The Grove House at Pitzer Celebrates 110th Anniversary

The Grove House celebrates its 110th birthday this Friday, as well as its 35th year on Pitzer College's campus. The Grove House Committee will be holding a celebration in honor of the anniversary, with activities planned from 3 p.m. until midnight. The festivities will include art and music workshops, an open mic night and a performance from the Los Angeles-based bluegrass group the Get Down Boys.

The Grove House is a place where students go to relax, chat with friends or enjoy a meal to take a break from their busy weekday schedules. 

Since 1977, when Pitzer acquired the Grove House, it has evolved into a thriving student space, with a kitchen serving lunch each weekday, common rooms and rooms including a poetry center, women's center and art gallery. The House also has hosted guest speakers and serves as a meeting place for many of Pitzer's clubs and organizations.

"The same space that is one person's early morning quiet breakfast alone-time is another person's impassioned meeting, another person's bustling social scene, another person's reading nook between classes, another person's Thursday night Story Slam, another person's porch concert or open mic night or what have you," wrote Haley Brown PZ '13, the current caretaker of the Grove House, in an email to TSL.

Posters, furniture and decor that hearken back to the the early 20th century, when the House was built, give the house a quaint, distinctly old-fashioned feel starkly different from the rest of the architecture on Pitzer's campus and the other 5Cs.

"The House has an extremely warm, home-like environment," said Leonard Schloer PZ '15, a student manager in the Grove House kitchen and co-chair of the Grove House Committee. "I immediately had an attachment to it. I like the atmosphere that the kitchen brings, too, to have these slow lunches instead of the crazy ruckus in the dining hall."

Other students, like Rupert Deese HM '15, come for the sandwiches.

"It is probably the best sandwich within 15 miles," Deese said.

The kitchen at the Grove House serves mostly local, organic produce with an emphasis on unique and unusual food combinations, like sweet potato pancakes with ginger syrup.

"The fun part is when we get to get creative with what's in season," said Zenia Gutierrez, the Food Services Manager. "We want people to not feel afraid to play with their food. We write on our menus, 'creativity is our goal.'"

"It's undeniably the coziest place I have found on the college campuses, and perhaps ever, and I think that's because it's so full of so many people's histories, spirits, dreams, thoughts, stories, conversations," Brown wrote.

For such high praises, however, the Grove House remains relatively unknown among students at other colleges. Deese estimates that about five percent of Harvey Mudd College students have ever visited the Grove House.

"I do know even Pitzer seniors who've never eaten here, but then there's also a culture of people that come here every day," Schloer said. "Some students do feel that there's a cliquey-ness to it, and that there's a certain group of people that run the Grove House socially, and we're really actively trying to get rid of that right now."

Each year, Pitzer assigns the Grove House a caretaker, who lives in one of the Grove House's rooms the full year and oversees the day-to-day management of the house, including room reservations and general communications.

"All these physical details extend into my main intention as caretaker, which is to preserve the integrity and spirit of the Grove House as a warm community space—a home—to as many people as possible," Brown wrote.

The building that became the Grove House was built in 1902 as the home of a local citrus farmer. In 1977, Pitzer saved the house from potential destruction when the administration bought it and moved it north of Mead Hall.

Pitzer has made efforts to ensure that the Grove House retains its heritage. The house is decorated and furnished in a manner that calls to mind the arts and crafts revolution of the early 20th century. The Grove House is currently in the process of getting the funds for renovation.

"Students and community members had to fight for the Grove House in a big way, and I think a lot of people don't know that today," Brown wrote. "I believe deeply in the reciprocity of space, especially public space—that if you take care of it, it will take care of you. And for me, the Grove House symbolizes that."