Secret Places of Lawrence tour reveals school history

By Anh Ta

Last Wednesday Feb. 25, 75 sophomores were in for a special treat: a Secret Places of Lawrence tour, made available only to sophomores. They visited the cupola on top of Main Hall, the maintenance tunnel connecting Memorial Hall with Wriston Art Center, the Alice G. Chapman Teakwood Room in Hurvis Center and the attic in Ormsby Hall. Not only did tour-goers get to visit and write their names down in the cupola, these lucky few also learned about the history of each tour spot, and connected it to the greater history of Lawrence.

Due to popular demand, two of the campus life-run tours were held. Led by upperclassmen, each tour spot had a facilitator who would share a brief history of the spot. With the exception of the Teakwood Room in the Hurvis Center, all of the tour destinations are out of bounds to students all year round.

“The Teakwood Room is a direct transplant from Milwaukee-Downer College when the two colleges were consolidated in 1968,” explained Sara VanSteenbergen, Campus Life Programs Coordinator and organizer of the secret tour. “The room is gorgeous…the history behind it demonstrates the connection Lawrence has with Milwaukee-Downer College.”

The Teakwood Room used to be a recreational lounge for students and faculty alike. Today, it is reserved for professors receiving their academic regalia and degrees, and hence, not many students are aware of the existence of the room or the story behind it.

On the other hand, the cupola on top of Main Hall has long been a symbol of Lawrence and academic excellence. Going up to the cupola and leaving one’s name there before graduation has been on the bucket list of many students, but few ever get the opportunity.

The tour gave some members of the class of 2017 a chance to see Lawrence from the eight windows of the cupola, as well as write their names down on the wooden interior. This was more than merely writing names in whiteout, but a symbolic gesture.

“For decades, Lawrentians have gone up there to write their names on the wood,” said VanSteenbergen. “Members of the class of 2017 were able to write their names next to the names of the people from class of 1940. That connected you through Lawrence with the past. The idea that your alma mater is so much bigger than your four years here is breathtaking.”

The significance of the cupola goes beyond symbolism. To many Lawrentians, it is the place for them to anchor themselves here at the college, feeling their connectedness in an identity much bigger than themselves.

The tour this year was exclusive to sophomores and will very likely stay that way. It is one of the little perks that sophomores can look forward to, as the excitement of the freshman year dies down.

“Sophomores are like the middle child of the family, we do not get a lot of attention,” said sophomore Evelina Vang who took part on the tour. “I hope it is something they will continue to do for sophomores so freshmen can have something to look forward to.”

The tour is a chance for campus life to show their support for sophomores, recognizing the difficulties of sophomore year. The hope is that it also may get students more interested in the history of their campus.

“I wish they had more spots for us to go to,” said Vang. “I am pretty sure there were more secret and cool places, and I would love to know more.”