The women who picked the highest lottery numbers for housing among study abroad-bound juniors last spring live neither on nor truly off campus this year; they live on Bostwick Lane.
Since 1914, the lane's two houses have served as the homestead for Richmond faculty and staff, but recent housing shortages on campus have made it the playground for college housemates.
Alex Burr, who spent her fall semester in Australia, said she would describe the housemate situation as interesting. Burr is one of the 10 women who live at 15 Bostwick Ln., the two-story, split-level brick house with a white siding facade perched on a hill just a short walk from the main campus.
Burr's bedroom is a converted living room off the foyer. The extra space is a luxury, she said, and so is having her own bathroom. The six women who live upstairs have to share, she said, which can present some obvious problems.
Alex Holcombe, one of Burr's housemates, shares a converted living area with a roommate. Although they had to construct makeshift doors out of curtains at one entrance and shutters at the other, she said, the size of the room made it extremely livable.
Although the arrangement isn't ideal, Burr said, it was working out well because four women in the house are sorority sisters and the rest are friends of friends. If all of the housemates didn't know one another, she said, she didn't think it would be the same kind of environment.
Living at Bostwick does present some challenges, Burr and Holcombe said, such as a general lack of privacy, safety concerns and being too far from the main campus.
The greatest problem, Burr said, was not having access to the safety shuttle. On the weekends, most of the housemates don't even make it home at night because they don't want to walk a half hour from the apartments in the dark, she said.
"I would have found a house off campus if I could do it again," Burr said. "Technically, this is off campus, but I'm sharing a house with [nine] girls when I could have chosen an apartment with three of my closest friends."
Just down the hill at 5 Bostwick Ln., nine junior women occupy a similar brick house with such a bare interior it almost seems as though no one lives there.
"It's a quiet house to say the least," said Amanda Doyle, who spent her fall semester in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Doyle said she had been both happy and relieved when she had received her housing assignment during winter break.
"I was banking on housing because I didn't make any alternate plans," Doyle said. "I'm from New York City and don't have my own car, so living off campus would have been a problem."
Doyle said that most of the residents in 5 Bostwick Ln. were not complete strangers, but acquaintances. Because Richmond is a small school, she said, everyone knows one another somewhat.
"Everyone gets along pretty well," she said, "but there are four singles in the house, so I haven't even met two of the people that live here yet, and I've been here for three weeks."
Doyle lives in a spacious living room converted to a triple, and, although she and her roommates first met upon arrival at Bostwick, she said the rooming situation had worked out just fine.
"I'm happy that I'm living here because it is more of a transition from being so independent abroad," she said. "I'm not thrown back on campus with a freshman in a freshman dorm. I have all this space and independence, yet at the same time I am close and still have the conveniences of campus."
The reason some of the residents aren't happy with Bostwick, she said, was the long walk to the main campus. This becomes a safety concern at night, she said, especially because they did not currently have safety shuttle access.
"After all I heard that happened on campus last semester, I really want a shuttle available to me for safety purposes," Doyle said. "When I was abroad, I had to be in the house at 6 p.m. I was not allowed to leave as a girl.
"I don't want that here. The other night I was walking home from the library at midnight and I was nervous. I should feel a lot safer."
Emberly Sinclair, one of the occupants of 5 Bostwick Ln. who Doyle has yet to meet, said she wasn't too happy with the Bostwick house because it was so isolated from the main campus.
"It is nice that Bostwick is more homey and less institutional than a dorm," she said. "I do not feel that safe there, though. I have a key to get in, but none of the doors properly lock."
Doyle said that the locks were one of the many things the women had contacted facilities to fix.
"With any house there are some things that go awry," she said, "but facilities has been really good. Every time we've made a complaint they've been here that day or the next day."
And a quick response from facilities isn't the only perk at Bostwick. The closets are fully stocked with rows of toilet paper and paper towels, and cleaning services come every Tuesday to clean the kitchen, bathrooms and common areas and take out the garbage, Doyle said.
"I think we are lucky in every sense of the word," she said. "My advice to girls hoping to live here in the future would be to pray you get one of the highest lottery numbers. I got 186 out of 188, and I'm here instead of in a small little dorm. I feel that I won out."
But Joan Lachowski, director of undergraduate student housing, said she hoped the Bostwick houses would never have to be used again because there had been more concern about safety shuttle access this year.
Cathy Rossi, director of university transportation, said university police would be working with Groome Transportation to figure out a feasible safety shuttle stop for Bostwick residents in the coming weeks.
They do not yet have access, Rossi said, because Richmond now uses larger 20-passenger shuttles that cannot maneuver up the lane. The goal was to have had a stop at the intersection of Three Chopt Road and Towana Road by the end of the last week, she said, but even that turn was too difficult.
Carolyn Bigler, assistant director of undergraduate student housing, said even though Bostwick residents had made numerous complaints, she had notified them at the start of the semester of openings on campus. The vacancies remain, she said, but only one woman had moved out.
Waiting for on-campus housing can cause anxiety for many junior women returning from abroad, Doyle said.
"But try to have faith in [the housing department]. I think they really do try to place people who need and want housing," she said. "You will get placed, but you don't have any choice as to where."
Contact reporter Kaylin Politzer at firstname.lastname@example.org