Courtesy Peter Severson ’09

When student contributors wrote about the campus spaces and places that have made Princeton their home, for our May 17 issue, we asked PAW readers to do the same. The first batch of responses, below, were posted May 25. Add yours in the comments or email us at

When you asked what place on campus speaks to the spirit of my Princeton, I spent awhile combing through old digital photos. I took a lot of them from 2005 to 2009, capturing images of friends, buildings, seasons, events, and nature. There are a lot of ways I could answer this question, but the image that most captured my attention was a simple one: a picture of my freshman year dorm room (Buyers Hall B12), taken on May 16, 2006, shortly before I was to leave campus for the summer. It’s strewn with familiar items that call to mind the person I was as a Princeton freshman — from posters of Chapel Choir concerts to my trusty (and heavy) old HP laptop, to books, boxes of food, and a board filled with pictures from back home. Of all the places I could've chosen, this one speaks to me the most. It was my safe harbor in a year of big transition, from my bucolic home on the plains of South Dakota to the bustling East Coast energy of New Jersey. It’s the dorm where I met two roommates (Minh Nguyen-Dang ’09 and Mike Vincent ’10) who came from remarkably different backgrounds than I did, and who would become good friends that I’d room with for all four years. It was the base camp beyond which I could explore all that was new, challenging, and beautiful about Princeton, which would soon grow into a true home-away-from-home, a place for which I will always experience deep gratitude.

Peter Severson ’09
Westminster, Colo.

The spirit of Princeton breathes through my memories of the Pogue Room at Tower Club, a little gem that boasts a stained-glass window, a leather bench around the hearth and, in my day, a grand piano. Senior year especially — and most especially during the thesis crunch — I brought my dessert there for a brief respite between dinner and study. The company (those other members who had discovered the Pogue Room’s charms) was always excellent.

Vera Hough ’92
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Courtesy Princeton University Library, Historical Postcard Collection
Blair Arch.  

If I had but one day to live, I would want to see Blair Arch one last time.

The first night of Freshman Week in 1980 I wandered up to Blair Arch when I heard the sounds of the Nassoons wafting from the acoustically devastating structure. I had the good fortune to spend four years singing with the ’Soons, and Blair Arch became home away from home, the site of twice-weekly “arches” (or “arch sings” as the groups now call them).  

It was where we sang with the Yale Whiffenpoofs in 1981 after dusting their sorry Eli butts at touch football, maintaining possession of the coveted Whiffenpoof/Nassoon trophy, a Budweiser can carefully nailed to a piece of wood.  

As an aside, the varsity team won, too, in the now infamous 35-31 upset victory that same day.

Blair Arch was home to one of the most marvelous events of the Princeton holiday season, the Christmas Arch, which featured two songs from each of the singing groups (and was also always famously crashed by the Offbeats). The packed arch then transformed into a spontaneous caroling festival that included all of the groups and the myriad spectators assembled.  The highlight and penultimate song was an a cappella “Hallelujah Chorus,” the thought of which still brings tears of joys to my eyes.  We then sang “Old Nassau” (old, sexist lyrics) and set off back to our rooms, taking in the snow and lights that made the season magical on campus.

With the growth of class size, Blair Arch became the new home of the senior “Step Sing,” and, appropriately, the backdrop for so many class photos at Reunions.  

With all of that as backdrop, most importantly, in 1995, Blair Arch was where my then-girlfriend from the Class of 1988 said that one, all important word, “yes.” 

Blair Arch.  The best damn place of all.

Three cheers.

Stephen P. Ban ’84
Glenview, Ill.

The idea of finding a resonant location on campus was introduced to me before I even got there, as a necessary rite of passage. My father went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis — not so much out of interest, but because it was the best (and only) education he could afford. Without the funds to go anywhere else, if he could get in, the Academy would pay him, and he, in turn would serve. That’s how it goes.

The Academy is not an easy place to be. When it was particularly difficult, my father found himself returning to one spot — the statue of Tecumseh that reigns in front of Bancroft Hall. Before I started at Princeton, he advised me to find a Tecumseh of my own.

I found it, almost immediately, in the Chapel. I am religious, but deeply private, not just in general, but also with respect to my spirituality. Going to church in droves with the rest of the world has always left me irritable and empty, but being in an empty church alone is something else, and the Chapel has that something else in spades.

I ended up there at all sorts of unlikely hours by myself throughout my four years. I went not just for prayer, respite and relief (and of course, silence), but also to feel something ancient and unnamed, which only seems to inhabit places like these. In the Chapel, it never failed me.

In your article, Hayley Roth ’17 described the Chapel as a “slumbering beast,” which I’m so pleased someone else noticed. She’s right: The Chapel is an old, ornate monster — my favorite kind.

Eva Curbeam ’10
Naperville, Ill.

Hayley Roth ’17’s choice of the Chapel as her favorite place made me think of my favorite campus job. My senior year, I was one of the night watchmen at the entrance of the Chapel, keeping a count of everyone who walked in. I got the job thanks to the student in charge of the night watchmen, my classmate James Day, with whom I had sung in the Chapel Choir our freshman year. There was plenty of time to study on the job. Student organists often played “organ postludes” the last half-hour the Chapel was open.

Richard W. Waugaman ’70
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The Uli Tree Library in Wilson! It was named after Julian Street, but some of the letters fell off, so those of us who were freshmen and sophomores in ’93-’95 called it the Uli Tree.

Rachel Lin ’97
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Holder Court and tower are wonderful. So is East Pyne. And Cuyler, and Campbell/Joline/Blair. Collegiate Gothic at its finest.

John Parfitt ’64 *67
Manchester, N.H.

Your survey of the “Best Old Place of All” brought back memories of Princeton, which I attended over 60 years ago. The photos challenged me to recall my favorite place and I cannot get out of my head one of them. There are fond memories of the walk up from Brown Hall past the Art Museum to the “official: center of the campus (classrooms, chapel, library), but I cannot forget my little carrel in Firestone where I spread out my books and notes and wrote a senior thesis (1952-53). Firestone was not as beautiful as Pyne Library, I thought, but it had functional carrels where we could create our first literary masterpiece. Our class agent sent his request for funds this year with beautiful photo of Firestone Library, and this stimulated memory of an aspect of Princeton education quite forgotten.

Charles Graves ’53
Geneva, Switzerland