Communal Living at Helicon Hall

Dreams are golden, and those who believe in the perfectability of humans often dream that they can live with them. Here’s Uppie reminiscing about his days at Helicon Hall ca. 1907, as published in 1928.

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Twenty-one years ago I made an effort to start a little Utopia for everyday use, and naturally my thinking on the subject is dominated by that experience. I will begin by telling you some of the things I learned at Helicon Hall.

Among the joys we realized was the opportunity of being alone when you wanted to be alone, and of having friends when you wanted friends. We cannot arrange matters that way in our present world, try as hard aa we will. Our work and study hours get interrupted by telephone calls and knocks on the door — we can’t let everybody know our habits and whims and when we want company we have to make journeys in taxis and street cars, and we have to stay even though we find we are bored. But in our little Utopia we had our friends close at hand, and any time we felt like playing billiards we could always be sure of finding some one else in the same mood. On the other hand, if we wanted to be alone, we had our own rooms to which we might retire, with the certainty that no one would come there except by special invitation.

In the next place, we made at least a beginning at solving the “servant problem” in our Utopia. Nowadays, as I hear the ladies discussing it, I realize how large the problem bulks. Some of our married friends are doing their own housework and giving up their intellectual lives because they are so tired of trying to adjust themselves to a stream of untrained and untrainable “domestics” in their homes. There is no need to go into details, because all wives know and all husbands hear. And we really started to solve that problem in Utopia; we got far enough at least to know that we were on the right track.

Just the other day I read a statement in print that I had founded a colony in which everybody took turns at housework. That is the common impression, and it is not true. We had a quota of regular servants at Helicon Hall; the only difference was that we did not treat them as social inferiors, but admitted them on terms of social equality and even gave them a vote as to how the colony should be run. Among many complaints which I heard on many subjects I cannot recall having heard that any one of our “colony workers” ever abused the consideration we showed. They were always quiet and courteous, and possessed by the spirit of jolly and simple democracy that is a feature of my private Utopia.

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Read the entire article on the website of THE NATION.