Freshmen experience best and worst of Dartmouth housing

by Valerie Silverman | 9/16/02 5:00am

Warning: The dorm that you are placed in for your freshman year will completely determine the fate of your time at Dartmouth. Nothing will be more important than what residential hall you live in, so hope for the best!

Actually, all the dorms have benefits and drawbacks, and really what is most important is what you make of where you live. And remember that even some of the "worst" dorms are significantly superior to dorms at so many other colleges.

I will attempt to give an overview of every dorm on campus, drawn from what I know, have heard about (or experienced in) each. All of the dorms are grouped together in "clusters" -- this does not mean they are connected or have the same layout, just close to each other.

I'll start with my favorites, coincidentally the two dorms I lived in my freshman and sophomore years:

Wheeler-Richardson Cluster

Wheeler is the oldest dorm on campus, but do not fret, there is a constant supply of electricity, heat and running water. The floors are co-ed and mixed-class, typically with the freshman living at the ends of the hall in little coves.

Wheeler boasts luxurious two-room triples with half-baths, and cramped, tiny one-room L-shaped doubles without bathrooms. Most of the rooms have fireplaces ... for decoration (the College banned the use of fireplaces a couple of years ago).

Richardson, perched gloriously on a hill next to Wheeler, is smaller and more modern then its neighbor. The floors are separated by sex (the two top floors are set aside for those who have it, and the two lower are for those who abstain), and mostly freshman and sophomores reside there. With ridiculously wide halls and extremely spacious two-room doubles and two and one-room triples, Richardson offers an almost apartment-style living situation. I must say that I will always brag about my sophomore year room there.


North, South and Mid- Fayerweather Halls are all connected by underground passageways. Situated behind Dartmouth Hall, these dorms are also a desirable location, and are inhabited mostly by freshman and sophomores.

The spacious two-room triples and one-room doubles, all with half-baths, make Mid-Fayerweather the top pick of the three. But at least living in North or South Fayerweather will grant you the honor of living next to such a wonderful dorm. Most of the rooms in North and South are roomy and pleasant, certainly nothing to complain about. So be excited if you live there!


Ripley, Woodward and Smith are three connected dorms behind Richardson and the Fayers, and facing the gym. So although not the most central location, they are not too far off the beaten track. Rip-Wood-Smith is made up mostly of singles and a few cramped doubles. Although singles may be unappealing to some freshman, I know that the residents of the floor tend to develop camaraderie.


I never really knew where Topliff was until last fall, even though I passed it almost every day during my freshman year. A massive dorm on the corner by the gym, Topliff is exclusive to upperclassman.

With the long, winding halls and abundance of singles and doubles, Topliff remind me more of a larger college's dorms. While a seemingly nice place to live, I see one huge problem with Topliff -- there are two men's rooms and only one women's room on each floor. Now, what are they thinking?

New Hampshire

Named after Dartmouth's illustrious home state, New-Hamp is a prime spot to live freshman year. Next to Topliff and The Hop, the residents of this dorm always seem very pleased with their situation. Although New Hamp's location across the street from the Green (you will find that the locations of everything here is relative to the Green) may possibly be considered a drawback, I find the location to be fairly central. The floors are mixed by class and sex and the rooms range from one-room and two-room doubles to two-room quads (quite comfortable, I must say).

Massachusetts Row

The critically acclaimed (by students) Mass Row is certainly in an ideal location, as it's proximity to the food establishments on campus make for a nice, short trek during the bitter winter. Though spacious accommodations and coed floors are found in all three dorms, Mid-Mass, with its full-baths, is often tagged as the best dorm. I tend to disagree -- the non-carpeted, gross-tiled floors can lead to danger zones if the residents decide the tile is a better-suited medium than carpet for leaving half-eaten food for months on end (i.e. four boys living together my freshman year). Unfortunately -- or not, in the eyes of upper-classmen -- freshman are no longer assigned to Mass Row.


Hitchcock, located next to Mass Row, offers relatively spacious accommodations with bathrooms. The coed floors are big and windy and easy to get lost in, but I'm sure if you live there you'll find your way around just fine.

Gold Coast

I have always considered the Gold-Coast dorms to be the most beautiful buildings on campus with a classic colonial brick New England style. he Gold Coast is made up of Gile, Streeter and Lord Halls, all equally desirable and comfortable. I always sense a new, clean feeling in the halls of these dorms, which were recently renovated. Some lucky freshmen will be assigned to the roomy two-room doubles or three-room triples with half-baths. Also a prime location (it really seems as though every dorm is in a prime location) the Gold Coast will surely make you shine. Sorry, had to write that.


There really is little good to say about the River dorms, but a huge percentage of you will be living in them next year, so no use in complaining. Their proximity to the Connecticut River make the River dorms an ideal place to live if you're into taking morning swims in the refreshing water. Most of the rooms are small two-room doubles or three-room doubles (definitely a plus). And with the dorms consisting solely of freshmen, a definite spirit and social scene will develop.


Although possibly some of the most unattractive buildings I've ever seen, the Choates are always home to a big group of freshmen who mostly enjoy their experience there. All of the rooms are cramped one room doubles -- not the most luxurious of accommodations. Likelihood is high, however, that you will be placed in the Choates, so you'll eventually learn to love the community there...and its proximity to frat row.

Russell-Sage Butterfield

Also a cluster of comfortable, convenient dorms, these residential halls boast two-room triples, and a few doubles and singles, some with half-baths, some without. More upperclassmen live there, and Butterfield is the substance-free house. The Hyphen, a lounge connecting the two dorms, is a hot spot for a cappella and improv shows, discussions and guest speakers.

East Wheelock

The four dorms of the East Wheelock cluster--Zimmerman, Andres, McCulloch and Morton--host a unique program designed to bolster faculty/student interaction. Faculty associates, currently English prrofessor Tom Luxon and his wife, English professor Ivy Schweitzer, ,live in the white house next door to the cluster and hold a number of informal gatherings between students and professors. The cluster also distributes free tickets for various cultural activities.

The rooms in East Wheelock are known for being incredibly spacious. Most are singles, doubles, or quads. All rooms in Zimmerman, Andres and Morton have private baths. McCulloch, the newest dorm, features a unique configuration of rooms in which sinks are placed in the halls to facilitate interaction among the residents.

Tree Houses

Due to a housing shortage, a cluster of temporary houses was erected in the River area last year to alleviate the crunch. Freshmen, however, will not have to worry about landing a spot in these uncomfortable and unsightly dorms.

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