One of my most favorite spaces at Swarthmore is Sharples Dining Hall. Seriously.
Swarthmore only has one dining hall for our student body of 1,600, so naturally, people will rate it differently. I, however, have been feeling great surges of affection for Sharples recently, which may be because I’ve already eaten my last meal there.
Sharples was built for a student body of 900. As of 2022, we have almost doubled that, so we have outgrown the beloved building. The new Dining and Community Commons (DCC) debuted in October and will provide triple the amount of space and a lot of new cool features (stay tuned!). I am studying abroad from September-December so I will miss the last days of Sharples and the first days of the new DCC. As such, I am going to take a little walk down memory lane and tell you some of the things I’ll miss about Sharples.
✩ tray art ✩
The setup of Sharples means dining routes you through a section with trays and utensils so you can carry all your food without having seven arms. The trays have been decorated over the lifetime of Sharples and speak to the artistry of Swarthmore students. In a pinch, trays also work as sleds.
✩ making the rounds ✩
Sometimes on my tours, I will make a joke about how I am running for the mayor of Swarthmore. I am not running for anything actually student-government-related, but I loooove to know people and be known, so I wave all the time. Sharples is a great place for this fake mayoral campaign because I can make the rounds of the dining space in about 3 minutes. I can see all the people I know, wave to them, and then go back and sit wherever I’m sitting. The new DCC will have two floors, which will both lengthen my rounds (two floors!) and shorten them (there’s a balcony to see down to the first floor).
✩ knowing exactly where the frisbee team will be ✩
The ultimate frisbee team has many creatures of habit. If someone who plays ultimate is in Sharples, they’ll be sitting at table D6 (or D5, if D6 is taken)*. Presence at these tables is an open invitation to come and sit and chat and have a meal. I’m certain the frisbee team will find a way to relocate into the DCC, but the table near the south windows will always remind me of moms and worms**.
Editor’s note: *Swatties use chess notation to refer to the tables that are arranged in a grid in the “big room” of Sharples. **Swarthmore’s ultimate frisbee teams are the Warmothers and the Earthworms.
✩ the vibes ✩
Sharples has been described by some as a cross between a ski lodge and a Mexican restaurant. It’s got orange tiled floors and very little natural light and flickering lights and I love it. The aesthetic of Sharples is not for everyone, but it feels so cozy to me. The Dining Commons has tremendous natural light, which I am very excited about, but something about the nooks and crannies at Sharples makes me ache.
✩ crumb cafe ✩
Now, Crumb Cafe isn’t leaving. There is a designated space for it somewhere in the new Dining and Community Commons project, so the late-night, student-run meal spot will not fall away. However, the small booth in the Sharples quiet room and the long lines snaking into the side room and the half-studying-half-chatting environment is one I feel very fondly for.
✩ the fireplace ✩
When you walk into Sharples, there’s a balcony-like overlook that faces a room with a fireplace and the panini press/toasters/cereal area. When it’s super cold outside, the fireplace is lit and warms that room. There are few feelings as comforting as walking through the snow from a dorm room to get food and being greeted by a roaring fire in a cozy dining hall.
✩ the hallowed space ✩
There’s something special about knowing you’re eating all your meals in a place where every Swarthmore student has eaten since 1964. Knowing that generations of students have laughed/cried/slept at the same tables where I, too, laugh/cry/sleep makes me feel like a part of something pretty important.
As much as I have loved Sharples, I know that many (if not all) of these will continue as we debut a new space for students to laugh/cry/sleep/eat in. Here’s to the DCC!