House's most distinguishing architectural feature is
a set of bargeboards attached to the north and east gables.
Unlike the dainty "gingerbread" trim more often found on
homes built in the late 1800s, these bargeboards look as
the name sounds: heavy and linear, their geometric designs
barely visible under many coats of stark white paint. But
when Daub occupied it, the home became better known for
what was on the inside--the upstairs apartment she rented
from Oberlin College.
Leimbach, a columnist for Elyria's Chronicle Telegram,
recalled visiting Daub House in the 1970s. "There's a wonderful
spirit of humor loose in this house," she wrote in a column
titled "Houses I Have Met." The kitchen walls were plastered
with postcards from friends around the world. Overstuffed
bookcases were everywhere, and in every room, reproductions
of masterworks, including a Rousseau in the john. Tabletops
and windowsills showcased Daub's treasures: framed photos,
seashells, animal miniatures, and other bric-a-brac. Her
jewelry was not boxed but slung for viewing from wall sconces,
drawer handles, and the newel posts of the stairs.
there was Daub's "bar"--a cloth-draped ironing board that
held an assortment of liquor bottles for entertaining. And
the tiny bathroom wedged under a staircase, marked "Bartlett
ceiling and walls, within arm's reach of the commode, were
covered with scribbled comments (though few were actually
from John Bartlett's Familiar Quotations) such as
"Austerity is a disease" and "The meek shall inherit the
earth--only when the others have done with it."
daub was often described as "a real character," it was
her devotion to readers that people remember most. She delivered
requested books, and suggested others, to the hospitalized
and homebound. She had a knack for matching books to people
who would enjoy them.
she retired, her farewell literary theme party drew 200
guests, among them distinguished Oberlinians dressed as
Ivanhoe, the Cat in the Hat, and the Man With the Golden
Arm. Daub herself arrived in a flowered shirtwaist she drolly
said represented Great Expectations. "There is no
distinction in her mind between town and gown," her longtime
friend Charles Love, the College's emeritus secretary, told
the Oberlin News Tribune that day. "There are just
individuals who like to read books."
OF THE TIMES
none of Daub House's former residents would recognize
its interior. Gutted and renovated after Daub's death,
the house is now home to Campus Dining Services, College
Relations, and this magazine. The front doorbell, an old
trolley car bell--it reminded Daub of A Streetcar Named
Desire--is all that remains of the house's many whimsical
it will always be her house. Daub is buried with her parents
in Hickory Flats Cemetery near Middletown, Ohio, where
her headstone reads "My Book and Heart Must Never Part."
Nevertheless, rumors persist that she lingers on in her
old apartment. But these ghost stories are really more
cherished than scary. After all, who could fear an apparition
who said in life, "I have a big, fat, really deep interest
Betty Phillips remembers her eerie experiences there with
fondness rather than fright. As an employee of Conference
Services, located in Daub House in the late 1990s, she
would hear water running in what was once a bathroom near
the rear of Daub's apartment.
always seemed to happen at the same time, 10 to 11 at night,"
Phillips says. "I knew there were no pipes of any kind upstairs.
When the house was gutted, they took the plumbing out."
Her daughter, visiting one evening, heard it, too. "We just
kind of laughed about it," she said.
night Phillips heard something else: An adjacent office
door opened and closed. "As I was coming out of the office,
I saw a figure go past," she says. "It looked like a woman
in a white, flowing, very soft garment of some sort. It
floated past the door, but there was nothing there when
I went back to those two rooms."
who has since retired, said the incident rattled her enough
to leave the office earlier than usual that evening, but
not before addressing the empty rooms. "I said, 'Hi, Miss
Daub. How are you tonight?'" She laughs. "It was actually
kind of funny." And while the experience didn't turn her
into a true believer in the supernatural, Phillips adds,
"I'm not as skeptical as I used to be."
Daub would undoubtedly love the tales of her continued presence.
She believed that what distinguishes any structure is not its
architecture, but the people who have made it their own. Indeed,
it was the well-traveled Daub herself who, when asked if she
would roam more as a retiree, responded cheerfully: "Heavens,
no. I like it here too much. I'll go on working as long as they'll
Lesie is a Cleveland-based writer
who formerly worked for The Plain Dealer.