To most students who have never lived there, David Jayne Hill Court, better known as Phase, is that faraway set of suites “over the bridge behind Sue. B.” Even more mysterious, however, are the brightly colored tunnels, which connect the six buildings.
I still remember the first time I descended into the tunnels. As I walked from Chambers to Munro, I was astounded and even a little disturbed by the images I saw. Like modern day cave drawings, they provided a glimpse into popular culture in Rochester’s past.
First, I saw cartoon characters such as Rocky, Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha, then Bugs Bunny, Sylvester and friends. As I moved down the tunnel, the pictures on the wall became more bizarre. From friendly Warner Brothers favorites to flying worms attacking a dome-covered city, a tiny castle surrounded by triangle mountains and many others. After getting a suite in Phase the following year, I embarked on a number of trips trying to make sense of these designs.
Eventually, I decided to set off on a mission of discovery to find out who designed these bizarre murals – and what they were tripping on. Area coordinator Karen Ely confirmed my suspicion that the tunnel colors corresponded to the building above – Munro is orange, Kendrick is green and so on, but said she didn’t know the painters. I was informed by another person, Laurel, that the tunnel painting was commissioned by ResLife in 1983 and was done by a group of UR students. At first I was dismayed, thinking I had reached the end of the line without an answer to the nagging question of Why?
Sitting in the Campus Times office later that day, musing upon the situation I realized that I had missed a vital source – our very own Campus Times archives. Flipping through page after yellowing page of the 1983 CT, I finally saw the same converse shoes, which appeared, albeit in much brighter colors, on the walls of the tunnels. Quickly reading the article, which appeared in the July 25, 1983 issue, I discovered that the tunnels were painted by a group of students. The UR Residence Halls painting staff, who also painted the rooms in Phase and other dorms took on this task.
According to the article, the tunnels were poorly lit and were covered in graffiti. Hoping that their murals would keep the tunnels cleaner, head painter John Yengo said “Our only worry is that people will put graffiti back into the tunnels.” As can be seen by their currently pristine state, John’s wish has been kept. Hopefully, these tunnels will stay for years to come and future generations of UR students can walk in wonder through the tunnels, and marvel at the murals of UR’s mysterious past.
Freidman can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org