I loved my desk on the second floor of W. L. Harkness. Huge, like a president’s desk, it was really for the faculty, but I had it for after hours. Its best feature, besides being large, was the long wall of silky black chalk boards behind it. I loved those chalk boards, too. They must have been special pieces of slate brought from a long way because they were perfect. Recently I finished building out a new condo in Cincinnati, and installed a slate purchased from a local school being converted to offices: it is good slate, but not as good as the ones in W. L. Harkness.
I would spend nights from about 8:00pm to 2:00am studying at my desk. The outside doors were solid oak with sturdy Yale locks, but they were of the type that had a bolt with an angled tongue in the back. A simple coat hanger slid behind with a gentle pull and the door came open. I kept a coat hanger hanging in a tree next to the door. It might still be there.
Sometimes I would need a break and explore the rest of W. L. Harkness. On the third floor I found a faculty lounge, one of those gorgeous gothic rooms with carved stone and plenty of quarter-sawn oak paneling. I eventually discovered a secret door hidden in the paneling that led to the catering kitchen. I installed quarter-sawn oak in my condo in Cincinnati, and I expect it will last just as long as the beautiful wood in W. L. Harkness. I also installed a secret door. The fourth floor was actually the attic, but it had been built out to include a “sound room.” The construction caused all the sound to be absorbed, making a very spooky effect when you are all alone exploring the attic at 2:00am.
One time I got a visit from a Yale cop who had noticed the lights on after hours. He came to inform me that I had to leave. I explained that I was studying and needed a place that was quiet to spread out. He looked around at the books scattered on the desk and the notes on the chalk board, nodded his head and walked out. I wish we empowered more people with the authority to use common sense.
For three years I had a private office with a nice desk and great chalk boards overlooking the Cross-Campus lawn. I would never have caught up to those prep-school guys without that great place to study.
– Bill Ivers