Snack Bar anyone?

John Stickney ‘68, writing in the travel section of The New York Times in 2003, described the Williams College snack bar to his readership: “This breakfast or lunch standby, open to the public, has wooden-beam ceilings and a broad semicircle of tall windows. A motherly counter staff serves up comfort-food favorites like curly French fries …, frosts …, grilled honey buns …, tuna pockets with fresh tomato …, and a vegetarian garden burger ….”

The snack bar was aptly described as “the most beloved spot on campus” in an article published in The Williams Record in 2004. It observed that this iconic institution’s success “is visible every night of the week, when long lines trail out the door and an empty seat is hard to find”. Professor Johnson, Williams ’59, noted that it “was a success from the beginning”. In an interview, Dean Roseman said, “The Snack Bar is the greatest space, there’s no question about that. I think that’s due to the amount of light, all the windows and the food. Cook it and they will come.” But there was something more about it: it was a welcoming meeting place that had a real soul of its own.

Old buildings go (Baxter Hall, RIP 2004), and replacement buildings come (Paresky Center, born 2007), but Williams would cease to be Williams without a snack bar that had curving walls, wooden beams, and big windows, and served as a comfortable cross-roads for the entire campus. The planners of Paresky knew this, and they wisely designed it accordingly. So, in this regard at least, we have something reasonably recognizable to return to, and essentially in the same location, in Paresky.

Of course, those of us still who remain emotionally attached to the atmospheric Baxter Hall snack bar, given the personal experiences of our undergraduate years, will always think of the Baxter version as more echt Williams. We did not mind that Baxter resembled a paddlewheel steamboat, or contained lounges that did not seem to function well, since it had the snack bar as its crowning jewel.

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