What you don’t really see is the driveway that’s baaallaaaaa.
I’ve been obsessed with Buddhist House for a while now. Looming enigmatically at the far edge of campus with its simple cream tone and gentle but quietly formidable facade, it’s one of those buildings that just begs for stories to be told (much like its cousin, the Addams Family building over at 202 Wash).
However, considering that I’m morally and spiritually against happy people, actually living in the house and thus being able to bask in all its glory on a constant basis is not an option for me. Stricken with such a deficiency, I am forced to find other ways of worshipping its beauty.
So I turned to the only reliable skill I possess: tapping up nice old ladies. More specifically, using their services in the Special Collections department over at Olin. After a couple of hours with my ass parked in that quiet old room (and it was a lovely quiet old room indeed), I think I’ve got it.
Ladies and gentlemen and everyone in between, the following fact-sheet is my declaration of love for the building that stands at 356 Washington Street, also known as the “Acheson-Armstrong House” (for reasons that will soon become clear).
It was once a wooden house. Built in 1856 by somebody of the name Arthur H. Jackson (my follow-up research reveals nothing about Senor Jackson), it stood for a little under six decades before a man of God came along and opened a can of whoop-ass all over the place.
Reverend Edward Campion Acheson, the rector of the Church of Holy Trinity (down on Main Street, opposite Typhoon!) between 1892-1915 who was appointed Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut in 1916, bought up the site in the year of his holy appointment and decided to make his new home on it (presumably to crunk out on his promotion). I’d love to say that the man built the place with his bare hands, but there’s no evidence to prove such a thing happened. One could always dream, though.
Addition: Commenter HistoryBombs points out that Edward Acheson was the father of Dean Acheson (1893-1971), the 51st American Secretary of State. According to Bombs, Dean – a “seriously smart dude who basically invented modern American foreign policy” – grew up in what is now BuHo. Thanks, buddy!
After it was acquired by Wesleyan, it was instantly made student housing and was christened the Armstrong House after Andrew Campbell Armstrong, Wes philosophy (and then psychology) professor extraordinaire. For more about Prof. Armstrong, hit up here. You can see a plaque in his honor on the right-hand wall as you walk in the front door. It reads:
“A teacher whose influence helped to motivate Wesleyan men who became a galaxy of educational psychologists.”
That’s right. Galaxy, motherfuckers.
And then a couple years ago, it was appropriated by a couple of students who wanted a common space for meditation and spirituality-searching. Some renovations happened (removing its originally stucco walls – oh how great it feels against skin!), and now 356 Wash houses 18 very chill folks who do really cool stuff like vegetarian dinners and quiet, thoughtful circular walks. (If you want in on the good stuff, their meditation sessions are open.)
It stands today a wonderfully gorgeous building. Built on a brownstone foundation and rich with natural light flowing into its rather comfortable hallways, it has the effect being both very cozy (in that cluttered college-y sort of way) and spatially open at the same time. If one were so inclined as to visit, the stairwell is worth just loitering around like a punk during the afternoons – it’s a gentle, comfortable little corner that sucks away time as you stare up at the ceiling.
The records show that its current incarnation is in the architectural style of Academic Classicism. Now, I know nothing about architecture, so I have no idea what that means. If you’re an Architecture major (I know there’s like three of you on campus), drop your knowledge bombs down in the Comments, would you?
Anyway, that’s all I got. I’m going to do something productive now. Like write this paper that’s due tomorrow. Which I should have been writing instead of this. Yeah.
Quick note: This has nothing to do with the program house fair whatsoever. I was not commissioned by BuHo to write this piece. But if they were so inclined to… well. Call me. xoxo