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Soon to be no Moore Pink Palace gives up the ghost
Meet the parents What kind of people send their kids to Skidmore?

 

Soon to be no Moore:
Skidmore’s Pink Palace gives up the ghost
by Maryann Teale Snell

Time is running out for the blushing behemoth at 32 Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs. Moore Hall, affectionately known as the Pink Palace, is Skidmore’s last downtown building, and as of May, its life as a student residence is over. The college has put the six-story dormitory up for sale, and since the location is more valuable than the aging edifice, it will likely be torn down soon after purchase. More than a few alumni will be sorry to see it go. But others—including former dean of faculty Eric Weller, who lives nearby and calls the place “an architectural nightmare”—are more inclined to say good riddance.



Constructed in 1957, Moore Hall was designed to house 160 students and serve up to 400 in its glass-walled dining hall referred to as the “guppy bowl.” As Professor Mary C. Lynn noted in her Skidmore history book Make No Small Plans, the rumor was that it “was never intended to be pink; the stone was supposed to fade over time into a subdued beige. But 1956 documents indicate that architect Henry Blatner meant the pink color to be permanent.”

Even after Skidmore built its new campus, Moore Hall remained in use. Fans dug its proximity to downtown and its independence from academic life. Among alumni, wistful reminiscences prevail—even for Suzanne Chait-Magen ’68, who suggests the structure might more aptly have been named “the Pink Elephant.” She lived there freshman year (“thrilled to inhabit a big, modern, new edifice”) and actually chose to live there again her junior year. “I did not notice its pinkness, only its cheeriness,” she says, adding a tad anxiously, “Are they taking the old gal down?”

Acquaintances “at other schools, like Union and Williams, knew what I meant when I said I lived in the Pink Palace,” says Mary O’Bryan-Seidman ’72. Moore, in all its controversial rosiness, was not as interesting as “the old historic dorms and carriage houses,” concedes Sue Wilkinson Hunter ’64. “It was new, however, and things worked.” Margaret Ellis Jorgensen ’59 and her roommate were tickled to be among the first residents of Moore. They reveled in their clean and roomy third-floor space. “Everything in the room was built-in, and we each had our own closet.” SaraKay Sherman Smullens ’62 was especially fond of those built-ins, which included dressers, desks, and bookshelves. She also appreciated being able to just “go downstairs for dinner on cold winter evenings.”

“We often went to meals in our slippers,” notes Seidman. Another little luxury was “how you could put your laundry in a bag in the hallway on the first floor with an envelope with three dollars slipped inside. You’d get the laundry back that night, clean and folded. It was better than walking four blocks to the laundromat in the snow.”

But perhaps the real wonder was Moore Hall’s elevators, which meant not having to “haul everything up the stairs” on moving-in day, as Jorgensen was used to. “I spent a lot of time in the chairs by the elevators, chatting for hours,” says Chait-Magen (who also remembers gazing out her Moore Hall window “as I typed an essay, inhaling my first Parliaments”). Those elevators, says Sherry Kane Bloom ’72, were “a welcome sight after a long day of classes,” but they were “slow and noisy.” The worst, says Deborah Monosson ’79, was “taking the elevator at 3 a.m. after a night out and having to face that huge mirror right as you got off.”

Beth Marcon Carlucci ’78 says living in “this most physically unattractive old-campus building” gave her her “first real taste of lively college life at Skidmore.” She has fond memories of the Moorebid Ball Halloween party: “lots of crazy costumes, plenty of hoopla!” Sara Snow Hallberg ’96 slyly alludes to more than hoopla, noting, “I could not tell half the stories I’d like to without a really good lawyer present.”

Living in the Pink Palace felt like being in “an apartment building with lots and lots of artists and actors and dancers,” says theater major Merry Traum ’84. “It was my absolute favorite dorm experience.” She didn’t even mind the bus ride to and from the new campus. “I would watch the beautiful town go by and wonder what the ‘old campus’ had been like.” As an art major, Mary Haley Cannon ’78 says “getting to the studios was easy; it required just rolling out of bed.” She also liked to “walk through Congress Park, go to the library, stores, and of course the bars.”

Not everyone was smitten with the Pink Palace. Daniel Carmin ’77 lasted only a single semester there before moving back home and commuting to Skidmore. “That should give you a clue about how much I enjoyed the experience,” he says. Susan Canfield Barber ’71 recalls the “cold bathrooms” and “very plain green bedspreads, which required some decorating enhancements.” And once the Jonsson campus opened, most would agree that the two-mile commute—by shuttle bus, if you didn’t have a car—was a pain. Not long after plans to sell the building were announced, dean of student affairs Pat Oles commented, “I think there’s a zero percent possibility of a grassroots ‘Save Moore Hall’ movement.”

When the building is ultimately reduced to a pile of pink pieces, it’s doubtful anyone will weep. But posthumous memories will linger on. Like Deborah Monosson’s. “I loved my year in Moore Hall. I would not trade it for any room on the new campus,” she says devotedly. “There was a certain status to living there

Episodes

1. THE MISCHIEF-MAKERS
I remember dropping water balloons off the roof, filling up puff pastries with mashed potatoes and putting
them back on the trays, painting the interior of the elevator late one night, and starting a graffiti wall in the sixth-floor hallway (only because we were told the dorm was closing forever that year…otherwise we would never have defaced school property!).
—Deborah Monosson ’79

2. THE FLUSH
Male visitors were allowed in our rooms only during “parietal hours” and had to be signed in and out. One weekend night around 3 a.m. there was a fire drill, and we all ran outside into the cold air. The idea was to flush out a boy who had remained past hours. None of the residents was very pleased. —Sherry Kane Bloom ’72 (P.S. Fire drills “seemed very frequent,” says Doug Stern ’89. “But they were a good way to see who was sleeping with who.”)

3. THE WORLD SERIES
October 1986 was a great moment in baseball. The Mets were playing the Red Sox in the World Series. Half the Pink Palace was New York folks, and the other half was Boston folks. During the sixth game of the series the place turned into a madhouse. Banging on the walls and doors after every great play. The New Yorkers had bragging rights for the rest of the year.
—Doug Stern ’89

4. THE CHAMPAGNE DROP
My boyfriend came up from New York City and brought a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne. (The legal drinking age was 18; I was 19.) We needed the bottle chilled, of course, so why not prop it between the window and the outside ledge? As I watched it fall, I saw it land on the dining hall roof. We ran down to room 218 and asked to climb out the window. The bottle had landed in several feet of snow, neck-first and unbroken—and chilled to perfection. —Debra Skarka ’73

5. THE SAUNA
The bathrooms had an unusual feature—a bathtub room
—and my oddball friends from the other dorms and I used to turn it into a steam bath. We’d put a specially made metal tray in the bathtub and run very hot water over it, and the room would steam up quite nicely.
—Daniel Carmin ’77

6. THE BATHROOM QUANDARY
We had a coed floor, which came as a surprise to many. (As an advisor, I had not been prepped on how to soothe irate fathers.) Since there was a community bathroom, we had to work out a plan to make everyone comfortable: Do you just check which direction the feet are facing in the stalls before entering? The most difficult aspect involved the showers. One guy was at least 6'5". None of the women wanted to be showering when Garrett walked in—how could he avoid looking over the partitions? —Joan Halpert ’73

7. THE FOOD TRICK
Leftover grilled-cheese sandwiches from Monday through Thursday were turned into “cheese strata” on Fridays: squished into a large pan, baked, and then sliced like lasagna. —Doug Stern ’89 (P.S. Merry Traum ’84 cannot forget this dish: “I shiver to think what else they may have put in there. Who on earth thought that one up? It still haunts me.”)

8. THE WATER FIGHT
There was a particularly good water fight between the guys on the third floor and the gals on the fifth. It involved anything that would hold water, and covered the entire building from roof to lobby. I recall that you could get a good crossfire between the south roof and the lounges on the upper floors. The guys won, in my opinion, but the gals might remember it differently.
—Charlie Monroe ’78

9. THE COINCIDENCE
I stashed away a lot of souvenirs from when I was a head resident. In 2002, when I met my husband-to-be, I learned that he too had lived in Moore Hall. During his first visit to my home, I proudly produced a plastic beer mug with “Put a Little MOORE in My Cup” blazed in royal blue, as proof of my continued allegiance to the Pink Palace. Ben had stayed there as a summer resident in the School for Orchestral Studies. His room, it turns out, was just across from the HR apartment door. —Rebecca Podurgiel Ramirez ’89 —MTS