Tuesday, May 4, 2010

House-naming tradition adopted by neighborhood

Student renters on Bellingham's High Street have adopted a tradition of naming their houses names like "The Future" and "Ladies Market."

Like Thomas Jefferson’s “Monticello” or George Washington’s “Mount Vernon,” the student renters in Bellingham’s Sehome neighborhood have created a tradition of naming their residences.

Though most houses are renamed with each wave of new students, some houses have retained their names even when new residents move in. Some of these include "The Aquarium” and “The Barn.”

Other houses get named because the residents have to select a name for their newly installed wireless connection.

Dan Langager said that’s how his house on High Street got named.

“We needed a name for our wireless network,” Langanger said. “So we named it ‘The House of Class ‘n Ass.’ I guess it just became the house name after that.”

Margot Meuleman at “The Sunflower” said that was how her house got named as well.

“When my roommate and I moved two years ago we asked the girl that lived here before us why the wireless was called ‘Sunflower.’” Meuleman said. “That’s when we found out it was the name of the house.”

Meuleman said she and her roommate made the sign that now hangs above the door displaying the house name.

Some houses in the neighborhood retain their names because they continue to house residents that are involved in the same activities.

This is the case for "The Home" and "The Mansion," which occupied from year to year by interns who work with Campus Christian Fellowship, a religious club at Western.

View Sehome Neighborhood House Names in a larger map

Exploring house names:

The Home and The Mansion

The student house-naming tradition in the Sehome neighborhood started more than 30 years ago with “The Home” at 1210 High St.

The Home was started by Campus Christian Fellowship Pastor Brady Bobbink in the late ‘70s to house young men who are involved in the group.

Bobbink’s assistant Sara McFarlane said The Home has been housing Western students for more than 30 years and is where interns who come to work with CCF stay during their one- to two-year internships.

McFarlane said “The Mansion,” just one house down at 1200 High St., was started a few years later to offer the internship to women as well.

“The reason the interns live at The Home and The Mansion is because it’s an affordable way to live and a great way for them to stay connected to the community,” McFarlane said.

The Home’s house manager, Jeff Springer, said he’s been living at The Home for 5 years but was unsure exactly when The Home got started.

“The impression I have is that it’s been called ‘The Home’ from the beginning, 30 years ago,” Springer said.

Springer said students who are involved in CCF occupy several of the named houses in the neighborhood. CCF women live at “The Barn” located across the street from The Home, Springer said.

“There’s a funny story about The Barn’s name,” Springer said. “A whole new group of girls moved in a few years back and they wanted to change the name. People [at CCF] threw a fit about it and said they would never call it anything else, so the girls had to keep the name.”

The Aquarium

“The Aquarium” can be found on the 1100 block of High Street. A painted sign of the house name hangs up of the door.

Aquarium resident Leah Schlegel said the house was already named before she and her roommates moved in almost two years ago.

“The girls who lived here before us had a sign up, but they took it when they left,” Schlegel said. “My roommates made the sign that’s up there now.”

The Western junior said she didn’t know how the house got named, but she was sure it had something to do with the bright blue color. Schlegel said the house was named for at least two years before she moved in.

Before Schlegel lived at The Aquarium, Western alumna Christine Everson lived there.

Everson said she lived at The Aquarium from Sept. 2006 to Aug. 2008.

“The Aquarium was named by the girls that lived there before I did, and they lived there for two years,” Everson said. “It must have been named in 2004.”

Everson said the signage outside the door was part of the tradition of naming the house. She said the first group of women all signed the back of their Aquarium sign and took it with them when they moved. When she lived there, Everson said, her friends did the same thing.

“I’m really glad they made a sign for it,” she said. “I’m glad the name and the tradition carried on.”

Everson said she thinks the house naming tradition is Western’s way of compensating for not having a Greek system.

“The houses are obviously smaller than sororities and fraternities, but each has its own personality that gets passed along,” Everson said. “It’s a way for students to create communities and families.”

The Convent

The women who live at “The Convent” on the 1000 block of High Street said they started thinking about what they would name their house even before they moved in.

Resident Emily Schmuhl originally proposed the name to the other residents.

“I had just read this book, ‘Finding Calcutta,’ and I was thinking about Mother Teresa and the sisters,” Schmuhl said. “It’s kind of what we’re about, we love Jesus and it’s just girls in the house.”

Schmuhl said when she first proposed the name to the other residents they were hesitant, but eventually the name stuck.

Convent resident Allison McKenzie said The Convent has become the theme of the house.

“We have a toilet that’s really small and we call it the confessional,” McKenzie said.

Naming their house made it easier for the residents to create a Facebook page for it and invite people over for parties and events McKenzie said.

“It’s easier than saying the address,” Schmuhl said. “We can just say, ‘Come on over to The Convent tonight.’”

The residents of The Convent said they hope the name carries on after each of them move out.

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