Walking up East Street, one may easily mistake 1005 for a house contracted by the architect of Candy Land. The brightly painted walls are just a preview to the life, vitality and friendship of the group inside.
The name, Beast Infection, is a combination of the alternative women’s cross country mascot and yeast infection, a nod to the house’s history as an all-female residence.
“We wanted something edgy, memorable and attention getting,” said Cassidy White ’14.
If the brightly painted walls and curious name weren’t enough, the personalities of the ladies living inside make the house unforgettable. Sarah Burnell, Elena Gartner, Carmen Nelsen, Amanda Nooter, Meg Rudy and White, all ’14, have been friends since their first year and are members of the cross-country team.
“We always wanted to live together,” said Nooter, smiling. “It’s nice to actually make it happen.”
The seventh resident, Laurel Tuggle ’13, lived in the house last year, when it was known as The Womb, and can be thanked for bringing this lively group of ladies together. Tuggle graduated in the spring and is staying in Grinnell to teach history to students at Grinnell High School.
The group, minus Tuggle, all studied abroad last year, but jumped at the chance to live in 1005 this year. The house itself is spacious, comfortable and, most noticeably, clean. The group enthusiastically agrees that much of the comfort of living in the house comes from the benevolent involvement of their landlord, Carlos Ferguson ’92.
“He’s definitely personally invested in the house,” Gartner said.
Walking around, it is apparent Ferguson takes great care of and pride in the house. A dedicated landlord, Ferguson fixes up the house every summer and even built large wooden beds for each one of the Grinnellians. 1005 East Street becomes a center for artists during the summer, when Ferguson runs the Tiny Circus stop-motion animation project out of the house.
Freshly painted rooms, clean floors and a well-tended garden met the women upon moving in. Now the tenants care for the garden that boasts tomatoes to squash, basil to Dinosaur kale.
“I’m excited for the big meals. We invite people over and we have … big potlucks,” Burnell eagerly added.
Cooking in the house is a tricky task, as four of the seven inhabitants are vegetarian and one vegan, but they still manage to enjoy Sunday dinners together. But the residents’ communal meals extend beyond the walls of Beast Infection.
“Sometimes we pack a lunch and eat at the [Spencer] Grill,” Gartner said.
Just because they live off campus does not mean they lack Grinnell pride in the least. A giant Grinnell Cross Country poster occupies one wall, as well as art collected from the community, cross country alumni and the women themselves.
The house also has a tradition of hiding a Mrs. Potato Head doll dressed as a rabbit in different rooms, which the women acknowledge can be quite terrifying at 2:30 in the morning.
“This house has character for sure,” Gartner said.
Character is a good way of alluding to the thrift shop-esque accumulation of items such as gasmasks, a disco ball and an electric piano. All have a practical use, though. When the odor of the men’s cross country house The Slum, reaches Beast Infection the girls can don their gasmasks, spin the disco ball and just groove.
“[The house] has always been a good party house and we want to continue that,” Rudy said.
“We’re still recovering from an awesome NSO party,” White added.
According to Rudy, there will probably be “two or three” more campus-wide parties happening in the future.
Gartner ended by perfectly summarizing their shared experience so far: “A little crazy living with friends, eating with friends, running with friends and still being obsessed with them, but it works out amazingly well.”