Francis lifts the lid of his black slow cooker to check on his chicken Tikka Masala.
“Hoo boy! Chicken’s almost on, fellas!”
Stirring the pot like a crazed witch, Francis hollers from the small island in the middle of the kitchen. Steam rolls up through the old brass chandelier that lights the room.
It’s been cooking for two hours now, and the smell of cumin and paprika begins to permeate throughout the entire first floor of 50 Miner St.
“Onions incoming!” Frazier Bostwick chimes in. Posted next to Francis in assembly line formation, Frazier chops onions. The steady cadence of his knife hitting the cutting board echoes out of the kitchen.
This is a nightly routine for the boys of 50 Miner Street, or “Fifty” as they call it, one that is foreign to the rest of their classmates who live back on campus just a few blocks away.
Though it is a chore, cooking dinner has become a valuable part of the senior year experience for Francis, Frazier, and Stepper.
“It feels good cooking for yourself. It’s kind of fulfilling after a long day of class,” claims Francis Miles, one of the residents of Fifty. He and his two housemates share a home-cooked meal every evening. “None of us are super talented cooks, but we’re learning,” Francis glances at Frazer, wolfing down some of the Tikka Masala, a go-to recipe at the house. Though they aren’t dining on five-star food, the boys of Fifty do their best to expand their culinary quiver every day, finding new ingrdients and trying new recipes as much as possible.
Their house is situated on a quiet street corner in northern Canton, only a few minutes walk from campus. The small, two-story bungalow features a charming porch held up by stony pillars entwined with wilting rose bushes. Soft, tinny melodies of three college students learning guitar float into the surrounding street. Guests are greeted by a large stone fireplace just inside the door, flanked with car posters and student artwork from drawing classes of yore. Hardwood floors are washed in an opaque resin from hundreds
of muddy boots returning after a wintry trek from campus. The smell is musty, but welcoming.
Francis and Stepper Hall, another Fifty resident, both attended a boarding school before enrolling at St. Lawrence.
“I’ve spent almost a decade walking down a hallway to get to a bathroom. I thought it was time for a change. Canton, being so small, seemed like a great place to start,” says Francis, rinsing his crock-pot in a flurry of post-dinner tidying.
Tired of living in a dorm for the past seven years, Francis and Stepper wanted a sense of independence that his past academic experiences had not provided.
“It’s been a big change for sure,” Stepper pipes in, chewing chicken. “I expected to be cooking and cleaning, but there’s a ton of little things that go along with owning a house that I never even thought of before moving in.”
Anxious to begin their lives as homeowners, these boys were unpleasantly surprised when their first round of bills arrived in the mail.
“Paying for power, Wi-Fi, and don’t get me started on the heating bill,” Stepper starts to chuckle as he finishes his dinner. “The ole wallet takes a serious blow after heating a house for the whole winter with Canton’s arctic temps.”
The University is aware that the students who do end up off campus might not be completely prepared for life outside the regulated dormitory routine. Those who pay for room and board enjoy a meal plan, facilities services that repair any damages to dorms, and SLU security, who is on call twenty-four hours a day in case of any emergencies.
These amenities disappear when one withdraws from campus life. For this reason, St. Lawrence has instilled a rigorous application process to ensure that students are prepared for life outside of a residence hall.
The University’s Residence Life department handles the off-campus housing selection process. “Twenty-five seniors have the opportunity to live off campus every academic year,” states Stacie LaPierre, associate director of Residence Life and Housing Operations.
The process includes a series of essay questions, interviews, and a judicial check. Students applying for off-campus housing must hold a clean disciplinary record.
“If a student has a judicial history, we believe that it is not in their best interest, or the community’s best interest, for them to be living off campus,” LaPierre explains.
This means no involvement in any behavioral cases brought to the student judiciary board. “The idea of living off campus should be transitioning to that next step in life, not transitioning to more parties.”
Francis was aware of the lengthy off-campus application process, but was determined to see it through.
“I’d heard of the process, the forms and all, from friends last year,” says Francis, shutting the dishwasher and removing a cold Long Trail Ale from the refrigerator. “Paperwork, meetings, it’s a lot.” LaPierre, along with the rest of the Residence Life team, is adamant that living on campus is vital to a student’s development. “We establish this early with the FYP program,” she says. The FYP, or First Year Program, organizes students into groups who live together in addition to sharing a class. They work to develop a range of academic skills including writing, speaking, and research, all necessary for the rest of their college careers.
LaPierre emphasizes the FYP’s importance. “We’re a small liberal arts school. Living on campus is a really big part of the student experience at St. Lawrence” she says.
The boys of 50 Miner St. agree that the First Year Program is an important part of the SLU experience. “None of us would have met. Some of our closest friends were in our FYPs,” adds Frazier. “It’s definitely a huge part of the freshman experience. It helps you settle in and find your way, you know?”
But, according to Frazier, the years as an upperclassman are a different story. “By senior year, pretty much everyone has found a friend group, become involved in a club, or a team. They have a network. To me, it shouldn’t be a necessity to continue to emphasize the FYP mentality when we’re about to graduate,” Frazier puts on his camouflage Crocs and strolls out to the porch.
Frazier, along with his housemates, have enjoyed their years at St. Lawrence, building lifelong relationships with friends and exploring the numerous opportunities the North Country has to offer. “We wanted to make the most of our senior year, and that meant getting our own place,” says Francis, as he sips on his beer, looking down Miner Street towards downtown Canton. “We had some awesome times back in the dorms, but living here has been a great transition into life after SLU, as scary as that is to think about,” he smiles and takes another gulp.
“I’m glad we spent so much time here in dorms, so close to friends. I’m definitely not bitter about it,” Stepper adds, tossing a miniature football to Frazier on the other side of the small brown lawn. “But I’m really happy that we were able to make it off campus. I’m a little less nervous for the real world now.”
Francis looks in Stepper’s direction, “still pretty nervous, though,” he chimes in as he blows into his empty beer bottle, now serving as a French horn.