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Opened as a house in 1926, Dawes was soon changed by the events of World War II. The future of Smith College's Junior Year in France program became questionable when Paris fell to occupied forces in the early years of the war. So, Dawes was opened as 'La Maison Francaise' in the autumn of 1941 as Smith's center for French language and culture. The house continued as the French house after the war as a place where sophomores worked on their fluency before going abroad for their junior year, and where seniors returned from theirs. In 1977 the original house was torn down to accommodate the building of on-campus student apartments, the Friedman Houses. Dawes House was relocated to its current location at 8 Bedford Terrace.

Currently, Dawes houses 19 women in 17 singles rooms and one double. Students are encouraged to speak French and all house meetings are conducted in French. The house subscribes to a variety of French publications of magazines and newspapers. House flyers and signs are even translated into French to keep with the theme. All residents of Dawes take their meals in the Chase/Duckett Dining room, located next door.

The Smith College Kosher Kitchen resides in the back of Dawes House. They use a separate entrance.

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