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Unique campus oddities explained

Helena Guan

With a thorough walk through Mills College, it becomes apparent that there are a few interesting features to this campus. The long history of the college combined with a multitude of forested areas perfect for hiding unique sites and unusual artifacts makes this campus a goldmine.

This is the first in a series of articles chronicling the weird and mysterious things found on the Mills campus.

Ethel and Mary courtyard fountain

The crumbling circular structure between Mary Morse and Ethel Moore Halls was once a glorious meeting ground for students. Surrounded by a half circle of stone steps, a trickling fountain led to the small pool of water with a beautiful statue of mythological figure Pan playing a flute, but is now an empty stump and the stones are in disrepair. Landscape architect Howard Gilkey designed this structure.

Mills architect Karen Fiene said when Mary Morse and Ethel Moore are renovated “the fountain would be included in landscape improvements.”

Fourth Floor of Mills Hall

Mills Hall used to house the entire college, from the dining hall, to the classroom, to the dormitories on the fourth floor.

It is public knowledge that when the building was renovated several years ago the fourth floor was redesigned to be apartment suites.

The new floor plan can be viewed near the back entrance of Mills Hall. Each of the three suites includes a full kitchen, a living room with an office area, a sparkling bathroom with a tub and a bedroom.

But who can stay there?

“Not just anyone,” said Auxiliary Services Specialist Ruth Sears. The classically decorated and beautifully restored suites are for people on official college business, including guest musicians, guest speakers and Mills College Trustees.

Fireplace behind Founders

Nestled among the Eucalyptus trees, lies a Mills hearth designed by Walter Ratcliff, J., up on Pine Top Trail near Lake Aliso and used to be emblematic of Mills College.

“It has been out of use due to fire concerns and Fire Marshall requirements from the City of Oakland” said Fiene.

Now, the old brick hearth, its walls covered in moss, is boarded up with plywood. Combined with the dried up state of Lake Aliso, the Hearth is far from its former glory. “There are no immediate plans for upgrades but we recognize it as a historic site feature on campus,” said Fiene.