Lauren Poltorak ‘26
In recent years, the use of the term “liminal space” has become more frequent across the internet and has subsequently diffused into the public consciousness. This term describes places that appear uncanny, usually due to their emptiness and sense of being abandoned. That being said, Holy Cross is no stranger to liminal spaces. Being such an old and small campus, there are many spots that radiate this liminal feel perfectly. In order to find the best examples of these liminal spaces, I have gone on an arduous journey across this glorious institution. Based on my findings, I present to you all the top five liminal spaces at Holy Cross:
- The First Floor of Beaven
Beaven is one of the more confusing buildings on campus in my opinion. For starters, there are only two entrances: one on the side, and the other through Smith Labs. The side entrance is tucked in an alleyway between Dinand and Beaven proper, and is not the type of place I would walk alone at night. The entrance through Smith Labs is tucked in a far corner on the second floor of the building. Upon opening the unlabeled black door at the side entrance, we enter a small, dimly lit antechamber that contains a staircase to the upper floors of the building, and a single billboard full of posters advertising the latest happenings on campus. This billboard is the only thing on the entire first floor that gives the impression of life. As we enter through another door into the main hall, we are greeted by a sea of gray. From the floor, to the walls, to the ceiling, gray dominates our vision, making the space almost look like it’s been sucked dry of color. There are no ceiling lights, only fluorescent wall lamps which amplify the overwhelming gray with their weak glow. In the center of the hall, there are the double-doors that once served as the main entrance to Beaven, now sealed up and unusable. This gives the impression of inescapability to the already eerie space. Stopping to absorb the sounds, the only thing I can hear is the ominous humming of distant machinery. At the end of the floor and to the left, there is a small nondescript door that leads to a short hallway with one classroom and another blank door at the end of the hall. We enter, and once again, there is another, even smaller hallway with yet another unlabeled gray door. Pushing through the door, we are met with the second floor of Smith Labs and return to a world with life and color.
- Dinand Basement Stacks (Stacks H-Z)
This liminal space embodies the spirit of Holy Cross quite well. The rows upon rows of shelves packed with old tomes shows the room’s age, making the sense of being abandoned stronger. The space between the shelves is narrow and labyrinthine, giving a sense of endlessness. Desaturated, neutral colors dominate the space, which are made even more desaturated because of the fluorescent lights. The desks and couches that serve as study spaces are pushed to the far ends of the room, which creates a sense of distance and isolation between other students. Additionally, there are a few small private study rooms at the back of the space that remind me of confessional booths or prison cells. Finally, there is a silence here so profound that it almost feels as if it’s sucking up all sound in its proximity. The bathrooms down here are pretty nice though, not gonna lie.
- Stein 1
Upon entering Stein 1 during my investigation, I was greeted with the elevator door eerily sliding open. No one got off the elevator, and there were no other people on the floor with me who could have pressed the button to summon it. As always, neutral tones of beige and gray are ever present here, and the dim glow from the lights makes them appear even darker. A few posters are collected on a billboard by the main stairs, which is the only sign of life on this floor. The vibe here is fascinating. Despite being eerie and unsettling, there’s a small sense of comfort–like the respite after waking up from a bad dream.
- Hogan 2
Despite being a commonly frequented part of campus, Hogan 2 still has an air of emptiness and abandonment. I want to focus specifically on the first hallway straight ahead from the easy street entrance. Despite not being very long, the bare monotone walls give it the impression that it stretches on forever. In addition to that, the sharp left turn at the end of the hall makes it seem as if the hall is a dead end, leaving students with nowhere to go. Hogan 2 is home to the Counseling center, WCHC, the Center for Career development, and so many other offices, yet the hallway still feels empty. Talking is rarely heard when passing through, and as I sat writing down my notes, the only sounds I hear are the rattling of the air vents and the quiet footsteps of other students passing though. In a way, being in Hogan 2 is a bit like being in purgatory: it’s the seemingly endless emptiness between Upper Easy Street and Cool Beans.
- Lower Kimball
If you were to look up liminal space on google, Lower Kimball would absolutely be one of the first images to show up. There is too much to say about this place. Once again, the space is dominated by neutral colors, with the only hint of color being the blue of the seat cushions, which have been tuned a dull and dark blue after years of use. The humming of whatever machinery they keep down here floods the entire room with its oppressive rhythm. There are a few TVs on the walls that give the impression that they’re supposed to be used to to watch football and have people gather around while enjoying a meal from the food court, but these TV’s are never on, alluding to lively gatherings that are long since gone. Some of the grey columns have LED lights that emit a faint blue glow from the top, though this makes it feel even more abandoned, since only certain pillar’s lights are working. The abandoned food stations are closed off by a sliding gate, though it is cracked open which makes it seem like someone has ventured down here to explore the corpse of the food court.
Next, the matter of the bathrooms. The bathrooms in Lower Kimball are the only ones in all of Kimball, meaning that students dining in the main dining room have to leave the dining room, climb down a very dark and dingy staircase down here, with paper signs pointing down the direction of the bathrooms taped on the walls. The bathrooms themselves are fascinating. When we turn to the left, we reach an alcove with 4 doors: the two on the left being the main part of the men’s bathroom and a handicap accessible room, and the two on the right, presumably being the women’s restrooms. This can only be determined by process of elimination because there are no signs on either door signifying that it’s a women’s restroom. Before even entering the women’s room, the ears are greeted by a trill and constant buzzing. Inside we can observe that the buzzing is coming from either the lights, or the air freshener right next to them–the sound is so overwhelming that it’s impossible to tell where it’s coming from. The bathroom itself is interesting. It shares the same dull neutrals of the main part of lower Kimball, but the stalls are a jarringly bright coral red. There are no overhead lights for any of the stalls, so it’s quite dark when they’re being used. The darkness accompanied by the deafening buzz of the lights makes the entire bathroom experience a place for one to reevaluate their place in the universe. However, if we exit this bathroom and continue to the left towards the end of the hall, we reach another set of women’s bathrooms. This bathroom is much larger than the previous ones. Instead of a deafening buzz, there’s a throbbing whistle of some distant machinery. Unlike the rest of Lower Kimball, these bathrooms are a bit colorful, with baby blue walls and turquoise stalls. There are overhead lights, but they don’t reach every stall meaning that in many stalls, students are left to sit in darkness and silence as the insignificance of life overwhelms them. Overall, Lower Kimball has a vibe that reminds me of an abandoned mall food court from the 90s.
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