Ronj Coffeehouse History
The Ronj Coffeehouse, located at 32 Frye Street, was opened in 1997. Ross House in which the Ronj stands was originally built around 1871 by Bates Professor of Chemistry and Geology Richard C. Stanley. Ross House was soon occupied by Bates’ second President George Colby Chase along with his wife soon following his arrival at Bates to teach Rhetoric and English Literature. In 1939, the College purchased the house from Professor Stanley’s grandsons for use as faculty housing. Norman Ross, class of 1922 and long-time College Treasurer, soon moved in along with his wife where they resided for 72 years. Rightly named after her longest occupant, the house was left open as Ross and his wife moved to Russell Park Rehabilitation and Living Center in 1997.
In keeping with the Rosses’ manner of opening their home to visitors and students, the house was overtaken up by a group of students looking to provide additional social options to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests in a non-alcoholic way. The outdoor barn which had become the Ross House garage was connected on both sides to the house to become the Thunderdome Performance Room on the first floor, and the Pool Room on the second floor. The Red Room on the first floor, and Thesis Room on the second floor were treated with ventilation systems to become functioning smoke rooms (now disconnected). The Rosses’ beloved kitchen became behind-the-counter space, and the living room an area for socializing and playing games. The attic, closed off due to fire-hazard regulations, remains with original wall paper and decorations, though only the ghosts of Ross House now hang out there.
With its consummation, and christening “the Ronj” for its orange interior, the coffeehouse was received with excitement all around the college. Keri Anne Fox, class of 1998 and author of the first ever Bates Student article to feature The Ronj Drifting on a coffee buzz; The Ronj, Bates’ new coffeehouse, opens with much fanfare said, “Just in case you haven’t seen the multitude of posters or followed your nose as it trails the pervasive aroma of Lavazza espresso, the first ever student-run coffeehouse at Bates College opened on Wednesday.” (The Bates Student, September 19, 1997. p. 7)
An article from the Bates Alumnus Magazine Bates on the Bean said, “If heaven is where you want to be, head for 32 Frye Street where a stately College-owned Victorian home has been transformed into a campus coffeehouse.” The article continues, “Jumping java. Open since September and managed and staffed exclusively by Bates students, the Ronj – named for the two-story house’s luscious orange walls – glows from within like a nocturnal pumpkin.” (Bates Alumnus Magazine, Winter 1998. p.8 )
The Ronj in its original form served specialty coffees, teas, hot chocolate, and the wildly popular Fresh Samanthas: freshly squeezed “no-preservatives-shake-it-up-baby” juice concoctions. There was an assortment of biscotti, muffins, cookies, and fresh bread with peanut butter in the company of delectable jellies. The Ronj included a psychedelic Bean Bag Room where Indian prints hung from the ceiling above soft pear-shaped recliners, in addition to a cream-colored anteroom with bumper stickers advocating a variety of causes. Thanks to the the Ronj, “’The coffee house culture has finally caught on among students,’ capturing an audience of regulars,” said one of the Ronj’s four original student managers, Rachel Simon ’98. Since that day, many students have vowed by the Ronj, saying, “I need this jolt of caffeine to get me through the night.”
Hear what some student thought “the Ronj” stood for on its founding day…