Updated: Jul 29, 2022
In every official report, Tall Hall consists of ten floors and a basement. But befitting of its name, the building stretches even higher than you might think.
Apartment 1004 houses the only in-unit staircase to what would technically be the 11th floor.
The top unit of Tall Hall, affectionately dubbed the penthouse by some, is somewhat of a mythical location on campus. Few know whether it’s real or not.
An anonymous Tweet on Belmont Confessions echoes a sentiment heard across the university.
“Is there really a ‘penthouse’ on top of Tall? What’s it like if there is?”
“Is there really a "penthouse" on top of tall? What's it like if there is?” — Belmont Confessions (@belmont_confess) January 21, 2021
For Caroline Darling, Lizzie Wilson, Chantal Emmanuelli and Ashley Brook, the penthouse is more than just a myth. It’s home.
“I heard it was supposed to be for Frankie Jonas. I don’t think that’s legit, but I love thinking about it,” laughed Wilson, a commercial voice junior at Belmont.
“I didn’t think it was real either. Until I walked in,” added songwriting senior Emmanuelli.
From the hallway, apartment 1004 blends in with every dorm room. But as soon as the door swings open, the facade drops. This is no ordinary dorm room.
Dark hardwood planks laid in a chevron pattern replace the gray laminate found throughout the rest of the building.
Where most college kitchens can barely fit an oven, the penthouse features enough counter space to host a Thanksgiving feast.
A stainless-steel fridge, complete with a freezer drawer, bookends the room across from an extra-wide kitchen peninsula, lit from above by hanging lamps.
Beyond the near-limitless cabinet storage lies one of the most enviable features of the whole penthouse, a luxury typically reserved for only Hillside residents — the only dishwasher in all of Tall Hall.
Even beyond the kitchen, the penthouse includes more than its fair share of amenities.
Two words: in-unit laundry.
Residents don’t need to haul their laundry down ten flights of stairs to the basement below. Behind a set of double doors lies the apartment’s very own washer and dryer.
“The laundry itself just makes it so worth it. And the dishwasher! I can’t even describe how nice that is,” said Darling.
Nearly everything in the penthouse stands bigger and better than its common counterparts. Two sofas. Two bathrooms.
And instead of one floor, there are stairs up to a second.
The L-shaped staircase in the corner unlocks the second story, with lofty ceilings stretching to the tippy-top of the building. The wrought iron railing wraps from the first step all the way up to a balcony straight out of “Romeo and Juliet” overlooking the dining space.
Above the stairs, a pair of houseplants hang from the ceiling, held up by a Command strip and a prayer.
The focal point of the loft has to be the giant rounded. Hanging directly across from the balcony, it takes up nearly the entire wall.
When the sun hits the window at just the right angle, the entire apartment glows with a golden aura. At night, the streetlights on the east side of campus appear like little stars dotting the distance.
And on days when the wind proves especially vicious, the entire apartment sways in the elements, the roommates said.
But the loft at the top of the staircase houses both of the sofas, creating the perfect place to relax and take in the view.
In the main living area below, floor-to-ceiling windows showcase the campus below. The entirety of Bear Creek stretches out below with students walking by like ants in a colony.
The university-provided dining table sits directly in front of the window for the ultimate dinner with a view.
Perhaps the only real similarity between the penthouse and the typical Tall Hall apartment is the furniture. Belmont still provides the same scratchy gray couch and coffee-colored side tables.
To spice up their dorm decor, the women brought a bright teal egg chair. It hangs off to the side, the perfect place for Wilson or Darling to sit and sing into the open space above. They often use this space to record their own music; with a resounding echo, the acoustics prove unmatched.
In the future, the roommates hope to hang up fairy lights and even set up a movie projector. The penthouse is an entertainer’s dream, and they love to show it off.
“They’ve kept the penthouse more of a secret over the last few years,” said Emmanuelli.
“We don’t do that,” laughed Wilson. “We love to share.”
These roommates don’t care to hide their good fortune, and their guests don’t hide their surprise as they step in for the first time.
“Screams. Screams have been had constantly. They’re just amazed,” said Wilson.
“Most people don’t think it’s real. They think it’s just a rumor,” agreed Darling.
Due to the unique shape of the loft, the two bedrooms on the second floor dwarf the ten stories of suites below them and even the other penthouse bedrooms. Grand panes of glass in each offer stunning views.
Perhaps the only downside to the apartment is a complete inability to find curtains for such large, awkwardly shaped windows.
“Around 3 or 4 p.m. it gets very, very bright,” said Emmanuelli.
Besides mechanical equipment, no neighbors bang around on the other side of the wall. Apartment 1004 stands alone on the 11th floor.
This private, near-luxury penthouse packs a sweet deal to any student who can snag it in the housing draw.
In traditional Belmont housing draw style, the penthouse goes to the first person to click on it. Unfortunately for any guys dreaming of their two-story bachelor pad, the tenth floor — including the penthouse — is girls only.
For those still in the running, having more credit hours earns students a better draw time and therefore better odds of securing the coveted apartment, said Darling.
As former Resident Assistants, Darling and Wilson knew all about the penthouse, but even Wilson’s extra credit hours couldn’t guarantee them a spot.
In the end, all four women secured their rooms after a few other groups came and went. Even the Tall Hall penthouse falls victim to the usual housing-draw drama.
“It’s just essentially a normal process,” said Darling.
“But more expensive!” Wilson chimed in.
They’re not kidding. Luxury living comes at a cost, even on campus.
For the 2021-22 school year, a four- or five-bedroom apartment in Tall Hall costs $5,200 per person, per semester.
The top unit rings up at $6,025 per person.
But for these four roommates, the experience of living in the Tall Hall penthouse is priceless.
“It’s the nicest place I’m living in my 20s,” mused Wilson. “Maybe my whole life.”
PHOTO: The infamous staircase in the Tall Hall top unit, decorated by its 2021-22 residents. Sarah Lawson / Belmont Vision
This article was written by Sarah Lawson.