Until it flooded in the spring of 2007, the space in the basement of Seymour Union, known as Wallace Lounge, was a large room for all-purpose use. Furnished with aged lounge chairs, a stage, a bar and a television, the area was available for student use at all hours of the day. Clubs, met there, students worked on projects in that space and often friends gathered to relax after long school days.
“We used to have nightly meetings there to watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report because we didn’t have a TV,” said senior Sara Belger. “It was a nice place for all of us who came from different dorms to hang out.”
During the 2006/2007 school year, Belger and her friends were mostly freshmen without a common meeting area. Within her group of around a dozen friends, Belger and others had been displaced freshmen, which meant they started their time at Knox without a “suite” area. Wallace Lounge became their place instead.
“That used to totally be our place. We were there every night,” said Belger. “It didn’t feel like a public space but it was comfortable because it was public.”
Belger and another member of the group, senior Daniel Dyrda, said that the space was accessible to them as students, but because it was in the basement they often were not bothered. Though Post Lobby can be used as a gathering area, they said it is less welcoming because it is the center of Post and neither Belger nor Dyrda ever lived there.
“It wasn’t even really all about the TV. We rounded the chairs in a circle so we could discuss and complain about things, often FP, and talk about the happenings of the day,” said Dyrda. “It was a big space specifically for students.”
Dyrda said he and another friend bought a cheap DVD player in order to gather and watch movies in Wallace Lounge, which the group often did. Belger also bought pool cue tips and ping pong balls to use in the game room next to Wallace Lounge, which was also destroyed in the flood.
“We bought things specifically to use in that space,” said Belger. “The pool tables and ping pong tables were fun.”
This group also held individual gatherings and celebrations in that space.
“We celebrated the New Year together a week late,” said Belger. “We got sparkling grape juice and watched a movie.”
“I believe we even counted down to midnight and wished each other Happy New Year,” said Dyrda.
For this group of friends who had gone to homes all over the country during break, Wallace Lounge was their central meeting area to reconvene and celebrate the holidays with the people they enjoyed.
“It really did help define our friendship with how we could use the space,” said Belger.
Belger remembers often doing homework in Wallace Lounge and watching students in the acting courses rehearsing for class. Sometimes, she would watch and give them feedback. Other groups used that area and the friends would wait for them to leave in order to have their meeting area, even if it meant sticking around until the early morning hours.
“There’d be people there but they’d usually clear out by the time we wanted to go in,” said Dyrda. “I think we had food delivered there on occasion.”
Wallace Lounge was also used as a performance venue during that time. Belger and Dyrda remember seeing the Hoot Hoots, a band comprised of recent Knox graduates, play there. The group often played indie pop and drew large crowds to their performances.
“The show was great fun,” said Dyrda. “It contributed to a certain atmosphere because it was smaller and more intimate.”
Dyrda said that the group was able to excite the crowd because they were in such close quarters with their fans.
When Wallace Lounge was flooded, Belger and Dyrda’s group was forced to search for a new area to gather, which they never found outside of their residence space.
“I felt like they had taken away somewhere where I went on a regular bases,” said Belger. “The next year, we all lived in Naked House [270 West Tompkins Street] and had the communal area there.”
But Belger pointed out that, as a freshman, she was not comfortable inviting friends, especially friends who were boys, to gather in her room. As a result, the group began gathering outside on the Knox lawn during the day, but the gatherings were not quite the same.
While Wallace Lounge was home to the free store for a time after the flood, the space has been left unfinished and is currently unused and unavailable for students. If he were to decide to recreate the area, Dyrda has a clear plan in mind.
“It’d remake it just sort of the way it was,” said Dyrda. “It’d be something that can provide a comfortable space.”
He appreciated the furniture, though it was old, because it was comfortable. He liked having the television and the wide open space to relax in during the evenings.
“If it becomes something specific, it’s not going to be the same,” said Belger. “It used to be a big open space for students to use. It was just so open-ended.”