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Lowell House
Residential House at Harvard University
Harvard University
Lowell House (Harvard) shield and logo.jpg
Location10 Holyoke Place
Coordinates42°22′15″N 71°07′05″W / 42.37078°N 71.11818°W / 42.37078; -71.11818
MottoOccasionem Cognosce ("Recognize Opportunity") (Latin)
Named forAbbott Lawrence Lowell and the Lowell family
ColoursBlue, White
Sister collegePierson College
Faculty DeansDiana L. Eck and Dorothy Austin

Lowell House is one of twelve undergraduate residential Houses at Harvard University, located on Holyoke Place facing Mount Auburn Street between Harvard Yard and the Charles River. Officially, it is named for the Lowell family, but an ornate ALL woven into the ironwork above the main gate discreetly alludes to Abbott Lawrence Lowell, Harvard's president at the time of construction. Its majestic neo-Georgian design, centered on two landscaped courtyards, received the 1938 Harleston Parker Medal and might be considered the model for later Harvard houses nearby. Lowell House is simultaneously close to the Yard, Harvard Square, and other Harvard "River" houses, and its blue-capped bell tower, visible for many miles, is a local landmark.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Backstage with the Lowell House Opera at Harvard
  • ✪ Hidden Treasures: Lowell House Bells
  • ✪ Lowell Housing Day 2015
  • ✪ Lowell House Graduation Traditions


When audiences come to see one of our performances, they will see a fully polished professional orchestra and the most gorgeous of Lowell House chandeliers flanked by the one of the most professional sets that Boston has to offer. What they will not see is the intense behind-the-scene work that is done predominantly and foremost by the students of Harvard College. Lowell House Opera is New England's longest-running opera company and it produces a fully staged opera once a year in the wonderful setting of Lowell House's beautiful dining hall. If you're putting on an opera with a regular opera company, you sort of know who your singers are going to be, you definitely know who your orchestra is going to be. In this, we're almost reinventing every year. We hold auditions for the singers, we have no idea who's going to show up; volunteers from the community, from the student body, we have several faculty members playing in the orchestra, and so, you know, there's a lot of behind-the- scenes work just to physically rehearse this extremely difficult music. Before the show every night, we have to take out all of the tables and chairs from the dining hall because everyone has been eating dinner here, so we politely ask everyone if they could leave and if they're still eating, we have a room that they can go to, and we take all the tables and chairs out, set up all the space for the orchestra and the audience, and then after the show is over and the audience has left, we take everything back in and set it back up again so people can eat breakfast in the morning. This is Celeste, wonderful Celeste, her character is kind of this very mystical purple and silver nymph. Right now we're going in and I'm just creating this exaggerated and fantastical look that looks great when you're pretty far away from the stage. So my main role has been publicity; posters, invitations to literally the entire school, all of the Facebook stuff, magazines, sending out press releases, and then I've also been doing some prop stuff so I made this little thesis binder for the composer and I've been running around to find other various things; there's some blue lipstick back there, an inhaler, all sorts of random things that I've had to acquire. So basically the actors are professionals, but then there's us kind of running everything else. What's incredible about this opera is that it's such an intersection of some of the most amazing artists in Boston and some of the best talent in the performing arts here at Harvard College, all of whom do it for no money and all of whom do it purely out of a labor of love. And that intersection, I think, is really at the core of the learning experience for the students who get to see all limits, because they're so involved in the creative and logistical aspects that go into making this professional opera. And so really seeing where you are as a student and where you might see yourself in the future, it gives A. a vision for us to think, what could I do in this field? But also say, how can I improve myself in it and get better at contributing to this field as best as I can. I'm hoping that what we can advocate for as people leave Harvard is some of them will become phenomenal musicians, some of them will become amazing singers and have huge careers, but many people will hopefully leave with a love of the art form of opera in a day when we see too many opera houses closing down and too much opera being aimed at an elite audience, and what we're trying to say is that opera is something that is extremely accessible and I think that's part of a broad-based education.


History and traditions

Lowell House bell tower in autumn.
Lowell House bell tower in autumn.

Lowell was one of the first Houses built in the realization of President Lowell's long-held dream of providing on-campus accommodations for every Harvard College student throughout his career at the College. (See Harvard College house system.) Its first Master,[1] was Mathematics Department chairman Julian Lowell Coolidge, who also instituted Monday-night high table.[1] Historian Elliott Perkins was the first to hold the position of Resident Dean (until recently known as the Allston Burr Senior Tutor) then was Master from 1942 to 1963. Classicist Zeph Stewart was the third Master, and William and Mary Lee Bossert served from 1975 to 1998. Current co-Masters Diana Eck and Dorothy Austin are thus only the fifth Masters in Lowell's 80 years. Lowell's sister college at Yale University is Pierson College.

House traditions include Masters' Tea on Thursday afternoons, a May Day Waltz at dawn on the Weeks Footbridge, high table,[1] and the annual Lowell House Opera mounted in the dining hall. Springtime brings the Bacchanalia Formal, often with a live swing band in the courtyard.

For each Arts First event, the first weekend in May, there is a courtyard performance of the 1812 Overture, during which those not part of the official orchestral ensemble are encouraged to assist on kazoos; in lieu of cannon, hydrogen-filled balloons are ignited by the House chemistry tutor; and until recently (see below) the performance would climax with the role originally scored by Tchaikovsky for authentic Russian zvon (a "bell" in the Slovakina language or "bell sound" in Russian), being played (appropriately enough) by Lowell's own authentic Russian zvon.

There is a winter holiday dinner, and various sophomore, senior, Roundtable[1] and faculty[1] dinners take place throughout the year. Language tables and special-interest tables are common features of everyday lunches and dinners. Many House events are organized by Lowell's "House Committee" of elected undergraduates from within the House. The committee operates separately from the Harvard Undergraduate Council (UC), to organize student events and manage funding. The HoCo, as with the other student government organizations in the Houses, is funded by the UC.

Lowell House was the residence of Silas (Method Man) and Jamal (Redman) in the 2001 comedy How High.

As part of Harvard's House Renewal Project, Lowell House closed for renovation in the summer of 2017; work is expected to be completed in the summer of 2019.[2][3][4]


Designed by the firm of Coolidge Shepley Bulfinch and Abbott and constructed in 1930 for $3,620,000,[5] the House was named for the prominent Lowell family, closely identified with Harvard since John Lowell graduated in 1721. The busts of President Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1909–1933) and poet James Russell Lowell, are featured in the main courtyard. In the Dining Hall are portraits of Lowell and his wife Anna Parker Lowell; his sister, poet Amy Lowell; his brother, astronomer Percival Lowell; and his grandfather John Amory Lowell.

Prior to the 1996 transition to randomized House assignments, Lowell's central location, picturesque courtyard, elegant dining hall, and charming traditions made it a popular housing choice.[citation needed]

The Lowell House arms are those of the Lowell family,[1] blazoned: Shield: sable, a dexter hand couped at the wrist grasping three darts, one in pale and two in saltire, all in argent. The crest is a stag's head cabossed, between the attires a pheon azure. The motto is Occasionem Cognosce ("Recognise Opportunity") (In more prosaic terms, a shield with a black field displays a right hand cut off at the wrist and grasping three arrows, one vertical and two crossed diagonally, in silver. Above is a stag's head mounted behind the ear, and between its antlers is a barbed, broad arrowhead in blue. The house colors are blue and white.

The Lowell House Bells

Lowell House's bell tower and two courtyards, with Malkin Athletic Center at upper left
Lowell House's bell tower and two courtyards, with Malkin Athletic Center at upper left

For three-quarters of a century, Lowell House's bell tower was home to a set of authentic Russian zvon, one of the few complete sets of pre-revolutionary Russian bells surviving anywhere. The eighteen bells were bought in Russia around 1930 by Thomas Whittemore with the financial aid of millionaire Chicago plumbing magnate Charles R. Crane‍—‌who reportedly paid merely their value as scrap‍—‌just as they were to be melted down by Soviet authorities. Crane donated them to Harvard in 1930 just as plans for Lowell House were nearing completion.[6]

Like those seen today on Dunster and Eliot Houses, Lowell's tower was originally meant to be a clock-tower‍—‌Lowell's in particular is reminiscent of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, although it was actually modeled after a Dutch church. With word of Crane's gift, the planned tower was changed to the blue-capped bell tower seen today. (One of the eighteen bells did not harmonize with the others, so was hung in the Harvard Business School's Baker Library.)

The bells originally hung in Moscow's Danilov Monastery (now the seat of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church) and were installed with the help, at first, of musician Konstantin Konstantinovich Saradzhev, and Vsevolod Andronoff, a former resident of the monastery[6] They range in weight from 22 pounds (10 kg) to 26,700 pounds (12,100 kg, and known to Lowell House students as "Mother Earth"). The bells are consecrated, and are of great significance to the Russian Orthodox Church, in the liturgy of which bells play an important role.

At Lowell, the bells were usually rung on Sundays at 1pm by resident Klappermeisters. After the annual Harvard–Yale football game, Harvard's score would sometimes be proclaimed on the "Mother Earth," with Yale's score tolled on the "Bell of Pestilence, Famine, and Despair."

With the reopening of the Danilov Monastery, it was suggested that the bells be returned to their original home. At Harvard's June 2008 Commencement, they sounded for the last time at Lowell House, after which the bell tower was partially dismantled so that the bells could be withdrawn. In their places were hung newly cast near-replica bells obtained with the financial assistance of the Link of Times Foundation, created by Russian industrialist Viktor Vekselberg.[7]

The now-departed bells may still be heard on the Lowell House Virtual Bell Tower. The bells sound Sunday afternoons during term time, and at special events such as commencement.

Notable alumni

Lowell House courtyard in winter.
Lowell House courtyard in winter.

Notable former residents and alumni of Lowell House include:


  1. ^ a b c d e f "History". Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Unveiling Lowell House renewal". The Harvard Gazette. March 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  3. ^ Delwiche, Noah (3 May 2015). "Harvard Will Renovate Lowell House in 2017-2018". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  4. ^ Furigay, Junina (2 March 2017). "Lowell House Renovation Designs Include New Common Spaces". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  5. ^ Lowell House History, retrieved from the official House website Archived 2010-06-02 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b Luis Campos, Amiable Discord: The Rescue and Return of Harvard's Russian Bells, Harvard University Press, forthcoming
  7. ^ Elif Batuman, "The Bells", The New Yorker, April 27, 2009, pp. 28-29; for complete details, see Luis Campos, Amiable Discord: The Rescue and Return of Harvard's Russian Bells, Harvard University Press, forthcoming

External links

This page was last edited on 1 March 2019, at 20:34
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