Prior to Midwinter Ball on Saturday, campus erupted with rumors that Crack and Love House owner and St. Olaf German Professor Lavern Rippley had sold the houses, possibly to Carleton. The story has since then been clarified: Professor Rippley donated the houses to St. Olaf College.
“I am doing some good for my institution,” is all the reason Rippley would give in a phone interview on Monday. When he bought Crack House 32 years ago, he was avoiding purchasing property near St. Olaf because he thought it might lead to conflict with the college. Now he acknowledges the irony of his current situation--that because of the location of the houses, it would make more sense to donate them to Carleton.
Built in 1868, Crack House has long been known for its Wednesday-night parties. Its name allegedly originates from structural disintegrity reminiscent of the “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
It has a well-studied architectural history that extends beyond campus mythology, however. Prior to 1914, Crack and Love Houses were opposite sides of one large mansion. When Rippley purchased Crack House in the eighties, it was an abandoned and rundown house. Rippley admits that despite his efforts to renovate the houses, their current conditions have fallen due to too much partying.
To some, however, the houses remain desirable. Crack House resident Joe Brown has reportedly enacted a cleaning campaign in lower Crack, and Arafat Akinlabi, who drew first in the class of 2015 room selection lottery, expressed passing frustration about the Crack and Love house donation.
Arafat’s feelings are understandable; good draw numbers are often used as ins for illusive Northfield Option housing spots. “I recommend living off campus to anyone with a good enough draw number,” wrote Love House resident Tyler Mahoney in an email. Living off campus will require even better numbers in coming years, however. The questionable futures of Crack and Love Houses fit into a larger trend of the reduction of Northfield Option slots, down to the 70-75 range for the coming year. While normally Crack House would house 10 residents, only 5 students live there this year.
A possible reason for the reduction of Northfield option slots is the legal exposure residents face in the town of Northfield. Because campus security does not have jurisdiction over off-campus houses, the Northfield Police are the initial responders to any reported incidents. The Northfield Police are responsible for enforcing the Social Host ordinance, instituted by the town of Northfield to discourage under-aged drinking parties. Being caught hosting can result in hefty fines and jail time.
You might expect college town landlords to be wary of the Social Host ordinance. “For me, this has been a non-issue,” said Peach House owner and Math Skills Center Supervisor Russ Petricka, who frequently advertises housing in the Noon News Bulletin. “Since I retain 15 percent of the house, I come to the house every day, and have never experienced any drinking or disruptive behavior in all the years that I have rented to students.”
When Crack House landlord Lavern Rippley was asked about Social Host, however, he responded “I have not heard of that ordinance.”
While Crack House has long been a destination for young and thirsty roamers, the era may be drawing to an end. St. Olaf didn’t comment on the story, but due to the deteriorated condition of Crack and Love Houses, some speculate that they will be torn down.
With such a possible end in sight, some would have Crack House go out with a bang. “If they’re going to bulldoze it, why don’t we just burn it down?” asks Computer Science major Austin Lane, whose first party as a Carleton student was the Freshman-Senior party held each year at Crack House during New Student Week. Lane assumed a thoughtful gaze while reminiscing about the house. “Losing Love House is like, oh man, losing a pretty nice house,” said Lane, “but losing Crack is like losing tradition.”