Hidden places: liminal spaces on Hill’s campus


Chapel. Photo by Sarah Jiang ’22.

So, you think you know The Hill School campus. After all, you’ve walked around school for years, explored every nook and cranny, and discovered every secret there is to find. Or, perhaps, you don’t know the campus. You’re new to Hill, still trying to find your way around, and still hearing about places you didn’t know existed. Either way, there are locations on campus that few have ever visited. 

Some of these spaces are decades old. Built in 1910, Hunt Upper School is the oldest dormitory at Hill. “It was the last building that was built by John Meigs, the iconic headmaster, son of the founder, who saved the school,” said Head of Archives Louis Jeffries. Hidden beneath Upper School’s tiled roof lies Upper School 5, the abandoned fifth floor that once housed generations of students. You may have heard stories about it (some plausible, others unbelievable). As a dormitory, US5 is not the best location for anyone who does not want to feel isolated from the world. Cut-off, uninsulated, and almost windowless, it might just be the perfect horror movie attic. A ghost, on the other hand, would love it.

Now, if you are a ghost wandering through Hill, you can float down to the steam tunnels underneath the school. These tunnels run all over campus, containing utilities like power lines and water pipes. If you do not possess the ability to walk through walls, you can enter the steam tunnels through Wendell. The entrance is on your right as you walk from west to east on the ground floor. Had this been the 1960s, you might even encounter the legendary Mr. Steam Tunnel, a hero who once saved several Hill students from the Dell Monster. Of course, no one should explore these tunnels on their own, or they might just end up in the Wellness Center.

There are some places at Hill that are almost hidden in plain sight. Every day, students and faculty alike walk by the Alumni Chapel without batting an eye. Many do not pay attention to the Chapel’s basement. You may have walked by its entrance in the evenings or seen ominous-looking photographs thinking that the basement is an eerie place. However, it is actually a dressing room for the chaplain. During warmer seasons, the Chapel may even host Hill alumni weddings, and the basement would serve as a dressing room for the bride or groom. Who knew the seemingly scary Chapel basement had such a romantic story!

Finally, there are places at Hill that remain a mystery even to those around it every day. Unbeknownst to most people at Hill, the school’s library has an attic accessible through an old trapdoor. It is located in Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement Shelley Baumgarten’s office. “I was really surprised that anyone knew about it,” Baumgarten said. “I was in this office for quite some time before I even realized there was a door up there.” No one knows what is hidden in the library attic. It may be home to a family of raccoons, or it may just house Hill’s main Wi-Fi routers. 

Do you still think you know Hill’s campus? Don’t worry; you are not the only one who learned something new today. There is so much more to Hill than what you might expect. There are still so many secrets to discover and places to uncover. But, alas, that is a story for another day.