Kindness, Hope and Hospitality: Dacie Moses House renovations

Renovations on the famous “cookie house” will begin next summer.

8 September 2021 Posted In:
Dacie Moses House 2021

With the smell of warm cookies wafting in the sweet air and the sound of student laughter overflowing from the front porch, stepping into Dacie Moses house feels a lot like a hug. But the warmth you immediately feel as you reach for the door handle can’t compare to the generosity that envelops you the moment you step foot in the house. 

“Kindness, hope and hospitality is what Dacie was all about,” longtime house “grandmother” and Dacie Moses house coordinator, Julia Uleberg Swanson said. “Dacie’s is one of the heartbeats of Carleton.”

an illustrated Dacie Moses poster

That same energy is what she hopes comes through in the renovations to the beloved Dacie Moses house. The famous “cookie house” on the west side of campus will undergo major renovations next summer due to wear and tear over the years. The house was willed to the Carleton Alumni Association after Dacie’s death in 1981 and then donated to the college. 

“These renovations are really essential in keeping the house and its mission going for generations of Carls to come,” Steve Spehn, director of facilities and capital planning, said. “It’s a strong commitment to the program.”

The house, and its spirit, will stay intact, and receive much needed updates including air conditioning; a larger kitchen; renovations to the basement, including storage; and electrical, plumbing and foundational updates. The house will also be made accessible. The footprint of the house will be increased overall, and the porch and the original rooms, the living room and music room, of the house will be preserved and updated. 

“We all own this house,” Uleberg Swanson said. As a tour group of prospective students walked by the house, she said, “This house really belongs to these students and all the students who have helped make Dacie’s the magical place it is.” 

The house that built us

The house was built in 1870 and has only had minor updates throughout the years, despite an influx of student use with some weekly Sunday brunches welcoming over 250 people. The house that has given so much love over the years needs some love of its own.

student at Dacie Moses 136 birthday party in front of a table of food

“It has been a really thoughtful process,” said Uleberg Swanson, who has been the house coordinator for 32 years. “It has been talked about and planned with not just Carleton, the college, but with people from the Dacie Moses House Committee who really care for this house. All of us who love Dacie’s understand change is difficult and we honor both our collective grief and joy as we move forward with creating a Dacie Moses House that will last into the future.”

“One of the major goals of this project is to preserve the history of the house,” Spehn said. “There is a lot to do to get things up to date as well, but it’s the best time to do this to be able to keep the traditions going and to best serve the students.” 

Renovations are planned for summer 2022 with a completion date the following summer in 2023 and a possible grand-opening in fall 2023. Planning is still underway, with the design phase starting in the coming months. 

Dacies Moses 1977
Dacie Moses, pictured in 1977, a long-time employee at Carleton, was known for inviting students to her house for cookies, Sunday brunch, and conversation.

Former Carleton staff member Tim Vick, who knew Dacie personally, helped form the House Committee in the years after she passed. The Committee has been a stronghold for keeping the house and traditions alive.

“We really need a rebuild,” Vick said. “I’m all in favor of the rebuild, but it’s also going to be a challenge especially coming off the heels of the pandemic. We need to be able to nurture the traditions for the students to keep it going and to make sure we don’t lose anything socially or spiritually in the process.”

Jeff Pipes ‘83, who was a house resident in the years after Dacie’s death, is also on the House Committee and shared his thoughts on the project.

“It’s been small, little repairs here and there throughout the years,” Pipes said. “So, the idea that the college is stepping up to completely reconstruct it is fantastic. Dacie lived to be 99—if we can go another 100 years, that would be the goal.”

“After Dacie passed away, in 1981, over the next 20 or so years, the house became such an integral part of campus,” Pipes continued. “Dacie touched so many lives and the house touched so many lives. It draws groups of students who really need it and gives them a home. It has literally saved lives.”

“Oh, we have no idea how many people we have served here,” Uleberg Swanson said, noting that the impact of the house seems to stick with students for years. “People will come by and just say, ‘you don’t know how much this house meant to me and how much I felt at home.’”

Radical hospitality

Dacie Moses started her brunches in 1947, inviting students over to her house to take a break from academic work, relax and feel at home. Any student could come to Dacie’s and find an open door and open arms. 

“It was a strong tradition among the students,” Vick said. “It had strong support in the student body. They worked to protect and maintain those traditions and the house. You know, just because you graduate from Carleton doesn’t mean you leave Carleton.” 

“How many other places in the world can you walk off the street, get a cookie and be so welcomed to just be yourself?” Pipes said. “I can’t think of any other place like that. A student a while ago described it as: radical hospitality.”

cookie bag with Dacie tag and QR code

“The magic of Dacie’s is the students who keep it going,” Uleberg Swanson said. “From the students that first took over the brunches after Dacie’s passing to the current students who made it through COVID-19 passing out over 1,500 cookies to the campus in little brown bags. They are the magic of this place.” 

Visit the Dacie Moses House website to follow along with the renovations and to learn more about Dacie, the house, and its traditions. Renovations for the Dacie Moses House are funded by Carleton and an anonymous donor.