Gnome, Sweet Gnome

A swing in Davenport's larger courtyard

By now, you’ve probably heard about Yale’s 14 residential colleges. They’re the heart of the Yale experience. I’m probably legally obligated to say that they’re all great, and they truly are. But right now, I want to engage in some tribalism (sorry, political scientists trying to protect American democracy), and share some things that make Davenport College, my New Haven home, the best.

Pierson Tower from Davenport Courtyard
Technically, this is the Pierson Tower, but Davenport College gets to enjoy this view in the early morning.

1) The gnome. He’s carved. He’s gigantic. He wears yellow pants. He somehow got shipped (or carried?) to New Haven all the way from California. And he’s on prominent display in the Davenport dining hall, serving as our mascot and the source of a tremendous amount of gnome puns.

The Davenport Gnome
The Davenport Gnome, in all of his glory.

2) It’s homey (or rather, gnomey)! For some reason, James Gamble Rogers (the architect) decided he wanted a break from Yale’s Gothic vibe. While the predominant campus atmosphere is great for those of you invested in dark academia – and for when the fall sunlight hits Yale’s buildings just right – a change of pace can always be refreshing. Davenport keeps its facade consistent with the rest of campus, but once you enter the gates you’re greeted with warm brick, white windows, and green shutters (apparently this is called Georgian style).

Upper level of Davenport College
I lived one entryway down from where I took this picture this semester. This whole row on the left side is student housing, and the larger courtyard is down the steps to the right.

3) Perfect courtyards. There’s a reason Dean Brasseaux hosts Sunday football games here. Our larger courtyard is oval-shaped and perfectly-sized, big enough for events and some casual sports – but not so big you feel lost. The smaller courtyard is perfect for a hammock session or picnic. Whatever you need in a courtyard, Davenport is well-equipped to provide it. 

Davenport's larger courtyardDavenport's smaller courtyard
Davenport’s two courtyards, side by side. The larger one is to the left, and the smaller one is to the right.

4) The dining hall! I go crazy for well-designed spaces. Life is too short to settle for room layouts that don’t make sense. That said, the Davenport dining hall comes close to perfection. There’s plenty of seating in the hall, and it’s easy to access the compost and trash area when you’re done with your meal. There are some two-person tables perfect for catching up with friends and some larger ones that lend themselves to group meals. In the food service area, there’s a clear entry, easy access to the entree and salad bars on both sides, and a clear exit. It’s perfect for getting in, grabbing food, chatting with your favorite workers (hi Joanne!), and leaving without worrying about accidentally jostling anyone while you’re carrying full plates.

5) A lovely library. The Davenport library has two parts. One is more modern, and has some individual study carrels and a room for groupwork that gets lit up beautifully by the morning sun. The other section is is perfect for late-night studying, and feels exactly how a library should – dark wood, books on every shelf, and nice tables for working in. When you’re in want of a workspace because Sterling is closed for the night and everything else is far away, the Dport library scratches the itch effortlessly.

6) A cozy common room. Common room vibes can vary a lot from residential college to residential college. Some are classy. Others are airy. Even more still function almost as extensions of the dining hall. Davenport’s is cozy. Tan and red furniture fills the room with warmth. It’s a spot where you can attend a fellowship talk one night and dig into some Mamoun’s (pictured below) another night without feeling out of place doing either.

A falafel, baklava, and iced tea
My first Mamoun’s run, consumed in the Davenport Common Room.

7) The printing press. In Davenport’s basement, we have a printing press (admittedly, some other colleges have this too). The diplomas each year for Davenport and Pierson students are hand-printed by a master printer (he’s super kind!), which is truly unique and special. And anyone can take a course to learn how to use the presses, some of which have been operating since the 1800’s. This is sort of a Davenport rite of passage. When I took it, it became clear how labor-intensive book creation used to be – even after printing had been invented – and gave me tremendous respect for the art form. I don’t have the patience to take on a long-term printing project, but there are plenty of people who do, and what they create turns out amazing.

A Christmas card printed in Davenport
A Christmas card I was given this year, printed in the Davenport Basement. It got a bit beat up coming home in my luggage.

For a full video tour, check out the Davenport website here.