Widgets Magazine


The Dude Abides: 3,000 Years of Beautiful History…

A recurrent debate in my life has been whether I should apply to become a tour guide.  On one hand, I have worked in an office providing directions all over campus, and given my sick historical fix/good sense of geography, I have a decent conception of this place.  However, there is no amount of money that could keep me on script when trying to describe Stanford to starry-eyed high school kids or Far East tourists.  For you Stanford partisans, however, I would like to invite you on the trademarked Zachary Warma’s Hidden History Stanford Tour™.

We begin not at MemAud, but rather the corner of Salvatierra and Santa Ynez.  In one of the several beautiful pockets of the unknown Faculty Ghetto (which excluding the Row Houses/Cowell, is the area bounded by Stanford Ave, Bowdoin St, Junipero Serra, and Campus Drive East), there stands several identical homes.  Unique in design and size, how these structures feature in the history of the Farm: early in the 20th Century, it was both Salvatierra and Mayfield that formed the Greek Rows, and these houses now stand as vestiges of an architecturally stunning, Greekier past.

Walk along Santa Ynez to the corner of Mayfield Avenue.  You will see facing Phi Psi a small plaque honoring the location of the former Stanford Elementary School, which closed its doors mid-century.  Chuckle quietly when thinking about students doing the walk of shame Friday morning past chirpy third graders.

Sauntering down Mayfield towards White Plaza, pause at the corner of Mayfield and Mayfield (you know it makes sense), and glance first at Sigma Nu (located at 557 Mayfield since 2003) and then Sigma Chi (at 550 Mayfield since 1936).  Though currently viewed as having dissimilar dispositions, both chapters experienced major turmoil in the early 60s when each frat had the chutzpah to defy the racist policies of their national organizations and pledged African American students.

Continuing on Mayfield, passing Florence Moore Hall (a former all female dorm; a sad fact to mull on considering the lack of readily available water fountains), you ultimately run into what we now refer to as our glorified pond-Lake Lagunita.  Continuously filled unto the late 80s/early 90s, old photos portray a stunningly pastoral scene of sailboats and rowers.  However, Lake Lag holds a dark history, with a 20-year old Greek party-goer drowning in the Lake in 1986, helping to spark the modern alcohol policy we now live with.

Quickly move from Lomita to Lagunita to arrive at Tresidder Union, named after the former long serving President Donald Tresidder (see contact line for President Trivia Game!).  Enter the Treehouse, operated by the chieftain of non-Stanford Dining eateries, Ray Klein.  Now, picture this spot….25 years ago.  And picture a bowling alley.  Seriously.  This is not a joke.

Swing around the side of Tresidder, and walk between past the Axe and Palm.  Immediately after passing the Native American Community Center (a recent historical addition to campus after concerted student activism over many years), ascend the stair well to your left.  This brings you to the patio of the now-A3C Clubhouse.  Formerly the Women’s Clubhouse, and a witness to the turmoil of the late 1960s anti-Vietnam protests, this is arguably my favorite spot on campus.  Amazing view, great location for cigars, and potential scene of my finals week water balloon sneak attack.

Now we have a bit of a walk. Walking down Lasuen, we make a right after Green Library, which by the way, on the Second Floor, houses our Special Collections.  Coolest. Place. Ever (in the name of full disclosure I am now working there.  But I stand behind this statement).  Passing between Encina (the original male dorm) and Crothers (named after Stanford grad/Jane Stanford’s confidante) and then after cutting left around Toyon, you arrive at Vidalakis.  Not a Viking encampment, Vidalakis is the award-winning dining hall for the Schwab Residential Complex (the traditional GSB dorm).  Why I am taking you to a grad dining hall is that the outside courtyard is decorated with remnants of old columns that toppled during the 1906 Earthquake.  Pretty frickin awesome.

Get on Serra, swing a left, and pass Hoover Tower (Hi Condi!) and MemAud (MLK Jr. gave speech here!), and proceed onto the steps of the Quad.  Walk directly to the doorway of Memorial Church, but do not enter.  Proceed quickly to the left, and look down. You will find an old plaque, placed there on the 14th of May, 1887.  It was here that a grief-stricken mother, coupled with her powerful husband’s ill-gotten assets, erected the cornerstone for the University that 123 years later, we now call home.

My mother went to UCSD, my father Western Illinois.  I saw Stanford for the first time four and a half years ago.  But this is my history just as anyone else’s, and we share this with those who have come before us.  Too infrequently do we realize that this collective past, however disassociated to our personal lives, still powerfully impacts this strange and wonderful place.