Dacie Moses House Celebrates Namesake’s 131st Birthday

February 4, 2014 at 12:10 pm
By Hart Hornor

Carleton students and alumni packed into Dacie Moses House last Sunday to celebrate what would have been Dacie Moses’s 131st birthday. Those who knew Dacie spoke of her warmth and skill at cribbage. Others stood in the living room munching on baked goods--cinnamon rolls, apple bread, beer muffins and more.

Even if Dacie died in 1981, current students said they felt they knew her just by spending time in her house, which she left to Carleton in her will. “It’s one of the things that brought me to Carleton,” said House Resident Jhernie Evangelista, who rushed in and out of the kitchen. Katarina Rolf, also a house resident, had a similar experience. When she was a prospective student, she came to Dacie Moses house with her host and baked chocolate chip cookies.

What makes the house so special? Evangelista and Rolf said it’s “the atmosphere,”--a combination of the smell of baking cookies and the house’s physical openness. “You can come in at any time of the day,” Rolf said. Students show up at 2 a.m. on weekends with the munchies and at 8 a.m. on weekdays in need of lab snacks.

Julia Uleberg Swanson, the house program coordinator, said students go through 100 to 200 pounds of flour in the average month and 8 to 10 cups of butter in the average week. Yet many students don’t know Dacie’s story.

A staff member from 1919 until 1969, Moses opened her house to students in need of a home base. Dixon Bond ‘59 said: “If you were under pressure, you came over for coffee and cookies. If you needed to read, you could come over here. If you needed to meet someone, you could come over here.” Though a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Moses didn’t go to meetings. There were too many old people there. “She got a bigger kick out of young people,” Bond said.

She had a special fondness for singing groups--her husband was a member of the Northfield Male Chorus. Bond, a founding member of the Knights a cappella group, remembers the original group performing for agricultural society meetings and serenading girls outside their dorm room windows. “We were sort of off beat,” he said. In 1955, Moses invited them to come practice at her house. She had a piano, and her house had good acoustics.

More than 30 years after Dacie’s death, the Knights still practice in her house. They performed on Sunday along with the Knightingales. “The Knights are a top consumer of cookies,” Rolf said. “They usually empty out the bins.”

Swanson, who has lived in Dacie Moses House for the past 25 years, believes Moses’ spirit still lives there. When she first moved to the house, the college administration was talking about tearing down the house. Its foundation was wobbly, and nobody thought a generation of students who never met Dacie would want to visit her house. That year, the house got a blast of media attention: it was featured in a People Magazine article about famous legacies, Garrison Keillor broadcasted from the house, and the Star Tribune ran a piece about it. Swanson thinks Moses was sending a message.

Interested in living at Dacie Moses House next year? For an application contact juleberg@carleton.edu