MoCon: The Prequel

“A college should always be stable, but never standing still.” —James L. McConaughy, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., LL.D.

In the beginning, it wasn’t called MoCon. It wasn’t even called McConaughy Hall.

No, when that giant spaceship-shaped monstrosity dining hall first opened its doors in September 1962, it was simply known as the “Freshman Dining Hall.” And that’s what it was; upperclassmen had far classier places to eat: their frat’s eating club, most likely (sup, Chic Chaque?), or Downey House, which apparently served food in the Pre-MoCon Era (is this common knowledge?).

A September, 1962 Argus article (Air Conditioning, Private Dining Rooms Features Of Modern $1,330,000 Foss Hill Dining Area, page two) celebrated the opening of this “ultra-modern structure” to the Class of ’66 on September 16 of that year. Worth highlighting: Blaikie, Miller, and Hines, Inc was the food provider; individual meal costs were $0.75 (breakfast), $1.00 (lunch), and $1.50 (dinner). O 1962, how we miss thee.

A month or so later, a barely noticeable blurb surfaced in the Argus with an update. The Board of Trustees had reached its decision—the “freshman dining hall” would be named after James L. MConaughy, tenth president of Wesleyan. The new Foss Hill Units, meanwhile, were to be named after Joseph W. Hewitt, former Professor of Classics and dean of freshmen. MConaughy’s presidency oversaw the construction of Olin Library, Hall and Shanklin Laboratories, the ’92 Theater, and Harriman Dormitory. Which brings us to one essential discussion question: what the hell is Harriman Dormitory? This is your time to shine, unemployed devoted alumni commenters.

Some interesting facts about McConaughy from the presidents information page on the Wesleyan homepage:

Active by then in Republican politics, he served as lieutenant governor of Connecticut from 1939 to 1941 under Governor Raymond Baldwin, an alumnus of the class of 1916.

When McConaughy ran for governor several years later, in an ironic twist, his opponent, who won the election, was Wilbert Snow, the poet and Wesleyan professor of English, whose lectures, often considered radical, McConaughy had had to defend to Wesleyan trustees. McConaughy, for whom McConaughy Hall, fondly known as Mocon, the scene of freshmen dining, was later elected governor of Connecticut and served from 1947 until he died in office on March 7, 1948.

September, 1962 was the month that the Soviet Union agreed to send arms to Cuba, prompting the October ’62 Cuban Missile Crisis. It was the month that President Kennedy vowed to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Across the pond, an unheard-of Liverpool quartet was preparing its first single, “Love Me Do”/”P.S. I Love You.” And at Wesleyan—still the all-male, mostly white Methodist institution that brought us the likes of Martin Benjamin ’57—a little, oddly-shaped dining hall opened its doors.

Rest in peace, McConaughy, and rest in peace, MoCon. We hardly knew you. Literally.

26 thoughts on “MoCon: The Prequel

  1. alum '09

    Yeah, I love how people keep suggesting “oh, just make it a student center!” as though that wouldn’t cost any money at all and would solve all the problems. Lol.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love MoCon in its own way. I lament the fact that Usdan doesn’t have the same social feeling that MoCon does – you’d go use your meals at MoCon, and the food would only be so-so, but you kept going anyway because all the other freshmen were there and it was one big communal experience. I probably met like half my friends at MoCon, heh. And the structure of the building – one big dining hall instead of two randomly split ones, circular with no corners, big glass walls that made the building feel open and friendly – really lent to the atmosphere. And don’t forget the ability for one person to stand on the balcony and make announcements for everyone to hear! There’s no equivalent to that anymore (well, I guess posting events on Wesleying has kind of taken over that function to some extent. Man, that’s sad.) But I guess things change, and that’s that.

    I’m really sad to see MoCon go, but if the administration thinks that’s the most financially sound move, so be it. As poster #9 said above, I care way more about maintaining need-blind financial aid so future generations of deserving students can attend, than preserving a building for nostalgia’s sake.

  2. alum '09

    Yeah, I love how people keep suggesting “oh, just make it a student center!” as though that wouldn’t cost any money at all and would solve all the problems. Lol.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love MoCon in its own way. I lament the fact that Usdan doesn’t have the same social feeling that MoCon does – you’d go use your meals at MoCon, and the food would only be so-so, but you kept going anyway because all the other freshmen were there and it was one big communal experience. I probably met like half my friends at MoCon, heh. And the structure of the building – one big dining hall instead of two randomly split ones, circular with no corners, big glass walls that made the building feel open and friendly – really lent to the atmosphere. And don’t forget the ability for one person to stand on the balcony and make announcements for everyone to hear! There’s no equivalent to that anymore (well, I guess posting events on Wesleying has kind of taken over that function to some extent. Man, that’s sad.) But I guess things change, and that’s that.

    I’m really sad to see MoCon go, but if the administration thinks that’s the most financially sound move, so be it. As poster #9 said above, I care way more about maintaining need-blind financial aid so future generations of deserving students can attend, than preserving a building for nostalgia’s sake.

  3. 2008

    @9

    have you ever drawn up a construction budget? does the word “compliance” mean anything to you? how about the word “condemned”?

    just try and get a construction permit for that. then try and “just put some couches in there” with 20 bucks from every student’s student fee.

    i wish you the best of luck.

  4. 2008

    @9

    have you ever drawn up a construction budget? does the word “compliance” mean anything to you? how about the word “condemned”?

    just try and get a construction permit for that. then try and “just put some couches in there” with 20 bucks from every student’s student fee.

    i wish you the best of luck.

  5. @ 9

    The problem is that, other than through keeping pipes from freezing over, the space isn’t maintained or accessible for use at all. Making it a student center, especially as the administration has no plans for using the space for their own purposes, is relatively harmless. It’d be easy enough if some of the student activity fee was used to offset costs.

  6. @ 9

    The problem is that, other than through keeping pipes from freezing over, the space isn’t maintained or accessible for use at all. Making it a student center, especially as the administration has no plans for using the space for their own purposes, is relatively harmless. It’d be easy enough if some of the student activity fee was used to offset costs.

  7. James

    The best Mocon legend I ever heard was that they used to have beer and taco night in the 70’s. People supposedly stayed there all of dinner and played drinking games. Can anyone verify that?
    Other great traditions included dropping cups, embarrassing the uninformed people who stared out over the balcony, and of course smocon.
    I guess its loss is lamentable especially because none of those traditions have moved to usdan, but being a couple years removed from campus gives you perspective that it may be better to have more money for financial aid, etc. than to maintain an empty building.

  8. James

    The best Mocon legend I ever heard was that they used to have beer and taco night in the 70’s. People supposedly stayed there all of dinner and played drinking games. Can anyone verify that?
    Other great traditions included dropping cups, embarrassing the uninformed people who stared out over the balcony, and of course smocon.
    I guess its loss is lamentable especially because none of those traditions have moved to usdan, but being a couple years removed from campus gives you perspective that it may be better to have more money for financial aid, etc. than to maintain an empty building.

  9. oldperson

    In the mid-70’s, pre-Mocon romance, McConaughy was referred to as ‘Mahogany’ and generally regarded as a last resort eating venue–the circle of culinary hell where freshman were consigned to eat mystery meat and hockey pucks, surrounded by the upperclassmen who were too weird, lazy or socially maladroit to find a better place to hang out. Excellent concerts there by BBKing, I think, and Taj Mahal.

    Harriman Hall was a dorm on the top floor of the PAC and a haven for loud boys who liked to play hall hockey and engage in fire extinguisher battles. I had a tutorial in a professor’s office in the PAC that was regularly enlivened by the excitement up above. On nice days, the Harriman crowd put their stereo speakers in the windows overlooking Olin and Foss Hill, and blasted music onto the scene below.

    Downey House did indeed serve food–greasy hamburgers and the most awesome egg sandwiches that were the perfect fortification for the rigors of pinball–many hours and quarters could be profitably wasted there. I think beer was available, too, but maybe that’s just wishful remembering.

  10. oldperson

    In the mid-70’s, pre-Mocon romance, McConaughy was referred to as ‘Mahogany’ and generally regarded as a last resort eating venue–the circle of culinary hell where freshman were consigned to eat mystery meat and hockey pucks, surrounded by the upperclassmen who were too weird, lazy or socially maladroit to find a better place to hang out. Excellent concerts there by BBKing, I think, and Taj Mahal.

    Harriman Hall was a dorm on the top floor of the PAC and a haven for loud boys who liked to play hall hockey and engage in fire extinguisher battles. I had a tutorial in a professor’s office in the PAC that was regularly enlivened by the excitement up above. On nice days, the Harriman crowd put their stereo speakers in the windows overlooking Olin and Foss Hill, and blasted music onto the scene below.

    Downey House did indeed serve food–greasy hamburgers and the most awesome egg sandwiches that were the perfect fortification for the rigors of pinball–many hours and quarters could be profitably wasted there. I think beer was available, too, but maybe that’s just wishful remembering.

  11. wesleyan

    to be honest. only the senior class really experienced this place. it dying is just symbolic of the entire path wes is going down…

  12. wesleyan

    to be honest. only the senior class really experienced this place. it dying is just symbolic of the entire path wes is going down…

  13. Anon

    If you want to know more about food at Downey House, ask Pat, the woman who works behind the pastry display at Pi. She worked at Downey house when she first started working at Wes. Always used to talk about how nice and civilized it was.

  14. Anon

    If you want to know more about food at Downey House, ask Pat, the woman who works behind the pastry display at Pi. She worked at Downey house when she first started working at Wes. Always used to talk about how nice and civilized it was.

  15. Anonymous

    yeah harriman used to be the girls’ dorm when Wesleyan went co-ed, I believe. was designed as a dorm to complement clark on the other side of Olin… the faculty offices are in fact converted dorm rooms.

  16. Anonymous

    yeah harriman used to be the girls’ dorm when Wesleyan went co-ed, I believe. was designed as a dorm to complement clark on the other side of Olin… the faculty offices are in fact converted dorm rooms.

  17. Harriman

    Yup, to be specific Harriman is the “tall” 4-story part of PAC (not the shorter part you walk up the main steps to with a few classrooms and reception – that was built later).

  18. Harriman

    Yup, to be specific Harriman is the “tall” 4-story part of PAC (not the shorter part you walk up the main steps to with a few classrooms and reception – that was built later).

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