Unearthing The History Of The O'Connell House
Published: Monday, February 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 01:02
Perched atop the hill that is home to Boston College, Upper Campus is where more than half of the freshman class resides. On the campus, eight red brick dormitories surround recreational spaces like a basketball court and open areas that will be suitable for football and frisbee when the snowmen melt away.
Also encircled by the dorms is an old Welch-inspired mansion, the O’Connell House Student Union. This building is equipped to provide members of the BC community with more resources than many may realize, resources including five managers, all of them BC students, who call the O’Connell House home.
The Storey family built the O’Connell House in 1895, but it was the Liggett Family who, in 1937, donated the property to the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal William O’Connell. Just four years later, the Cardinal donated the estate, a total of nine acres of land, to his alma mater, BC . The rooms of the O’Connell House were originally converted into classrooms that were used by BC’s College of Business Administration, an early Carroll School of Management. The house was later used as a residence for Jesuits. At one point, it was even used as a residence for the football team. But, in 1972, the O’Connell House became a student activities center and began serving the purpose it still serves today.
If you walk into the O’Connell House, you walk into a two-story ballroom with beautiful dark wood floors and paneling. To the left are white parlor doors with mirrored windows and behind them is a room with a fireplace, decorative molding, and an old grand piano. Next-door is the game room where there are two ping-pong tables and a large television. Beyond the game room is a meeting room. When you walk into the meeting room, you are bound to notice the long conference table, but you may not take notice of a wooden plaque hanging on the wall. A heading on the plaque reads, “In honor of the O’Connell House staff members whose loyal and dedicated service founded the student union, developed its living tradition and cared for it lovingly.” Below this inscription, the names of all of the student managers who have lived in the O’Connell House are engraved on gold plates. The names go back to the 1972-1973 school year, the very first year that the mansion served as a Student Union.
The O’Connell House allows for up to six student staff members: three graduate and three undergraduate students. This year, there are only two graduate students, Dennis Carr and Kara Lalonde, both set to graduate from the Lynch Graduate School of Education this spring. They are also both Graduate Assistants in the Student Programs Office, the office that oversees the O’Connell House program. It is this graduate assistantship that brought Carr and Lalonde to be managers and residents of the O’Connell House. The current undergraduate managers are Vanessa Gomez, A&S ’13, Nicole Sandonato, LSOE and A&S ’14, and Alexa Geraniotis, CSON ’15.
Sandonato first got involved in the Student Programs Office when she was a freshman and started to work with Nights on the Heights, another one of the SPO programs. She was on the Middlemarch planning committee her freshman and sophomore year, a committee that decorates the O’Connell House for the annual event. Sandonato was drawn to apply for the position of an O’Connell House manager because she thought it would be a cool opportunity to make an impact on the BC Community. “It’s kind of like being an RA,” she said, “but instead of being available for a floor of students, you are available to anyone who walks in. Students will come in to rent a movie and we will start talking and soon they’re asking me for advice.”
There is an O’Connell House manager on duty from 8 p.m. until midnight from Sunday to Thursday and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. During these hours, if you walk in the O’Connell House and look right, you will find one of the managers in their office, surrounded by DVDs and games available for checkout. If your favorite DVD is not a part of the collection, just ask whoever is on duty to add the title to a waiting list. Last semester, Sandonato estimates that they ordered 20 to 25 movies to enhance their collection. Amongst the DVDs is 13 Rue Madeleine, a 1947 spy film starring James Cagney that includes scenes filmed at the O’Connell House. If you are looking for a manager and they are not in their office, chances are they are walking around the house and checking on all of the rooms, making sure all is well. For an O’Connell House manager, going through all of the rooms is no small task. In addition to the rooms mentioned before, the O’Connell House has a dance studio (which used to be a pool), a study room, another meeting room, a TV room, and a laundry room.