Belfry, historic party house, leased by St. Thomas students

By Joe Klein

The Belfry—a well-known off-campus duplex occupied by Macalester upperclassmen intermittently for the past 10 years—was taken over by St. Thomas students at the beginning of the year when no Macalester students showed interest in leasing the house. The dissolution of the popular party spot comes after an incident in which many of the house’s residents had a run-in with the law after a large party was broken up. The house at 1509 Ashland, colloquially known as “The Belfry,” has developed a reputation in the Macalester community over the past few years as a go-to party house with a very welcoming environment. “We opened it up to anybody from the very beginning of our year,” said Jonathan Kamin-Allen ’13, who lived in the house last year. “We kind of wanted to not have those walls exist [between the house and the rest of the student body], so we let anyone in.” The Belfry could be relied upon to throw fairly regular parties that were very popular and spread by word-of-mouth quickly enough that parties would often become overwhelmingly crowded. “The Belfry was an awesome party house,” said Josh Kramer ’13, who said that the large open areas in the house made it the perfect layout for hosting parties and live music events on other occasions. According to Kamin-Allen, that open-door policy ended up contributing to the problem. As their large parties grew, scores of first-years would show up intoxicated. One party in particular last year escalated to the extent that a number of police cars descended on the house, citing many partygoers for underage drinking and handing four of the six housemates social host ordinance violations. “It was the most police I’d ever seen at a Macalester party,” said Kamin-Allen. That was the first issue the house ever had with the police, as they had previously stayed on fairly good terms with the surrounding neighborhood. The block that the Belfry is on is surrounded entirely by non-student residences. “It’s very political, with the zap squads and social host ordinance. They’re all things people might say are good and important, but they’re not. We had a very interesting relationship with our neighbors and when it comes down to that, it’s what the party prohibitions are about: disrupting the neighborhood,” said Kramer, who also lived in the house last year. Many students involved felt that the police action the night of the bust was unjustified in its aggression, with at least one confirmed account of verbal abuse directed at underage guests. The four residents that received citations had to perform identical punishments—a fine and community service—but according to Kamin-Allen, they didn’t choose to fight it, as they only saw it as a matter of time before one of their large parties was busted. “Had people been a bit more polite and less loud, outside the house and on the way to it, it probably never would’ve happened. But people party. And our party wasn’t really that bad,” said Kramer. The Belfry House is now occupied by a group of students from the University of St. Thomas. Because the Macalester group had an existing claim to the house, the group living there last year could have signed the lease early and kept it for another year. They didn’t indicate an interest in living there again, however, and no other groups from Macalester had expressed interest. Thus the party side of the Belfry duplex fell out of Macalester hands, and its future is uncertain. According to Kamin-Allen, the party’s bust and ensuing legal situation didn’t play a part in their decision to not come back to the house. The school took no official action toward the disciplined students, as it was a personal matter that took place off-campus, and their former landlord didn’t express any displeasure with the incident. Regardless of that incident, Kamin-Allen and Kramer expressed regret at the unfortunate turn that it took and saw it as a loss that the Belfry, in its past form, no longer exists. “A lot of other houses, they’re a bit further from campus, and people don’t really know where they are right away. They don’t have the history [of the Belfry],” said Kramer, who noted that the Belfry’s close location to campus made it so successful and such an integral part of the party scene and social life at Macalester. “It was a great pool of intellectuals who wanted to party sometimes. People seemed to really enjoy having it,” said Kamin-Allen. “I loved the fact that that place existed for Mac students. I had a lot of great experiences there. It was too bad to see it go. Kamin-Allen. “I loved the fact that that place existed for Mac students. I had a lot of great experiences there. It was too bad to see it go. Kamin-Allen. “I loved the fact that that place existed for Mac students. I had a lot of great experiences there. It was too bad to see it go. refresh –>