Historic spoonholder making campus comeback near Grise

Nearly a century ago, men and women on WKU’s campus weren’t allowed to freely visit one another in dorms, so they adapted by spending time together outdoors.

Although students can visit freely in dorms now, they also have the option to take the old-fashioned approach.

Students walking up the middle of campus past Grise Hall may notice a new seating area situated around a large tree.

This new seating area, called a spoonholder, is named after a wooden structure built in the early 1900s around an elm tree in front of Potter Hall, Landscape Architect Helen Siewers said.

“The spoonholder was popular then because this is where courting would occur,” Siewers said. “Earlier, there were strict rules regarding visiting the opposite sex. They would come here and talk and eat ice cream.”

According to a 1938 Herald article, the spoonholder was also used as a resting area between classes and as a substitute for the library at night.

By 1935, the original spoonholder was outdated, dangerous and too small for WKU’s growing enrollment.

A new, larger and concrete spoonholder was built in front of Gordon Wilson Hall, but it wasn’t well-received. Less than three years after its construction, it was demolished.

The article suggested that “the next generation will never know about the ‘Spoonholder’… But to us who remember the old ‘Spoonholder’ and the traditions that surround it, there will long remain the memory of the happy hours and the nights not spent alone in the cradle of love.”

Although it may not be used in quite the same context as its predecessors, the modern-day spoonholder was built this summer to accommodate students who want to gather outside, Siewers said.

Siewers said the idea to build the spoonholder spurred from a low stone wall already built around the tree. The wall was in place to protect the tree from the asphalt of the old parking lot in front of Grise.

“It’s a miracle the tree even survived in the blacktop,” she said.

Siewers said she enjoys seeing today’s students lounging on the lawn in front of Cherry Hall, like some of WKU’s first students.

“It gives me a good feeling,” she said. “It’s good to see people enjoying the outdoors.”

Owensboro sophomore Jessica Sprankle said she enjoys sitting on the grassy areas.

As a theatre design/technology major, she said she must draw sketches every day. When the weather is nice, she can be found on the lawn behind Northeast Hall, near the new spoonholder.

“A lot of times I will come out here with my roommate and my friends to do homework on nice days,” Sprankle said.

Sprankle said she believes unique seating arrangements, like the spoonholder, aren’t popular on campus because students aren’t aware of the history.

“I like the throwback, but I’m also very interested in vintage and retro things,” she said. “I like things that have a history behind them.”