Pitzer’s Historic Grove House Celebrates 111th Birthday

Pitzer College’s Grove House kicked off the weekend’s Halloween
celebrations last Friday Oct. 25 with its 111th birthday
party. The party included carnival-style string lights, a bounce house, food trucks, a haunted house, and music provided by the Herbert Bail Orchestra, the Jaguars, and student DJ Ethan Long PZ ’16. There was no lack of holiday spirit, as the party was flooded with students in Halloween costumes.

Friday night’s party was a hit among Pitzer
students, but the most enthralling part of the Grove House lies in its history. 

Originally located on Harrison Avenue in Claremont, the Grove
House was purchased by Pitzer students in 1977 for one dollar. It was
subsequently moved to Pitzer’s campus. The purchase and move was inspired by a course about the arts and crafts movement taught by famed History of Ideas English professor emeritus Barry Sanders. 

According to Pitzer’s website, the Grove House was built in
1902 with aesthetic characteristics from the American arts and crafts movement. The
movement was a deviation from the growing industrialized culture in the United
States. The desired aesthetic then was a simple, homegrown look in which evidence of construction was still visible.

The Grove House perfectly articulates this movement with its
cozy corners, wood floors, stone-laden porch, and dusty trunks full of books. It has largely maintained its original purpose as a place to
relax, drink coffee, and socialize in a homey atmosphere. 

Even its contemporary commercial use as a café holds true to the movement it symbolizes.

“The Grove House represents a home—everything at its most
bare. It’s so simple and it reminds us of home,” Grove House head chef Zenia Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez works to coordinate deliveries from
local farms in addition to crafting food in the kitchen. The kitchen is open for lunch
and serves an array of sandwiches, fruit, cookies, teas, and coffee. The
Grove House only uses produce from local Inland Empire farms, demonstrating a commitment to socially responsible sourcing.

Gutierrez said that the emphasis on local produce is both socially and economically conscious. 

“Some farms’ produce is expensive, but
others have owned their land for maybe 70 years and can afford to sell at their
own prices,” she said. If it is not purchased from a local farm, students make it
from scratch. 

As if a historical house with a sustainable
café and cozy corners isn’t enough of a draw, the Grove House is also known for hosting many
student organizations. Enumerating them would entail listing far too many of
Pitzer’s organizations and clubs, as anyone can request Grove House space.

“If people want to come in Wednesday and have tea and
cookies to talk about puppies, they have to request it on Friday,” Grove House caretaker JJ Oesterle PZ
’14 said.

There are, however, groups that are regulars at the Grove
House, including Pitzer Outdoor Adventure, Art Coalition, Story Slam,
Groove at the Grove, and Feminist Coalition. Fem Co and Art Co have permanent
spaces upstairs where they host meetings and small exhibits, respectively. Other groups use the deck and main living space on the first

Fem Co, which meets Monday nights at 10 p.m., offers resources
to all members in the community. The group is well-known for its annual clothesline project, in which students are invited to draw and write on t-shirts to express thoughts concerning sexual assault and other relevant social issues. Shirts are then
hung on a clothesline, metaphorically airing out dirty laundry.

“We try to do things we think the community needs,” Maddie Ranson PZ ’14, one of the organizers of Fem Co, said. 

Fem Co, and many other organizations, can call the Grove House home. 

“Fem Co has used the
Grove House forever,” Ranson added.

Oesterle is the lynchpin of the Grove House and
its many functions for the community. As caretaker, she is responsible for event planning, fundraising to maintain the house, and ensuring that students respect and take care of the house as she would.

Earlier this year, Oesterle secured $17,000 to renovate the
house’s data infrastructure. Before, the house was using a cable system that
was decades old and rapidly decaying. Soon the Grove House will be wired with
fiber optic infrastructure and efficient WiFi access. 

Oesterle said that there is still much to be done for
the house’s well-being. Though its creaking joints are may be comforting, the
doors, floors, and deck need renovation. Pitzer has yet to set aside funds for
the Grove House, but Oesterle has created a donation website at pitzfunder.pitzer.edu. Her goal is to raise $5,000 over the next month. 

The Grove House is a prized refuge for Pitzer
and other 5C students to relax, eat, and listen to live music. As the array of student organizations and activities hosted at the Grove House demonstrates, the space is whatever students want it to be. 

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