Lowell House

Lowell House

Lowell House is one of the twelve undergraduate residential houses at Harvard University for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Named for the prominent Lowell family, it was built in 1930 as part of Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell's drive to provide housing for all Harvard students. Prior to his tenure, most students were housed in privately run dormitories; these became so competitively lavish that the area between Mt. Auburn Street and Massachusetts Avenue, just south of Harvard Yard, was once known as the Gold Coast.

Lowell House is home to a number of curious and longstanding traditions, including Thursday Teas at the Masters' Residence, a May Day Waltz at dawn on Weeks Footbridge, the yearly Lowell House Opera held in the dining hall, and the annual playing of the 1812 Overture in the House courtyard during Arts First weekend. During the latter, students who do not play orchestral instruments are encouraged to contribute on kazoos, and in lieu of cannons, hydrogen gas-filled balloons are exploded. Each spring, Lowell House also holds the Bacchanalia Formal that typically features a live swing band in the courtyard, a beautiful reception in the JCR, a DJ in the dining hall, and a promotional website riddled with typographical errors. Many of the house events are planned by the Lowell House Committee, currently chaired by Charles Redlick and Amanda Fields.

Lowell House's Sister College at Yale is Pierson College.

The current Masters of Lowell House are Diana L. Eck and Dorothy Austin. The Allston Burr Resident Dean is Ryan Spoering.

Notable Lowell alumni include John Berendt, Harry Blackmun, Michael Crichton, Christopher Damm, Matt Damon, Walter Isaacson, Vanessa Lann, Tom Lehrer, Alan Jay Lerner, Robert Lowell, Nicholas Kristof, Anthony Lewis, Crown Princess Masako, Natalie Portman, Frank Rich, David Souter, John Updike, David Vitter, Chris Wallace, Andrew Weil, and Ned Lamont.

The bells

One of the more distinctive features of Lowell House is the presence of a set of Russian bells in a tower above the House, one of only a handful of complete sets of pre-revolutionary Russian bells left in the world. The set was bought around 1930 by Chicago industrialist Charles R. Crane in order to save the bells from being melted down by Soviet authorities. Crane is reputed to have bought the bells for the price of their bronze content. When Lowell House was built, Crane donated the set of 18 bells to Harvard (only 17 are in the House today; the 18th was thought to be too close in tone to one of the others, and it now hangs in the tower of Harvard Business School's Baker Library).

The bells originally came from the Danilov Monastery in Moscow, now the seat of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. They range in weight from 22 pounds (10 kg) to 26,700 pounds (12,100 kg) (the largest bell is known as "Mother Earth"). The bells are consecrated, and are of great significance to the Russian Orthodox Church, where bells are regularly rung as part of the liturgy. At Harvard, the bells are rung every Sunday from 1:00 to 1:15 pm, and on certain special occasions, by an interested group of Lowell residents known as the Klappermeisters. The Bells had been rung for generations of students, for instance, following the Harvard-Yale football game, with Harvard's score rung on the "Mother Earth Bell" and Yale's rung on the "Bell of Pestilence, Famine, and Despair." Visitors are welcome. They can also be heard on the Lowell House Virtual Bell Tower

With the revival of Christianity in Russia and the reopening of the Danilov Monastery, a request had been made for the return of the bells to Moscow. Although the bells' legal ownership is not in dispute, Lowell House and the Danilov Monastery have been involved in negotiations over the past few years about a possible repatriation, and a deal was finalized whereby Harvard would receive newly cast Russian bells that arrived in fall 2007, and will be hung in spring 2008 at which point the historic bells will return to Russia (bell-making is an expanding industry in Russia). The bell at the Harvard Business School was replaced in August 2007 with a newly cast bell, and is now on its way to Moscow. A symposium on the art, culture, and history of the bells and of Russian bellringing will be held at that time.

This exchange is made possible by the financial and administrative support of the Link of Times Foundation, founded by the Russian industrialist Victor Vekselberg, and directed by Vladimir Voronchenko.

External links

Notes

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