North Central College - Naperville, IL

150 Moments: Eating and boarding clubs in the early years

Print Email Share

Bonita eating club, ca. 1908
Bonita eating club, ca. 1908

During the early years, North Central College did not provide room and dining facilities. The original Kaufman Hall was not built until 1928 as the first women’s residence hall and dining facility built by the College.

However, a residential neighborhood with gracious homes was situated between Fort Hill and the original campus, and many students found room and board in these and other neighboring residences. Students from out of town were compelled to rent rooms in these homes. They also pooled their resources to form eating clubs with an operator of the club providing home-cooked meals.

These clubs were the closest thing to fraternities North Central would experience; College policy opposed fraternities and sororities. In 1931, President Everett Rall said, “they tend to increase greatly the cost of life at college, to create undesirable social distinctions and snobbishness, and frequently lead to excesses and neglect of the real purposes of a college education.”

One of the earliest eating clubs was the Bonita Club, which existed in the early 20th century. The last club in operation was the Southeastern Club located at 104 S. Wright St. Edna Weinert prepared three meals a day for about 30 men and housed six or eight. Recollections of this club by Bill Abe ’50 and Howard Mueller ’58 include inviting girlfriends and dates for special evening meals, giving Southeastern Club pins to girlfriends, and forming “beltlines,” which involved some embarrassingly painful consequences to anyone who broke the code of conduct.

Other clubs included Baumgartners’ at 21 S. Sleight St., Eleanor Otterpohl Morgan’s house at 140 N. Sleight St. and the Rafter House’s “School Room” on Washington Street.  

President Rall saw that other colleges and universities were providing housing, especially for their female students. When the opportunity arose, the College purchased two large private houses on the north side of Chicago Avenue and converted them to women’s dormitories: Bolton Hall in 1921 and Johnson Hall in 1922. And, in 1928, the College constructed its first new dormitory, Kaufman Hall, with sleeping space for 43 women and a dining room serving 150 students.

Photo, left: Chicago Avenue residences Bolton and Kaufman halls, with Kaufman dining hall between them, 1930s