The Armentrout House in its abandoned state. Photo courtesy of Kara Adams (C’21).
By Erin Elliot
The Green House has been a staple theme house at Sewanee since its genesis in 2008 in Sewanee’s historic Armentrout House, and has since hosted a variety of eco-friendly initiatives on campus along with well-attended Arm and Trout and Leg and Salmon concerts. Until this summer, that is, when the century-old structure was closed after being deemed unfit to house students. The theme house’s residents have been moved to the first floor of Smith Hall, and have heard little in terms of renovation progress outside the tentative, hopeful idea of a return in the Advent semester of 2020.
Despite this change of setting, the Green House has been playing an active role in campus life. Their annual Arm and Trout concert venue was graciously hosted by the Potter family at their house on Kentucky Avenue, and they continue to stay involved in Sewanee’s sustainability efforts through McClurg tables, co-sponsorship of events, campus campaigns, and individual outreach.
As Green House co-director Helena Kilburn (C’20) writes, “The building where the Green House had been located was loved, but it was not definitive of our organization, and we are all determined to be an active presence for environmentally-conscious living.”
Kilburn also maintains a positive outlook in regards to the switch to dorm life, which she states “has definitely required some adaptation, but has been an overall positive temporary switch. The role of the house has become much more focused on outreach and collaboration for our events, which has been wonderfully supported by other campus organizations … we have received an incredible outpouring of support from every corner of the University from a number of the deans, Residential Life, and faculty, just to name a few.”
Sustainability Coordinator Lauren Newman (C’18) values the Green House as an important, involved presence in terms of eco-awareness at Sewanee. “As a student, I was in charge of the Environmental Residents program, and [the Green House was] an incredible ally,” Newman stated. “They have been established on this campus for so many years. It’s cool that we have professors like Eric Keen (C’08) who ended up living in the Green House as a student. It just has a presence and a recognition on this campus that the Environmental Residents didn’t necessarily have, that we are still trying to build… When I was a student, they did a lot of political advocacy with bringing about more awareness of certain lobbying efforts happening in DC.”
Despite acknowledging the value of a defined, welcoming, neutral space in which the Green House can operate, Newman also views the shift in location as an opportunity for sustainable improvement. Newman says, “there were a lot of non-sustainable things about the Green House, just because it’s such an old house, like leaky windows… so it would be really awesome for the Green House to become a ‘green’ house. I’m sure the residents would appreciate that too, but I think they also wouldn’t want to lose the historic quality and the hominess of that space.”
Whether the Green House residents will really have the go-ahead to eventually move back into the Armentrout House remains to be seen. However, as Kilburn stated, “we could not have asked for a group of people with a better attitude or a greater willingness to adapt to this new situation. The Green House is an organization, not a building, and [this idea] has shown this year more than ever.”
As for the famous Green House chickens, they have been moved to a comfortable free-roaming life on an 8-acre farm, and are doing well.