The Best... Fireplace on Campus

On a morning at the end of September, I walked up a rickety wooden staircase, over several creaking floorboards, and sat down in 248 Gerlinger—a room with beautiful, wide windows complete with sturdy oak frames, where the first class of my junior year would be held. A faint musky smell, one you might often find in a grandparent’s attic or in a small personal library full of leather-bound books, hung in the air.

One day, I decided to explore the old building. I walked through three or four doors, each window-paned and framed with dark wood, to the most beautiful and ornate room I have seen thus far at the university: the Gerlinger Hall Alumni Lounge, one of the few remaining historic interiors on campus. Indeed, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

I stood in the doorway for a second or two, taking in the scene. In the middle of the cavernous room stood a few oak tables and to my immediate right several fancy couches, worn but ever cozy, on a dusty patterned rug. These select pieces of furniture were clustered around the most magnificent, the most classic, the most inviting—and the best—fireplace on campus.

I scoured the room, quickly noticing intricately framed oil portraits lining the walls and a staircase of rich red carpet leading into the hall from the opposite direction. However, the fireplace against the south wall was what immediately caught my eye. I wandered over to it, noting a Gothic-style inscription just below the mantle.

“Hic habitas felicitas.”

“Here dwells happiness,” in Latin.

I thought about that phrase for a moment. My mind began to wander lazily, thinking of all the happy and warm memories that must have been made in front of this campus landmark. It has been in operation since 1921, so there must be countless merry specters floating about the room.

It is the kind of fireplace that would not be out of place in a ski lodge in the Swiss Alps or in the mansion of an aging heiress. It reminded me of the many rainy afternoons I had spent as a child reading about the Gryffindor Common Room, the setting of many fireside chats between Harry Potter and his friends. The lounge and fireplace, with its wonderful hearth, had clearly been a place where many people had gathered around for a meal, or an elegant evening of dancing.

Today, as in years past, the lounge is used for speaking events and academic conferences, classy celebratory dinners, and social gatherings. Perhaps because of its delicate historical interior, it is not open to the public all the time nor is the fireplace constantly lit; however, each week events take place in the lounge that students and faculty members can attend.

Ever since the day that I first stumbled on the lounge, I have made it a priority to visit it as often as I can. I know the flicker of the warm fire in the grate has illuminated countless significant moments in the university’s history, and today it acts as a quiet watchman to good times past and the bright future of students, faculty, and staff at the University of Oregon.

—By Nathaniel Brown           

Nathaniel Brown is a junior journalism: media studies major from the Portland area.