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COLLECTION Identifier: HUV 606

Photographic views of Lowell House, 1929-1967

Lowell House, built in 1930, was constructed as one of the first houses in Harvard University's House system. It was named for the Lowell family, which had maintained connections with Harvard since John Lowell graduated in 1721. Also part of the Lowell family was Harvard University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell, who established the House system. The Photographic views of Lowell House provide a visual record of one of the houses in Harvard University's House system, as well as its grounds and surrounding area from 1929 to 1967. The collection contains a postcard, reproductions of drawings, and photograph prints. Print processes include gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints.

Dates

  • 1929-1967

Researcher Access

Open for research.

Extent

0.5 cubic feet (105 photographs)

The Photographic views of Lowell House provide a visual record of one of the houses in Harvard University's House system, as well as its grounds and surrounding area from 1929 to 1967. The collection contains a postcard, reproductions of drawings, and photograph prints. Print processes include gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints. Images in the collection have primarily been contributed by the Harvard Film Service, the Harvard University News Office, and the Harvard Alumni Bulletin.

Exterior photographs show Lowell House and the grounds from a variety of angles in the daytime and at night. The images show the Lowell House tower, gate, courtyard, and Faculty Dean's residence (formerly House Master), as well as the Harvard University shield and the Lowell House shield displayed on the walls. Images also show the James Russell Lowell bust, Charles River, Weeks Bridge, and neighboring homes. Interior photographs show the library, dining hall, small common room, large common room, and music room, many with students in the frame. A series of four images shows the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Lowell House, featuring Harvard University President Nathan M. Pusey, House Master (now Faculty Dean) Elliott Perkins, and Brown University President Barnaby C. Keeney, as well as the Lowell House tutors, fellows, and faculty. Also of note are photographs of two theatrical performances, the kitchen staff serving a Thanksgiving meal, and the Lowell House Bell Ringers Society.

Historical Note

Lowell House, built in 1930, was constructed as one of the first houses in Harvard University's House system. It was named for the Lowell family, which had maintained connections with Harvard since John Lowell graduated in 1721. Also part of the Lowell family was Harvard University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell, who established the House system. The Georgian Revival dormitory was designed by the architectural firm Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch and Abbot and was constructed at a cost of $3,620,000. The firm was awarded the Harleston Parker Medal from the Boston Society of Architects in 1938 for the design of Lowell House.

The House system was established in 1930 by President Lowell with the goal of supplementing the students' education with intellectually, culturally, and socially stimulating living environments, as well as creating a sense of community among students. The Houses accommodate between 350 and 500 students, and at the end of their first year, students are assigned to a House, and they live there through the end of their undergraduate career. Each House typically has a dining hall, common rooms, a library, and recreational spaces.

Lowell House is known for having several traditions upheld for over 85 years, including events such as High Table and Thursday teas, and performances such as the Lowell House Opera, the 1812 Overture, and the ringing of the Russian Bells. High Table is a formal dinner held for only seniors and special guests, who can range from Harvard faculty and administrators, as well as other notable people. They are intended as an opportunity for seniors to network with a variety of professionals, as well as to socialize with interesting people. At one time, High Table was held every Monday night, but now they are held four times each semester. Thursday tea is held every Thursday afternoon at 5 o'clock in the Faculty Dean's residence (formerly House Master), and all Lowell House students can attend.

The Lowell House Opera, New England's oldest opera company, puts on one professional-quality opera per year, and participation is open to community members from Harvard or the Boston area. Every spring, a group of students and musicians from Lowell House and volunteers from Harvard put together a picnic performance of the 1812 Overture. The performance usually includes Science Center technicians who create sound effects similar to cannon fire by burning helium balloons and Lowell House bell-ringers, called the Klappermeisters, who play the House's Russian bells during the concert. The ringing of the Russian bells also occurs every Sunday at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, as well as for winning football games, New Year's Eve, High Table, and other special dinners. Originally located at the Danilov Monastery in Moscow, the Russian bells were purchased from the Soviet government by Charles Crane, an industrialist, humanitarian, and diplomat. Archaeologist and humanitarian Thomas Whittemore acted as the intermediary between Crane and the Soviet government, and the bells were given to Lowell House in 1930.

Several portraits and artwork of the Lowell family can be seen throughout Lowell House. Portraits hanging in the dining room include President Lowell and his wife, Anna Parker Lowell, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Amy Lowell, astronomer Percival Lowell, and businessman and philathropist John Amory Lowell. A bust of poet James Russell Lowell stands in the courtyard.

Notable residents include John H. Updike, Michael Crichton, Natalie Portman, Matt Damon, Nicolas Kristof, Chris Wallace, David H. Souter, Tom Lehrer, and Japanese Crown Princess Masako.

Arrangement

The Photographic views of Lowell House has a legacy arrangement reflecting over 100 years of interfiling individual photographs of the structure from many sources into one collection. The images are arranged into ten folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order.

This collection is part of the Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Views, in which Archives staff compiled images, whether acquired individually or removed from larger collections, and arranged them in categories based on locations, buildings, or landscape features for ease of reference.

Acquisition information

These images were acquired by the Harvard University Archives from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century.

Online access

All of the images have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives
  1. General information by and about Lowell House (HUB 1532)
  2. Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Views:http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua21004
  3. Records of Lowell House, 1930-1974 (UAV 534.469)
  4. Records of residential life in Lowell House, ca. 1930-2006 (HUD 3533)
  5. See also Harvard University's Visual Information Access (VIA) system for more images of Lowell House from the Harvard University Archives.

References

  • Bunting, Bainbridge. Harvard: An architectural history. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985.
  • Education, Bricks and Mortar: Harvard Buildings and Their Contribution to the Advancement of Learning. Cambridge, Mass.: The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1949.
  • "History." Lowell House, accessed April 13, 2016. http://lowell.harvard.edu/history

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 April 27.
Groups
  1. Harvard University--Buildings--History
  2. Harvard University--Buildings--Photographs
  3. Harvard University--College students--Social life and customs
  4. Harvard University--Student housing
  5. Harvard University--Student housing--Photographs
  6. Lowell House (Cambridge, Mass.)
Topics
  1. Architecture--Massachusetts--Cambridge--20th century
  2. College buildings--Massachusetts--20th century
  3. Student housing--Massachusetts--History
Formats and genres
  1. Collotype prints
  2. Gelatin silver prints
  3. Letterpress printing
  4. Photographs
  5. Photograph collections

Processing Information

This finding aid was created by Amanda Shermanin April 2016.

Description of the Photographic views of Lowell House, 1929-1967, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collection initiative.
Link to catalog
Title
Photographic views of Lowell House, 1929-1967: an inventory
EAD ID
hua17016

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461