Cribz: The Nightmare on Elm Street


Owen Barbato

1033 Elm Street poses with the portly cat Mercury. (From left: Kaya Matsuura, Lucien DeJule, Lily Thornton, Will Donaldson, Isabelle Madorsky and Maren Gingerich, all `23.)

Jane Hoffman, Staff Writer

College housing is, by nature, ephemeral. Rapid turnover, travel and global pandemics have all shaped the spaces students call home over the past years, leaving them replete with items passed down, left behind and obtained by creative means (but always with lively stories behind them). The 1033 Elm Street, or “Nightmare on Elm,” experience encapsulates this dynamic and is a delightful stop within a long line of Grinnell student housing history.

This semester, the residents (both official and unofficial) include Lucien DeJule, Will Donaldson, Maren Gingerich, Isabelle Madorsky, Kaya Matsuura and Lily Thornton, all `23. They are joined by Mercury, a portly and plush gray cat, who, against her mandate as an indoor cat, bounded out the door and under the porch. 

The interior design is eclectic; the house features items that have been lost, found and gifted from previous residents and relations — an aesthetic of accumulation. 

A stack of blue chairs, of a distinctly middle-school type, sit in the backyard — delivered to the house by a former roommate’s uncle. Across from a large, tie-dye wall tapestry, a wine-themed print, also from an adjacent family member, hangs in the living room. The sitting room décor is rounded by a St. Patrick’s Day flag with a large leprechaun on its face, purchased by Donaldson.

After the 2020 derecho, DeJule and a previous roommate came across a pedestrian sign knocked over by the storm. After harvesting and lugging it back to 6th street, the entire sign — post and all — sat in the house for months before two students volunteered to wrest the sign from the post, a task that proved “literally so hard to do,” but allowed them to nail the sign into the wall for posterity. “It’s not coming off,” said Madorsky.

The first Grinnellian to live in 1033 Elm was Harry Hopkins `12, the secretary of commerce and New Deal advisor, who spent his childhood in the home at the turn of the century.

In more recent years, the house was known as Goat House, serving as the official off-campus residence of the football team.

Some callbacks to the days of Goat House are still visible, like the massive Grinnell College Pioneer Football poster featuring players of yore, which covers what is essentially a hole in the wall of the basement. “We put this up for safety reasons. Like not having possums,” said DeJule.

The basement doubles as DeJule’s bedroom and is a favored group hangout spot, complete with a TV for movie nights and gaming sessions and a corner for reading Tarot cards.

Most of the group lived in Cleveland Hall their first year and had talked about eventually living in an off-campus house together. Living together as fourth years has been “a nice full circle moment,” said DeJule.

The Nightmare on Elm Street lives in a hoader’s dream. (Owen Barbato)

The S&B ventured to Elm St. on the eve of 10/10, and the house was in set-up mode for their 12-2 p.m. hosting shift, complete with games, music and at least 50 pizzas. 

Resting on a tower of 12-packs, Mercury the cat luxuriated in the late afternoon sun, before hopping onto a table adorned with the signatures of past and current die champions.

We wrapped up the tour on the sprawling back porch, as the residents gathered for games, dinners and relaxation at a cozy corner table.  

At parties, guests, too, are drawn to the wide porch, to the occasional chagrin of the hosts. “Everyone always hangs out on the back porch during parties, rather than where they should be: on the dance floor,” said Donaldson.

While this iteration of 1033 Elm is just one step in a longer tradition of off-campus revelry, homemaking and tradition-building, the “Nightmare on Elm” melds old and new in an offbeat and utterly delightful fashion.