Feature Stories/ Contents

Message from the Conservatory of Music


Around Tappan Square

Professor Norman Craig says farewell

In Brief

Student Perspective


Healing Power of Shakespeare



The Last Word

New Yourker cartoonist Bob Blechman '52 on reunion reality

Staff Box

One More Thing


www.oberlin.edu HOME




Write to : alum.mag@oberlin.edu


Daub House's most distinguishing architectural feature is a set of bargeboards attached to the north and east gables. Unlike the dainty "gingerbread" trim more often found on homes built in the late 1800s, these bargeboards look as the name sounds: heavy and linear, their geometric designs barely visible under many coats of stark white paint. But when Daub occupied it, the home became better known for what was on the inside--the upstairs apartment she rented from Oberlin College.

Pat Leimbach, a columnist for Elyria's Chronicle Telegram, recalled visiting Daub House in the 1970s. "There's a wonderful spirit of humor loose in this house," she wrote in a column titled "Houses I Have Met." The kitchen walls were plastered with postcards from friends around the world. Overstuffed bookcases were everywhere, and in every room, reproductions of masterworks, including a Rousseau in the john. Tabletops and windowsills showcased Daub's treasures: framed photos, seashells, animal miniatures, and other bric-a-brac. Her jewelry was not boxed but slung for viewing from wall sconces, drawer handles, and the newel posts of the stairs.

Then there was Daub's "bar"--a cloth-draped ironing board that held an assortment of liquor bottles for entertaining. And the tiny bathroom wedged under a staircase, marked "Bartlett Memorial."

The ceiling and walls, within arm's reach of the commode, were covered with scribbled comments (though few were actually from John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations) such as "Austerity is a disease" and "The meek shall inherit the earth--only when the others have done with it."



Although daub was often described as "a real character," it was her devotion to readers that people remember most. She delivered requested books, and suggested others, to the hospitalized and homebound. She had a knack for matching books to people who would enjoy them.

When she retired, her farewell literary theme party drew 200 guests, among them distinguished Oberlinians dressed as Ivanhoe, the Cat in the Hat, and the Man With the Golden Arm. Daub herself arrived in a flowered shirtwaist she drolly said represented Great Expectations. "There is no distinction in her mind between town and gown," her longtime friend Charles Love, the College's emeritus secretary, told the Oberlin News Tribune that day. "There are just individuals who like to read books."



Today, none of Daub House's former residents would recognize its interior. Gutted and renovated after Daub's death, the house is now home to Campus Dining Services, College Relations, and this magazine. The front doorbell, an old trolley car bell--it reminded Daub of A Streetcar Named Desire--is all that remains of the house's many whimsical oddities.

Yet it will always be her house. Daub is buried with her parents in Hickory Flats Cemetery near Middletown, Ohio, where her headstone reads "My Book and Heart Must Never Part." Nevertheless, rumors persist that she lingers on in her old apartment. But these ghost stories are really more cherished than scary. After all, who could fear an apparition who said in life, "I have a big, fat, really deep interest in people"?

Even Betty Phillips remembers her eerie experiences there with fondness rather than fright. As an employee of Conference Services, located in Daub House in the late 1990s, she would hear water running in what was once a bathroom near the rear of Daub's apartment.

"It always seemed to happen at the same time, 10 to 11 at night," Phillips says. "I knew there were no pipes of any kind upstairs. When the house was gutted, they took the plumbing out." Her daughter, visiting one evening, heard it, too. "We just kind of laughed about it," she said.

One night Phillips heard something else: An adjacent office door opened and closed. "As I was coming out of the office, I saw a figure go past," she says. "It looked like a woman in a white, flowing, very soft garment of some sort. It floated past the door, but there was nothing there when I went back to those two rooms."

Phillips, who has since retired, said the incident rattled her enough to leave the office earlier than usual that evening, but not before addressing the empty rooms. "I said, 'Hi, Miss Daub. How are you tonight?'" She laughs. "It was actually kind of funny." And while the experience didn't turn her into a true believer in the supernatural, Phillips adds, "I'm not as skeptical as I used to be."

Dorothy Daub would undoubtedly love the tales of her continued presence. She believed that what distinguishes any structure is not its architecture, but the people who have made it their own. Indeed, it was the well-traveled Daub herself who, when asked if she would roam more as a retiree, responded cheerfully: "Heavens, no. I like it here too much. I'll go on working as long as they'll have me."

Michele Lesie is a Cleveland-based writer who formerly worked for The Plain Dealer.

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