. At Stevens Hall gatherings, I was often asked to do the hula. On one particular occasion, I did the Hawaiian Wedding Song at our annual Christmas party and dedicated it to the engaged girls in the dorm.
Doing the hula served me well during my life at WSU. I was often asked to entertain at various college functions, such as Hawaiian-themed gatherings at fraternities. My payment was a free meal—the benefits of dancing on the “rubber chicken circuit.”
After college, I taught at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma from 1965 to 1967. From 1967 to 1990, I served in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. I lived in Kaneohe, Hawaii, from 1990 to 2019, when I moved to Highlands Ranch, Colorado to be near my daughter and two little grandchildren. I’ve kept in touch these past nearly 60 years with two of the Stevens Hall friends, both of whom attended my surprise birthday party, through occasional visits in Hawaii and Washington, where they both live.
Sue (Boesel) Holder (’68 Ed.)
Sue (Boesel) Holder lived at Stevens Hall from fall 1964 to spring 1967. She first lived on the third floor in a triple room facing the old Administration Building. Photos show the three roommates in their WSU shirts, waving from their dorm room windows.
Loretta Fraser was the housemother. And Holder was hall president from 1966 to 1967. “In the Christmas Tea photo from 1966, you see me, Mrs. Fraser, and Marva Howes, now Pelander,” she recalls. “At that time, I was president and Marva was the chair of the Christmas Tea. Marva and I have been friends since junior high in Lakewood. Today, I live in Olympia, and she lives in Tacoma. She was just at my house this week.”
In fall 1965, Stevens and Stimson halls worked together to design and create a Homecoming display on the Stevens lawn. That’s how Boesel met her husband, Dan Holder (’68 Busi.). “We were the chairs of the project for our dorms,” she recalls.
They married in September 1967 and moved into Washington Square married-student housing for their senior year. It was one of several “WWII surplus one-bedroom bungalows,” she notes. “They were located where part of the hospital parking lot is now.”
Today, the Holders have been married 53 years. They have four children and eight grandchildren. “Two of our children attended WSU, and two of their spouses (did), also.”
‘Just what I needed’
Meg (Rich) Sorenson (’68 Elem. Ed.)
During the 1960s, her high school band in Spokane would annually travel to Washington State University to take part in “Band Day” for a Cougar football game. Because of this, says Meg Sorenson, “I never considered going to any other college than Washington State.”
Prior to the start of school and selecting a dorm, her parents drove her to Pullman to visit several residence halls. “My mom was drawn to the new Strait-Perham Hall, but I fell in love with Stevens Hall. As an only child, there was something about the smaller size of the dorm, its homey feeling,” she says. “My mother was most disgusted when I selected Stevens Hall, and she would always refer to it as a ‘rat hole.’”
For Sorenson, “Stevens Hall was the perfect home for four years. The small size, ideal location near the Bookie and library, variety of room options, number of possible roommates, and the smaller number of girls made it just what I needed as I left home for the first time.”
Sorenson served as a “sponsor” during her junior year and elected to live on the ground floor. This allowed her to have a single room, but the rooms on ground floor did not have a sink. “Basically, that was the only luxury missing by living on the ground floor,” she says. “The ground floor was the place where many freshman girls were assigned, which made for an interesting year.”
Each dorm floor had one phone located in the hall, and on the second floor there was a very small cubicle with a pay phone and some privacy. The phones in the halls were turned off nightly from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. during study hours.
By the time Sorenson lived there, Stevens Hall, “we would have to walk across the street to Wilmer-Davis for our meals,” she says. “Sunday through Thursdays, we would have sit-down dinners, and on Friday and Saturday dinner was cafeteria-style breakfasts and lunches. For sit-down dinners, we would all gather in the living room area of Stevens and walk across the street in a group. Food was served family-style, and you were to take an item with your right hand and pass with your left. And of course, you were wearing a dress. Pants were more for weekends. Sit-down dinners when friend chicken was served, no one wanted to sit at the head table with our house mother, Mrs. Fraser, because we would be required to eat our chicken with a knife and fork and not our fingers. I also got so tired of a dessert choice of light cherries or dark cherries.”
Sorenson also remembers, “Stevens Hall always had a winter dance, and on Mother’s Weekend in the spring there would be a Mother’s Tea. The dorm had steam heat and the radiators would bang as the heat would come on. Any cooking in your room had to be done in a popcorn popper.”
All in all, she says, “Life was simple, and I loved my four years of living in a ‘rat hole.’”
Residence hall director
DeAnn “DeDe” Wells (’79 Ed.)
Little did I know, when I was the residence hall director for Stevens Hall from 1979 to 1982, that I would so fall in love with a building and its history!
During my tenure, there were so many memories. Here are just a few of them:
• An academic building was constructed next door to Stevens Hall and residents were very concerned that the design of this new building might allow for possible future expansion. This would mean that Stevens Hall might be demolished to allow for this expansion. To prevent this from ever happening, the residents banded together as a formidable force and, working with WSU administration, were successful in having Stevens Hall placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bronze plaque is currently displayed proudly next to the Stevens Hall front door.
• The eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, caused both problems and adventures for Stevens Hall and its residents. This was the very day that I had chosen for our annual staff training team-building picnic at Kamiak Butte. Not knowing that the mountain would erupt, our picnic began on a sunny morning but very quickly turned into a dark, night-like scene by 2 p.m. Our afternoon trip home was like driving in a heavy snowstorm at night, and I was happy when we reached the front door of good ol’ Stevens Hall. The volcanic ash that had piled up was not only a housekeeping nightmare for days trying to keep it out of the building, but it proved a problem for the City of Pullman. I received notice that power would have to be turned off so the large electrical transformers in the area could be cleaned off. What do you do when the steam heat is still on so the upstairs rooms are hot and no windows can be opened, and when there will be no lights or electricity for the residents at night? Hold a camp-out in the main lobby, of course! The residents brought their pillows, blankets, guitars, flashlights, and a wide variety of snacks. This all made for a great evening.
• Stevens was closed during the summers and the quiet building after a bustling academic year was always such a welcome treat for me. This also marked a special time when past residents—many living there in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s—would stop by to reminisce and to see if the building had changed over the years. These wonderful, unexpected visits would begin with a quiet knock on the massive front door. I could glimpse white hair peeking slightly above the door’s window and belonging to a senior woman waiting patiently to gain entry. These were the times when much history was revealed.
One woman, holding a cardboard box, confessed that she had taken a place-setting of the Stevens Hall china from the dining room when she graduated. She said that she felt guilty all these many years and wanted to return the china (which was monogrammed with “SH” on each piece) to its rightful home. If she had not returned this china to Stevens Hall, I don’t think that any current resident would have even known that Stevens Hall had its own china pattern.
Another woman, who had been a resident many years before, shared that she had been presented with an engagement ring by her beau. Upon returning to Stevens Hall that evening, she wanted to test the diamond in the ring to see if it was real or fake. To test it, she said that she etched her initials in the corner of one of the stair landing windows. She led me up the stairs to the exact spot, and we were both very pleased to see that her initials were still there.
According to another visitor, during the dormitory’s infancy, an adult woman known as the preceptress managed the dormitory and was responsible for the women residents. The resident rooms during that time were known as cells. The terms house mother, head resident, and residence hall director were all used at Stevens Hall throughout the years. The adult manager was provided with a small apartment, located just to the right of the massive fireplace in the lobby. This sunny, four-room apartment had double French doors, glass doorknobs on all the doors, and crystal chandeliers in its living room. Regular office hours were kept in an adjoining office but, when the French doors were open, it was an open invitation to all residents to stop by for an informal visit.
• To accommodate the growing collection of historic mementos given to Stevens Hall, I purchased an old oak and glass showcase, originating from one of the old stores in Pullman, from a local antique store and spent one entire summer re-finishing it. I am very proud that this showcase is currently used by Steven Hall to display many of its historic items.
• The grandfather clock donated by one of the earliest WSU presidents and the extensive teacup collection were always focal points in the living room lobby for the enjoyment of frequent visitors and sources of pride for the residents. Legend has it that there are donated teacups from Helen Keller and Jackie Kennedy in the collection, alongside the teacup donation gifts from each graduating class of residents and former directors. My teacup is displayed in the cabinet.
It has always been my honor to have lived in Stevens Hall for three years as its residence hall director and to have known so many of its very special residents and dedicated staff. I can honestly say that I love Stevens Hall and the history it contains—so much so that I would surely be the woman who chains herself to the building to prevent demolition should the building ever be in danger of being torn down! Stevens Hall is a special and treasured place.
‘Those were the days’
Cynthia Krause (’82 Anthro.)
Cynthia Krause lived at Stevens Hall from 1980 to 1982. “There were no phones in the rooms,” she recalls. “There were no cell phones, either. So, when the phone in the hall rang, whoever was willing would answer and check if the resident was in. If not, we wrote messages on the chalkboard by the phone. The bathroom was called ‘the biffy’ or ‘the biff,’ and Ras would tape up brown paper and markers so we could ‘graffiti.’ There was a buzz board in the lobby so male guests could buzz the room and get an escort. Those were the days. I’m sure it is all different now.”
‘A very special place’
Paula (Rawls) Kay (’92 Chem. Eng.)
“I loved living in Stevens Hall,” says Paula (Rawls) Kay, who moved in as a freshman in 1987 and stayed three years. Her fond memories are:
• Blowing bubbles from her fourth-floor, dorm-room balcony and watching them float down over students studying on the grass in front of Bryan Hall;
• Sliding down the front steps’ railing on the way to the dining hall or the Bookie for munchies with her roommate and best friend Jill Harding year degree;
• Listening to their dorm-room heater radiator make “scary” noises at night;
• Impromptu pizza parties with all the girls gathered in the hallway;
• “And all the wonderful friends I made in Stevens Hall. It was a very special place.”
Matt Beer (’96 Poli. Sci.)
“I walked by Stevens Hall a lot as a WSU student, first as a US Air Force ROTC student down in Thompson Hall, more when my sister moved in as a resident, and then a lot more when she introduced me to her roommate, Casey Chochran (’97 Comm). We just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary in January 2021. Go Cougs!”
Love and leadership
Anna (Swartz) Burch (’96 Comm.)
I was one of the few lucky freshman to start living at Stevens Hall in the fall of 1992. I was terribly shy and afraid of being away from home, but the women of Stevens welcomed and embraced me into their wonderful residence hall. I started to discover that I really had a lot more potential for leadership than I imagined and, by the end of my freshman year, my friend, who was hall president, asked me to run for vice president. It meant so much that she thought I could do the job. I loved our special home and all of its history.
When we returned that fall, my friend had a family emergency and I suddenly became the acting president! I was a bit in over my head. But, yet again, through the support from my wonderful friends in the hall, we all made it work. Our homecoming partner that year was Waller Hall, and several of the men there invited us to participate in their Week of Welcome activities. Little did I know it, but I was going to meet my future husband that year—one of those sweet men from Waller Hall.
I continued to be very involved in the Stevens Hall government as president and, senior year, as one of the 100th Anniversary Celebration coordinators. I had the best room: in the eaves of the building with a view of Palouse sunsets. As a graduating senior, I donated a teacup to the extraordinary teacup collection at Stevens Hall and received a commemorative silver spoon for living in Stevens all four years of college, along with my freshman roommate and my best friend and future maid of honor.
It wasn’t easy leaving in May 1996. What I took away most from WSU were the leadership skills and confidence I gained by living at Stevens Hall. During those four years I became me, thanks to beautiful home on the top of the WSU campus, full of history, fun, hard work, and lifetime friends.
My husband, Scott Burch (’96 Fine Arts), and I married in 2000 and we have a wonderful 16-year-old son. We talk about our memories from WSU all the time, and most of them center around our lives at Stevens and Waller halls. It’s been 25 years since we left WSU, but the memories will be with us forever.
A family tradition
Ashley Bettas-Alcala (’00 Ed.)
Ashley Bettas-Alcala lived in Stevens Hall from 1996 to 1998, some 60 years after her grandmother, Harriet Owsley Evans (’36 Busi).
“When my grandmother lived there, she brought her radio with her from home, which was not allowed, and one day when she was attending class her roommate had turned it on and the house mother came and confiscated it,” Bettas-Alcala says. “My grandmother also participated in the protest during that time to get the Dean of Women, I think, to raise the curfew to midnight on the weekends.”
Says Bettas-Alcala, “I have fond memories of being a part of the Stevens Hall government. I was also the Waller Hall Duchess of Windsor as they were our brother hall when I lived there.”
Spirit of Stevens
Tori Stuckey (’18 Forestry)
“Stevens Hall is what really bolstered my love for history and historical architecture,” says Tori Stuckey, who lived there from 2014 to 2016, served on hall government both years as a Residence Hall Association representative, floor sponsor, and later president. “When I lived there, I became obsessed with researching Stevens’ history. I looked through all of the old photos and documents in the government closet downstairs, the scrapbooks in the lobby and the MASC, as well to get any information I could get my hands on. The fact that thousands of women walked through those halls and that Stevens was the social hub of campus in its early years is what really is amazing. I could write for hours about Stevens—and I did, actually. I made a website about its history.”
Stuckey met some of her best friends and made some of her best memories at Stevens.
“I remember having a Princess Diaries movie marathon in the basement, where we made crowns out of wire and tissue paper,” she says. “I expected three people to show up but it was more like ten. We had themed teas, including a princess-themed one. I would always attempt to play the piano in the lobby.” One night, “my friend and I sang songs loudly in the lobby while she played the ukulele.”
But, Stuckey says, “Living in an old dorm had its drawbacks. I remember one time I was on the first floor and noticed water dripping down the wall from the ceiling, and when I went to the second floor there was more water dripping, and when I finally made it to the third floor (I found) a toilet had overflowed!”
One of her favorite memories at Stevens was celebrating the hall’s 120th anniversary. “We didn’t have an actual date so we went with a date in March since that is the month the namesake, Isaac Stevens, was born,” she says. “We got a cake and decorated the basement with old photos.”
While she was part of hall government she helped design a logo that Stevens used on sweatshirts, tank tops, and water bottles. “I also embroidered Stevens onto a tote bag,” Stuckey says. “Even though I lived off campus my last two years, I visited my friends who still lived there often. I was even given the Spirit of Stevens award. I may live thousands of miles away now, but Stevens will always be my home.”
Poetry from the pantry
Katie Lattin (’19 Spanish)
Katie Lattin lived in the pantry. It wasn’t actually the pantry when she lived there, of course. But living in the former food storage closet-turned-dorm room had its perks.
“The go-to spot for most people was the basement lounge,” she says. “It’s where the TV and kitchen were, so it was the default congregation place. I had the closest room in the whole hall to the lounge, and I was right next to the laundry room. Other girls had to come down three flights to do laundry or cook.”
Lattin lived in Stevens Hall during the 2015-2016 school year, her freshman year. It was her No. 1 choice. “I had done research into the halls, and as soon as I saw Stevens I just completely fell in love with it,” she says. “I thought, ‘That looks adorable. I have to live there.’ I chose a single, and I actually got exactly what I wanted: a single room in Stevens in the basement. So I hit the jackpot.”
She loved “oh, everything” about it, especially the little things. Eating lunch on the balcony. Studying in the little study room next to the balcony. Admiring the view of the Bryan Hall Clocktower out her bedroom window.
The way the sun cast itself on the grand piano. How the stairs creak. The original wood bannisters. “The creaking of the steps just made me think of how many people have walked up these stairs at night to go to their friend’s room to whisper something or cry over a boyfriend,” Lattin says. “Some were kind of creeped out by the creaky steps and thought Stevens was haunted. I don’t know that it’s haunted, but there have been a lot of souls there.”
Stevens Hall celebrated its 120th year while Lattin was at WSU. “You feel that history as soon as you walk in the door. That’s what the draw is,” she says. “You walk into the front lobby, and there’s a lot of period furniture pieces that look like they haven’t been updated, and you feel this place is a lot bigger than you. The house itself has personality. It has so much character inside and out. There’s a huge connection to the past.”
Lattin only lived at Stevens one year. “I moved out because of finances. I saw it was going to be a lot cheaper to live in an apartment, and I couldn’t justify the expense. But I regretted not going back to Stevens for senior year because I loved it so much. When I think back to college, that was my home. Even though I lived in an apartment the next three years, I still spent a lot of time at Stevens. I was there every week to hang out with my best friend, who lived there until she graduated. I’d also show up sometimes for Sunday tea.”
Sunday tea is among her fondest memories of Stevens. “If the hall had a symbol it would be teacups,” Lattin says. “Teacups are a big thing in Stevens. Every Sunday, there’s tea in the basement for the girls who live there, and you’re welcome to invite friends. The basement door would be propped open, and people would come and go. I always had hot chocolate because I hate tea, personally. But there’d be a bunch of girls down there on any given lazy Sunday. And they’d always have cookies out. They’d have these little Scottie dog cookies and Bischoffs. It would run for like an hour or so, and afterward some of the girls would help wash the teacups. I usually stayed and helped.
“The girls who lived at Stevens were amazing. I felt like we all had something in common because we chose that dorm. I think choosing that dorm says something about your interests and values. In my friend group, a lot of us were involved in music or the arts. I was a music minor and played in the Wind Ensemble. My best friend was a piano performance major. Other friends were vocalists. There was just this special camaraderie with the girls there. When I lived there, I think there were about 75 girls in the hall. You really get to know people. It’s a small dorm, and it seems more like a house. Stevens has the sisterly vibe of a sorority without any of the drawbacks.”
There was no preceptress or house mother by the time Lattin lived there, but sometimes the custodian stepped in. Lattin remembers how friendly and kind Laurie Kelnhofer was. “I thought of her as our dorm mom. She was always letting us in when we got locked out. That happened to me twice. Even when I didn’t live there anymore, she recognized me and remembered my name.”
One late afternoon, Lattin was dressing up for a scholarship ceremony—she was receiving an award for Spanish—and she couldn’t zip her dress. “I remember Laurie zipping up my dress and giving me a little pat as I walked out the door and she said, ‘You look very nice. You have a good time tonight.’”
Tori Stuckey (see previous entry) was hall historian when Lattin lived at Stevens, and she helped her with some research. “I spent a lot of time at MASC looking at documents that you can only touch when you’re wearing gloves. I was and still am very passionate about the history of Stevens. I love the history of the hall.”
While searching for the original blueprints for the building, they found a plan instead that showed the original function of Lattin’s room. “My room was the only room in the whole house that didn’t have a sink or a closet. I had an armoire. My room didn’t have a closet because it used to be the pantry. The pantry was right next to the kitchen. What used to be the kitchen is now the laundry room, and my room was connected to it.”
Her research made her feel even more connected to the place and, while there, she started writing a poem about it. “I had so much admiration and feeling for the hall and its history that I just started writing about it and the little things that captured my attention.”
House of the Setting Sun
by Katie Lattin
Sheltered in the shadow of a clock
She still serves tea every Sunday.
She sits on the grassy hill where she has always sat,
letting the sunsets seep in.
She’s seen thousands of sunsets
But each one is new.
Everything around her shifts, but she is stone.
Pink, cream, and gray
Wood, brick, and lace
She was lovely even for her time.
Though out of place,
She has never been alone.
Since the beginning, she has seldom had a quiet moment.
Oh, the stories she could tell!
There are shadows of spirits in the stairwell.
Whispers linger, laughter, tears, and secrets.
There’s the faint creak of a one-hundred-year-old step
Of bare toes creeping over the wood,
Then dusty silence.
The piano plays in the dusty orange light
As shadows stretch over to stroke the velvet.
She is a peaceful safe-haven from change.
She is timeless and strong.
Though some parts of her crumble and creak,
She still wears a warm smile
Greeting all the passers-by who don’t know her name
After all this time.
Stevens Hall 1964
On the web
Steven Hall history (Tori Stuckey)
From the archives
Campus Legends and Ghost Stories, including Stevens Hall
Another Stevens Hall gallery (Pinterest)