Westrospective: MoCon (McConaughy Hall)

I was scrolling through our Wesleyan University Google Alerts email recently when I came upon a surprising link–someone is selling the old MoCon sign. My first thought upon seeing this was Who on earth would pay $695 for an old sign??? quickly followed by Some student probably stole this when they demolished MoCon in 2010 and is trying to turn a profit almost a decade later. As baffled as I was by this listing on Housatonic Trading Co. (which “offer[s] a curated collection of antique, vintage and modern items including antiquities, jewelry, furnishings, art and decor”), it also seemed like an invitation to dive deeper into the history of MoCon.

Some of you current students (and recent alums) may be wondering, What on earth is MoCon?  Worry not, Wesleying is here to dig up some WesHistory for you and teach you about a beloved and sorely missed Wesleyan institution!

(In)famous for looking like a spaceship, MoCon first opened its doors in September 1962. Zack does a better job digging up the history of MoCon than I ever can, so I highly recommend you read his post. The most essential background (for those who are too lazy to click through):

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?).

In its heyday, MoCon was a center of student life, not just for meals, but also for various campus events.

In what seems to be an early version of our Unofficial Orientation Series, Justin shared tips for freshman navigating the strangeness that is MoCon in The Man, the Myth, the Legend: MoConaughy Hall. Some highlights include:

  • a staff member who was once seen “running around the MoCon floor hog-tied in duct tape
  • “student streakers [who] will bolt through MoCon, hungry not for dinner, but apparently for the awed glances of fellow students realizing that they’re seeing yet another type of meat in MoCon”

Another Wesleying tip from Ishuku encouraged students to steal from MoCon informed students about very large Ziploc bag sizes.

Before Usdan Thanksgiving (aka my favorite meal of the year) was a thing, MoCon did its own version of Thanksgiving, wherein every “family” (aka group of friends) that signed up for a table got THEIR OWN TURKEY!?!?!?! No long buffet lines there, just some good wholesome turkey dinner with your friends! Bands would also apparently perform at MoCon.

Another fun MoCon tradition was yelling announcements from above. “At Mocon you just stood above everyone and within a few seconds people would start [sic] beinging their glasses” In the 2006 version of Eating and Drinking things at Wes, this is how the practice was described:

Mocon is also architecturally suited for shouting announcements at a large mass of people at one time. This ritual is started by someone standing at the top of the stairs while those eating below pound their hands on their tables. This means everyone should shut up and listen because sometimes they have important things to say like where a party is happening that night or where free chocolate can be found.

Xue adds: Don’t drop your cups during the announcements. Only assholes and DKE members do that (see next post). It’s not funny. Neither are you.

Essentially, this seems like an analog version of what we now use WesAdmits for, but it still seems kinda fun! Imagine the possibilities of what students would do with this power today…

Beyond just providing food and fellowship, MoCon was truly a Wesleyan institution that made a lasting impact on students and alumni alike. In 2013, beloved Bon Appetit worker Sharon Wade gave a little MoCon history during an interview with Wesleying:

MoCon was the building over by the tennis courts that they took down– that was a great building. That was a big mistake – huge round building with windows, it was glass on top. Great, sweeping, like [Usdan] is nothing, it was grander than that. Brides loved getting married at MoCon because you could make such an entrance. And all the freshman would go, it was kinda [like Usdan], the freshman would come here for the meals, the athletes come because you get a lot to eat and that’s how MoCon was.

In case you missed it: BRIDES LOVED GETTING MARRIED AT MOCON! Can you imagine anyone wanting to have their wedding in Usdan? Clearly things have gone downhill since the MoCon glory days…

You might be thinking, MoCon seems pretty great! What happened? Pretty much the only bad thing about MoCon was that it didn’t serve breakfast. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and that includes MoCon. According to an Argus piece from 2017, “The beginning of the end came in 2007, when the Usdan University Center was erected, essentially dethroning MoCon as the cultural center of campus by consolidating all of the dining and student union services that were previously split by MoCon and Davenport-Allbritton (now simply called Allbritton).” On May 18th, 2007 MoCon closed its doors for good after one final dinner.

In the beginning, Wesleyan did not adjust well to the new Usdan University Center. Students and alumni alike rallied to Bring Back Mocon. Roth responded to complaints. Fruit flies took over for a bit. The WSA held a forum on dining options. However, it appeared as if MoCon’s days as a dining hall were finished, and the building’s fate was looking grim.

It seemed like perhaps the MoCon building would be repurposed after Usdan opened, however, on April 20, 2010, President Michael Roth ’76 quashed that hope when he announced that MoCon would be demolished, citing budget considerations and extensive renovations that would be required to keep the building. Again, students and alumni turned to the internet in hopes of saving MoCon, but the University went forward with its plans to demolish the building during Summer 2010.

MOCONAUGHGEDDON (aka the demolition of MoCon) began in June of 2010 and continued into Julyfinishing up just before the new school year began in September. Leading up to MoCon’s demolition, Wesleying solicited a series of retrospective pieces commemorating the beloved freshman dining hall. What was once a majestic spaceship overlooking Foss Hill was reduced to rubble, with only some patchy grass remaining to commemorate the storied halls…

Now flash forward to this fall, when the Usdan University Center Instagram page (oh how the times have changed!) shared an old photo of MoCon with the Argus MoCon Retrospective.

I hope you all have had as much fun learning about the storied past of MoCon as I have! And if anyone has a spare $695 laying around, Wesleying would love to acquire the old MoCon sign for ~archival~ purposes. Drop us a line at staff[at]wesleying[dot]edu if you want to help make this dream come true!