There are two questions you should always ask before visiting a college campus: Where can I park? And where can I get coffee?

At Guilford College, parking is never really a problem. (I say that as a visitor; student parking near the dorms is tight.) But Guilford has been without on-campus coffee since the Greenleaf Coffee Co-Op closed after the spring 2018 semester so the college could renovate Milner Hall, the Greenleaf's home for the past several years. 

So here's some good news for you other coffee nerds: Guilford is back in the coffee business. The college's new coffee shop, Rachel's Rose Cottage, opened early this month next to Founders Hall, the student center. It's inside The Hut, the tiny brick building with a big backstory.

According to the Council of Independent Colleges, which put together an online archive of historic structures at several hundred private colleges, The Hut was built in 1903 to provide electricity to the campus. (R.J. Reynolds of tobacco fame helped pay for it; Guilford says it's the third-oldest building on campus.) When the generator burned up in 1919, the college used the building as storage space. In the mid-1930s, the college converted the building into a student center (aka The Student Hut). It later served as a language lab and a custodial storage room.

In 1991*, The Hut became the home of the college's campus ministry and the spiritual center of the Quaker school. That cozy space with a fireplace and some battered couches was Max Carter's classroom for his 25 years at Guilford. The space, beloved by a generation of Guilford students, was a funky version of Quaker simplicity.

Now it's a coffee shop, named for Rachel Farlow Taylor, who attended Guilford and later taught home economics there. Taylor grew roses at her home in High Point and was a close friend with Mary Mendenhall Hobbs — a Quaker, an advocate for women's education and a key figure in the history of both Guilford College and UNCG. Taylor, meanwhile, sent her children and grandchildren to Guilford. One of her grandsons, Fred Taylor Jr., was the main contributor to the cottage renovation project.. Taylor is a 1977 Guilford graduate who's now a Guilford trustee and managing director of a New York asset management firm.

Rachel's Rose Cottage was closed when I went by there late one afternoon this week. But Wess Daniels, director of the Friends Center at Guilford and a much bigger coffee nerd than I am, was out on the new patio enjoying some late-day coffee. He pointed out the whitewashed exterior walls (to protect the century-old brick), noted that the building's original arched windows have been restored and said that the benches inside had been moved over from the Moon Room, the multipurpose space next to Dana Auditorium that's also being renovated.

Most of the trees and shrubs that obscured the old Hut have been cut back. Four sets of trellises line the outside walls and roof so roses will grow up and over the cottage.

Despite the short hours and limited menu — both will grow when classes resume in the fall, Daniels said — the cottage has been popular in the short time it has been open. Daniels said on a recent day he counted 28 people inside, a number that included a line of students and employees that stretched almost to the door.

Here's Guilford's write-up (with pictures) of the April 12 dedication ceremony. And here is a short Q&A that Daniels wrote to address some campus concerns about the conversion. "(I)t will be a central hub, between the student side of the campus and the academic side. As the campus continues to undergo renovation and renewal, it will literally become a kind of gateway between the two parts of campus," he wrote. "Ultimately, I see this as putting this beloved space in an honored place in the renewal of the whole College and the College community."

The Hut — now the Cottage — is part of a $50 million campus improvement project that I wrote about last fall. Much of the work is done. Guilford is finishing up year-long renovations of its second residence hall (Milner) and is set to start work on a third (Bryan) over the summer. Still to come are dining hall renovations, a new terrace off the back of Founders Hall, a new 100-seat softball stadium and a student quad with an amphitheater.

* Update, April 26: Max Carter emailed me to say that I got the date wrong for when the campus ministry moved into The Hut. The source I was using said 2004; Carter says it was 1991. I'm going with Carter on this one, so I changed the date above. Carter, by the way, said he "loved that space both for teaching and ministry."

Speaking of that online source, the council's Historic Campus Architecture Project website seems to be down. Here's the cached version.

Update, May 6: The Guilfordian, Guilford College's student newspaper, covered the grand opening. Here's a short story with a lot of pictures that should give you a good idea of what the place looks like inside.

Have something to say about the blog post above? Email me at john.newsom@greensboro.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @JohnNewsomNR.

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