Photographs by Ricardo Barros

Speaking at Princeton’s 250th anniversary convocation in October 1996, novelist and professor Toni Morrison began with a reference to William Wordsworth’s meditation on “the spirit of the place,” in The Prelude. Morrison thought there were two ways of thinking about Princeton: as a place of collective memory that is part of the nation’s history, and one of private memory. 

“In private memory this place is its halls, its library, its chapel worn to satin by the encounters and collaborations among and between strangers from other neighborhoods and strangers from other lands,” Morrison said. “It is friendships secured and endangered on greens and in classrooms, offices, eating clubs, residences. It is stimulating rivalries negotiated in laboratories, lecture halls, and sports arenas. Every doorway, every tree and turn, is haunted by peals of laughter, murmurs of loyalty and love, tears of pleasure and sorrow and triumph.”

READ MORE The Best Old Place of All: Readers Respond

We asked PAW’s talented student interns and contributors to write about their favorite places — the private memory — and many did. Some describe the soaring Gothic towers, though not for the reasons that enthrall architectural devotees. Others recall study corners, common rooms, even locker rooms. Each space speaks to the spirit of this place. 

With Reunions approaching, we ask: What place speaks to the spirit of your Princeton? Add a comment below or write to us at to let us know, and send a photo if you can. 

Nikita Dutta GS, Tiger and Tigress, Adams Mall

Gabriel Fisher ’17, Atrium, Princeton University Art Museum

Jennifer Shyue ’17, Murray-Dodge Café

Emily Erdos ’19, Class of 1887 Boathouse

Nina Sheridan ’19, Public Table

Alexandra Markovich ’17, Track and Field Locker Room, Caldwell Field House

Matthew Silberman ’17, Common Room, Whitman College

Hayley Roth ’17, The Chapel

Megan Laubach ’18, Science Fiction Library, Forbes College

Kevin Cheng ’17, Dante Room (East Pyne 111)

Juliette Hackett ’17, Towpath

Mary Hui ’17, Cleveland Tower, Graduate College