House spirit

Pforzheimer House

Pforzheimer House, nicknamed PfoHo (FOE-hoe) (and formerly named North House or NoHo), is one of twelve undergraduate residential Houses at Harvard University. It was named in 1995 for Carol K. and Carl H. Pforzheimer, major University benefactors, and their family.

Located in Harvard's Quadrangle, PfoHo comprises Ada Louise Comstock, Daniel Henry Holmes, Mary Buckminster Moors, and Wolbach Halls, in addition to Faculty Row and the Jordan North and South buildings.

PfoHo's shield features black and crimson squares on a crimson and black field; its mascots are the polar bear and the Pf bigram. The present House Master and Co-Master are Jim and Sue McCarthy. They have served in this capacity since 1996.


Early years

Radcliffe College students first took up residence on campus in 1901, and the oldest parts of PfoHo date to that year.

Moors opened in time for the 1949-1950 academic year, the year plans for Holmes were first drawn up. Construction of Comstock began in 1957.

The Jordans, two separate buildings located at the corner of Walker and Shepard Streets, began as an experiment in cooperative living in 1961. They gradually became used as overflow housing in 1985, although one building persisted as a co-op until at least until 1997.

Wolbach, formerly an apartment building, was purchased by Harvard by 1964.

The townhouses of Faculty Row joined the House in 1971.

North House

The name "North House" first appeared in 1961 and consisted of Comstock, Moors, and Holmes. Wolbach did not yet belong to Harvard at this point. The Jordans were initially assigned to the no-longer-existent East House.

Male students were first assigned to North House around 1971.

House Master and Co-Master Woody and Hanna Hastings began their term in 1975.

Major renovations of 1986, 1988, and 2002

They attempted to cultivate house spirit by integrating and interconnecting the buildings. Woody Hastings remarked, "Any student in North House ought to be able to get from any place in the House to any other place in the House in his PJs - or less."

Accordingly, when plans were drawn up for a major renovation in the mid-1980s, the Hastings rejected an early proposal that would have segmented the house into disconnected vertical "entryways", opting instead for a plan that connected "the bricks" to one another more closely and in the process allowed the construction of the Holmes junior common room, the PfoHo Grille, the Comstock Library, and the centralized balconied dining hall. The duplex suites on the top floors of "the bricks" were also created during this renovation.

Until a major renovation in 2002, Wolbach Hall consisted of one and two bedroom apartments, complete with kitchens. Renovations to Wolbach were done in order to increase the number of students housed in the dorm and to provide suites on campus accessible and appropriate to disabled persons.

A breezeway connecting Wolbach to Moors, long advocated by Hastings, was constructed in 2002.

Renamed as Pforzheimer

In 1995, North House was renamed Pforzheimer House. This caused consternation at first. Since the Pforzheimers were known primarily as major University donors, there was a widespread sense that naming rights to the building had been sold off. A Boston Globe columnist referred to "the Pforzheimer House flap," saying that "Harvard renamed the Radcliffe-owned house after a loyal donor without consulting [Radcliffe President Linda] Wilson & Co. The Harvard Noteables (their spelling) wrote five song parodies lamenting the name change.

However, North House Masters J. Woodley and Hanna Hastings said they were "thrilled!" and Hanna was quoted as saying "It's just what we've been asking for. We wanted to be more than a direction." The naming represented the first time that one of Harvard's houses had been named for a Jewish family or person.

Pretty quickly, students grew used to the new name. The letters f or ph were replaced by pF in House-related words, hence Pformal, PfoHo Pfora, and Pfreshman Welcome. (Notable exceptions: Faculty Row, Thursdayfest.)

In 1996, the House welcomed new Masters, the McCarthys, to go with its new name. A central common room in Moors was named for the Hastings upon their retirement.

In 1996, The New York Times noted that, "many black and Hispanic students lived in the Radcliffe quadrangle, in the Pforzheimer House", while the Boston Globe observed that "Pforzheimer, formerly North House, [had] evolved into a base for black student activism and a mecca for premeds" and observed that "the distinct cultures" of the residence halls was about to be broken up by the then-new policy of assigning students randomly to residence halls.

Dispute with Adams on dining access (known as the Pfoho-Adams War)

In October 1999, Adams House began enforcing a long-standing policy of closing its dining hall to non-residents during peak hours, a policy particularly inconvenient to Pforzheimer House residents, who live farthest from the main class buildings at Harvard Yard. Adams House residents, often unable to find a seat at lunch, enacted a series of measures designed to keep members of other houses out. The most infamous of these actions was "The Gong Show" wherein members of the Adams community sat by the ID swipe station and rang the gong when nonresidents came in. A running tally of the number of nonresidents attempting to eat in Adams was kept on a large chalkboard.

Pforzheimer, isolated to the Quadrangle and not suffering from the same dining hall ills, responded by attempting to pass in House Committee a tongue-in-cheek, non-binding measure (proposed by Rick Wedell '01) denying Adams house residents access to the Pforzheimer dining hall. However there was no real support for the measure and it didn't pass, though the attempt was reported in the Crimson. Adams House residents discovered the proposal when the minutes of the meeting were sent to the Pforzheimer House mailing list, then retaliated by declaring war in their House Committee. The initial suggestion was raised by Senior Colin Wood, and formally proposed by Jessamyn Conrad, and seconded by a Sophomore called Kyle. That night, the Declaration and Articles of War were written, sent to the Pfoho list, and the War was officially on.

Adams House gained the element of surprise when students blanketed "O-Ho" with the Declaration of War overnight. Adams House declared that it was in possession of the Pforzheimer "Pf", and would henceforth be known as Pfadams House. The "Adams House" sign above C-Entry was actually changed at this time. The next day, when Pforzheimer students awoke, they discovered that every "Pf" in their dormitory had been "stolen" (covered with masking tape). A week of pranks followed, the most extensive of which occurred when Pforzheimer residents forged notices from the Freshman Dean's office, informing all freshmen that Annenberg Hall was closed, and to go to the Adams dining hall for Sunday brunch. Enterprising "Orzheimers" also stole the gong that had begun the whole affair, and cleverly closed the gates of C-Entry (which contains the dining hall at the center of the controversy) with a bike lock at lunch hour one day, creating chaos. Adams residents, including both Masters, took to reading the declaration of war over the "Orzheimer" call boxes, which someone managed to get the number to, during lunch and dinner.

To settle this war, Adams and Pforzheimer House agreed to a binding field day competition, including a football game, a tug-of-war, and a fifteen minute musico-theatrical presentation to be done in drag. An Adams win would result in a return of the gong, continued dining hall ban, and continued use of "Pfadams House" with Pfoho becoming "Orzheimer House", though Adams generously offered to supply the rival library with a copy of "Hooked on Phonics." A Pfoho win would result in a return to "Adams" from "Pfadams", the return of the gong, and grant Pfoho residents perpetual dinning hall privileges at Adams House. Led by Masters McCarthy, presiding over the event in full academic regalia, Pforzheimer House secured a resounding victory (trouncing Adams in the football and tug-of-war and putting up a brave but wholly inadequate showing in the musico-theatrical segment) and Adams accordingly agreed to provide its residents with ID stickers granting them access to the Adams dining hall, an arrangement that stands to this day.

For several years, a "War Memorial" stood in Adams House, commemorating the event.


As with all houses at Harvard College, Pforzheimer House consists of two classes of members/residents, the Senior Common Room (SCR) and the Junior Common Room (JCR). The official university administration of the house consists of the resident members of the Senior Common Room, such as the House co-Masters, Allston Burr Resident Dean, Senior Resident Tutors, and the Resident Tutors. There is also often a non-academic house administrator and a building manager.

As of September, 2007, the House co-Masters of Pforzheimer House were Professor James McCarthy, chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Public Policy, and his wife Sue McCarthy. The House administrator was Sue Watts. The Allston Burr Resident Dean was Lisa Boes.

House Committee

Student life and house events are administered by the House Committee, or HoCo, whose voting members must be from the Junior Common Room, i.e. the undergraduate student body of the house. Members of the Senior Common Room may attend HoCo meetings as non-voting participants. As of February 8, 2006 two members of the class of 2007 served as the co-Presidents of Pfozheimer House Committee.


  • PfoHo is home to the studio of Harvard-Radcliffe Television, the only student-run television organization on campus.
  • Like all dorms in the (Radcliffe) Quad, PfoHo originally housed females only. Doors were equipped with special hooks to help residents comply with the Radcliffe College rule that required their doors to remain ajar a certain distance when gentlemen came to call. While this rule is now obsolete, many of the hooks remain as historical curiosities, intentionally retained through various rounds of renovation.
  • PfoHo residents are colloquially known as PfoHosers. The term actually existed as "NoHoser" before the House acquired its current name. Combined with the fact that the House was once all-female, this was apparently some sort of joke. "PfoHoser" has fallen somewhat out of use in recent years, and alternatives like "Pfohomie" have caught on.
  • Comstock, Moors, and Holmes are known collectively as "the bricks". "The bricks" together with Wolbach are called "the House", as in the exchange Do you live in Jordan?No, I live in the House.
  • The squares on the PfoHo shield represent the four original halls: Holmes, Moors, Comstock, and Wolbach. The colors were chosen because Harvard's color is crimson and Radcliffe's were black and white. The design evokes the design of the Radcliffe shield.
  • Pforzheimer is the most recently named House; at least as recently as 2002, House administrators' "department" was still listed as NORTH in Harvard's internal directory database.
  • PfoHo inspired the name of North House, the band.
  • Famous PfoHo alumni include Mo Rocca, Jennifer 8. Lee, Georgia Lee and Mawi Asgedom.

The Belltower Suite

The Belltower suite is one of several specially-named suites at Harvard College, including Eliot House's Ground Zero, Cabot House's Library Suite, Quincy House's Terrace (formely known as the Balcony Suite), and Currier House's Ten-Man Suite. It is named for its access to the Pforzheimer belltower.

The core Belltower Suite is Moors Hall #410, which connects by internal fire-escape passageways to Moors #403 and #404. The Belltower suite also connects to the belltower itself, which is not used for housing. Frequently, a single group of friends shares Moors #410 and #403 or, more rarely, all three of the suites; in this case, the entire area occupied by the friends becomes "the Belltower suite" / "the Belltower".

One of the largest housing arrangements on the Harvard campus, it can comfortably house twelve students with individual bedrooms, four bathrooms (three full and one half), and three common rooms. Of the interconnected three suites, the largest, Moors #410, has over 1000 square feet (90 m²) of space and often serves as a party venue.

The suite features a twenty-two foot bar of sturdy construction and classic, dark-stained appearance. It was built by the senior class of 2001 (Ryan Damm, Pat Gardner, Lee Hampton, Andy Krueger, Reihan Salam, Jared Slade '03, Mike Volonnino, and Dan "Satchyu" Weiss).

The belltower itself faces out over the Quadrangle and is accessed by a ladder and trap door. Since being rebuilt after a fire in the 1980s, it no longer houses a bell; in fact Lowell House is unique among the 12 Houses of Harvard College in that its belltower actually houses bells, an antique set from a Russian monastery. Access to the tower begins in the passageway that connects Moors Hall #410 and #403. A first ladder leads through a ceiling trapdoor to the carpeted mezzanine level (the "chill pad"). A second, longer ladder leads via a small hatch to the lantern of the tower called the "crow's nest". Expansive windows on all four sides of the lantern allow for a majestic view of the greater Boston area. An access door located halfway between the mezzanine and the lantern provides access to an outdoor inter-level widow's walk.


(Dec. 10, 1949). "Moors Will Speak At Hall Inaugural". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

(Mar. 8, 1950). "Future Annex Dormitory To Be Called Holmes Hall". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Miller, Martha E. (Apr. 12, 1957). "'Cliffe to Break Ground For Ninth Dorm April 29". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Gale, Mary Ellen (Jun. 14, 1962). "Mrs. Bunting's Radcliffe". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Cliff, Mary F. (Feb. 9, 1984). "Hanging Out Up There". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Masters, Brooke A. (Sep. 28, 1987). "Quadlings Celebrate Renovations". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Resnick, Scott A. (Oct. 18, 1999). "Spirit Unleashed As House War Ends". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Fong, J. G. (Mar. 16, 2000). "Fifteen Minutes: Harvard Band on the Rise, Again". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Studlien, Kirsten G. (Jun. 8, 2000). "Dilemma on Walker Street". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Kofol, Anne K. (Sep. 9, 2002). "Quad Updated With Renovations". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

Dolan, Meghan M. and Cornelia L. Griggs (Oct. 23, 2003). "Room With A Crew". Fifteen Minutes. Available online

Bell, Richard, et al., ed. (Oct. 2002). "2002-03 Pforzheimer House Pfacebook."

Doroshow, D.B. (Nov. 1, 2001). "Pfoho's Photogenic Polar". The Harvard Crimson. Available online.

[Pf-OPEN] mailing list archives, Sep.-Dec. 2001, inclusive.

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