Lowell is perhaps the best known of the Houses. Its name, its bells, and its adverse criticism have combined to keep it continually before the public. As far as architecture is concerned, it is undoubtedly the most attractive. At the outset it had the advantage of a rectangular lot more suited to the Georgian style than the triangle of Dunster or the polygon of Eliot. And the building itself with its Independence Hall tower and its facades borrowed from Massachusetts, Bollis, and Holworthy has achieved a surprising beauty and proportion. A great deal was gained by leaving the original trees in the courtyards, creating a quiet, mellow atmosphere. More effort has probably been spent on the landscape architecture than in any other House, at least it has been more successful. Like the rest of the world, though, at least architecturally speaking, the House is not as pure as the Master would have it. For of the fifty-four things that look like chimneys, ten are no chimneys at all, but mere piles of brick, neatly covered with sheet metal.
The student' Common Room, covered with wall paper which smacks of the Ritz-Carlton, might perhaps be more liveable. Nevertheless, it is popular enough; and tea from a Russian Samovar can be had there every afternoon (at the head tutor's expense). On the other hand the tutor's Common Room has a pleasant atmosphere, although, or perhaps because, it is little used. Lowell is unique in having a tower room furnished with comfortable chairs, sofas, and an excellent plane on which any member of the House can practice. This room is available at a small price for meetings.
The House library is capacious and attractive. It has a first rate collection of books of English literature, and a fairly good History section. When the Hopkinson portrait of President Lowell was first hung, however, students found it hard to concentrate. In glancing at the picture, they would become not a little disconcerted at the lack of buttonholes in the President's suit. But after a number of men had gone on probation, the portrait disappeared and later returned with the holes painted in.
One of the reasons for Lowell's notoriety is the ineluctable High Table. Here the Master, the tutors, and their guests gather every Monday evening to have dinner before the rest of the House. Now that the tradition is firmly established and no longer excites wonder or derision it is much more pleasant, at least for those who sit on the dais. But those seated humbly below have no opportunity for conversation with any distinguished men who may be present. However, it is planned in the future to have some of these men go to the Student's Common Room to talk informally with any who are interested in their particular fields. This year, fathers of students have been invited when their sons were at High Table, a pleasant innovation. The best occasion was undoubtedly the dinner given for President Lowell on his birthday. But the Christmas dinner cannot be left unmentioned. At the latter, each student found at his place a sprig of holly and a book plate from the Library with the regular "ex libris . . . ." crossed out and "Merry Christmas from the Master and Mrs. Coolidge," written in.
Enough has probably been said about the Lowell House bells. The delightful inaccuracy of the New Yorker has told the world of the ink-drinking bell ringer from Russia, and how it was finally necessary to send him back to his native land. The present concerts on the carillon are, therefore, the result of the Head Tutor's skill.
Lowell has seven squash courts conveniently located in the basement. It had a football team, a swimming team, and, of course, a rugby fifteen. Crew has been emphasized more than any sport however, and at present there are two Lowell eights on the river every afternoon. With the inimitable "thunder mug" to contend for, this could hardly be otherwise.
The Master does his best to create a friendly spirit within the House. Visits to House members confined to the infirmary are made regularly. But he also keeps a paternalistic supervision over the scholastic standing of every House member. The tutors also make many acquaintances with the students, and take most of their meals with them. The associates, however, have done little or nothing for the House except attend occasional high table dinners. The students probably represent a good "cross-section", although they tend to be studious, as witnessed by the fact that of the forty men elected to Phi Beta Kappa last autumn, Lowell claims eleven.
Lowell, from its very start, has been far in the lead in the race for House traditions. With its High Table, its bells, and more recently, its ties, it has demonstrated that Lowell House spirit is a thing to be desired, even if it has to be crudely manufactured. In many ways it has played the sedulous ape to Balliol, a practice not too well received. As someone remarked, the House is attempting to look smart in a borrowed pair of old pants. Lowell has been the first to establish practically every House activity. It was the first to look for a House crost, staged the initial House dance, put House athletic teams in the field the first year long before Dunster. It desired House colors and forced all the other Houses to adopt them also. Now Lowell ties have entered the field--they are even worn with cutaway and wing collar on Easter--and more rigmarole is promised.
The House has made more of its opportunities under the House Plan than any other, but has been sorely misguided in some of its ventures. The reaction of the members has been divided, and each has accepted or rejected the activities as he saw fit. Yet despite any present handicaps the House might well be the favorite in years to come because of its convenient location and its architectural beauty.
It is hard to capture the spirit of the place. President Lowell was indeed succinct when he said at a recent dinner that the House is built of Love. "You can see it in every brick."