Pfolklore and History


Students at Radcliffe College first took up residence on campus in 1901; apparently, the oldest parts of PfoHo date to that year. During the 1949-50 academic year, Moors opened and plans for Holmes were first drawn up. Construction of Comstock began seven years later. Male students were first assigned to the House around 1971, but the legacy of floor-length hall mirrors remained for them to enjoy.

The Jordans, considered by some the "Quad of the Quad" opened for business as an experiment in cooperative living in 1961 after having been part of Radcliffe College's East House. The use of Jordan as a co-op persisted at least until 1997. Wolbach, formerly an apartment building, was purchased by Harvard in 1964. The townhouses of Faculty Row joined the House around 1971.


The name "North House" first appeared in 1961 and consisted of Comstock, Moors, and Holmes. The name derived from its location within the quadrangle: the buildings now known as Cabot House were then called "South" and "East" Houses.

North House's early House Masters included Giles Constable, Ned Keenan, and from 1975 to 1996, Woody and Hanna Hastings. It was under the Hastings's leadership that the transformation of the original cluster of Radcliffe dormitories to a unified house took place. The renovations they oversaw during the mid 1980s were key to their success in forging a strong house identity. For example, the Hastings rejected an early proposal that would have segmented the house into disconnected vertical "entryways" used in other Houses, opting instead for a plan that connected the dormitories to one another more closely through the hallways. These renovations also included the construction of the Holmes junior common room, the PfoHo Grille, the Comstock Library, and the centralized balconied dining hall that now serves as the heart of House life. The unique duplex suites on the top floors of Moors, Comstock, and Holmes were also created during this renovation.

In 1995, North House was renamed Pforzheimer House, acknowledging the life-long philanthropy of the late Carl Jr. and Carol Pforzheimer. They were strong supporters of both Harvard and Radcliffe, and are well known at Harvard and beyond for their support of libraries. Given the similarity between North House and Pforzheimer's initial syllables, it didn't take long to adjust to the new name: the old "NoHo" quickly became "PfoHo," and established a tradition of replacing letters f or ph with pf in house-related words; hence Pformal, PfoHo Pforums, Pfacebook, Pfreshman Welcome, etc. It remains a distinguishing mark of a former Pfohoser that he or she will sometimes write words beginning with "pf."


Back in the days when Pfoho was called North House, its symbol was a baroque design that featured a youthful head, representing the north wind. In the spring of 1983, Woody Hastings, the Master of North House, decided that it was time for North House to have a house shield as it was the only Harvard house without one. He arranged to run a contest among the students in the house for best design. From a selection of 4 or 5 entries, the students of North House selected the winning shield. The red in the upper right represents Harvard and the black in the lower portion symbolizes Radcliffe. A black border that represents the Radcliffe quad surrounds the field. The four squares symbolize the four Radcliffe dormitories or halls included in Pforzheimer House: Moors, Holmes, Comstock, and Wolbach (the Jordans had not yet been incorporated into Pfoho).


In October 1999, Adams House closed its dining hall to non-residents during peak hours. Of course, exiled Quadlings looking for a quick lunch were most impacted by this policy. To enforce the interhouse dining restrictions, Adams issued special ID-card stickers to its residents, and a large gong in the dining hall became Adams's mascot. It was sounded when non-residents were caught sneaking into the dining hall; these outsiders were then boisterously ejected. PfoHo replied with two symbolic gestures. First, it banned students with Adams stickers from eating in PfoHo during the contested hours. Second, and more importantly, PfoHo students stole the gong and placed it on display in the PfoHo dining hall, much to the chagrin of Adams residents.

Adams declared war and claimed the “Pf” of the our house's name, claiming to be “Pfadams” declaring war on Pfoho. Many instances of the bigram “Pf” were crossed off or duct-taped over within Pforzheimer. As a resolution, with Masters from both houses presiding, there occurred a competition including a football game, tug-of-war, and a performance skit in drag. Pfoho secured a victory in two out of three events, thus winning dining hall privileges in Adams denoted by the Pfoho sticker on students' ID cards. Consequently, Adams is often river to as a “Pfoho colony” or “our River colony” and treated with faux animosity.

Like any good mother country, however, Pfoho remains diligent against future uprisings. Mindful of our loss in the drag pagent, Pfoho created a drag competition of its own called "Ms. Pfoho" in order to remain ever-ready to compete in future House Wars. In recent years, the typically male pagent was renamed "Mz. Pfoho" in order to give female Pfohosers a role in the competition in addition to their role as cross-dressing male sponsors. The 2009-2010 season, perhaps one of the most shocking to date, saw the successful 2nd place finish of Mr. Zorman Nhu and the solidification of Pfoho's arsenal of catwalk warriors.


In the midst of reading period in the Spring of 2007, the College Events Board held a campus-wide risk game, which proved epic in scale both of student involvement and the distraction from exams. Below Scott DiGuilio chronicled of the TriPartite Victory of Pfoho, Quincy and Leverett over all of Harvard:

War broke out on the 6th of May, 2007 AD, in the 371st year of Harvard College, in the 11th year of Pforzheimer House. The war begin as an uneasy peace between Pforzheimer and Currier existed, though this was not to last. Currier and Cabot were rapidly assaulted, and in time and with the help of Pfoho's true allies, Quincy House, the Quad fell into the hands of Pforzheimer House and its allies. Despite the concerns of the house, Quincy and Pfoho, by means of the Quad swap, both grew and increased their powers. At the same time, Lowell was establishing their power in the south. In the second major phase of the war, the first Pfoho Committee on Public Safety was established. Slowly, Pfoho moved against Kirkland and consolidated the Yard with its now vast forces. Meanwhile Mather concluded peace accords with Lowell, forming a great and powerful alliance. The Pforzheimer-led alliance, now joined by Leverett, moved to destroy Cabot while maintaining an uneasy cease-fire with Mather. However, this did not last, as Pforzheimer's security was undermined and troops were sent against Mather, leading to open conflict. Dunster was invited to join the coalition against Mather, but instead attacked Pfoho; Pfoho attacked the heavily fortified Mather frontier, and won a great victory, but at great price. Following a Funeral Oration for the troops, the people's resolve was increased, and treacherous Dunster was punished.

The next season of the war begins with the abolishment of the Committee on Public Safety by the Pfoho Defense Council. Kirkland joined the alliance opportunistically, only to betray and join the Mather-Lowell Juggernaut. With the Alliance holding the North and Lowell-Mather-Kirkland the South, the war accelerated, with the Allies breaking the resistance on the West flank. In time, the Polar Bear Cavalry marched into Mather territory and successfully broke the resistance of Mather. On the 45th turn of Risk, on 20th May, the Tripartite Alliance successfully defeated their foes. There was a glorious banquet that night, and much rejoicing and speechifying. The victory was grand, complete, and truly worthy of Pforzheimer House.


Every house on campus has an open list, but Pfoho's list, like many things about the house, is truly exemplary. Pfoho's list, called “pfopen” is notorious for its high-volume of emails of all kinds, to the extent that it was named the second highest traffic list on the HCS server in '09-'10. This perhaps demonstrates the list's prominent place as a part of Pfoho culture. All Pfoho residents are encouraged to join and stay current on events, fads, and jokes that occur on the list, and this has resulted in common use of the list's name as a verb i.e. I pfopened it or I'm pfopening instead of writing my paper. Topics and arguments that happen on the list often spill over into real life. The list is often a way of “meeting” people before actually “meeting” them. Many posters are recognizable by name even you do not know them in person, and many people report to forming complex judgments of character and personality of people simply from reading their Pfopens. But beware, posters may often assume a kind of “alter-ego” when posting, perhaps tempted by the semi-anonymity of the list, and this "alter-ego" fad rose to new heights in '09-'10 with Sigmund Freud, Edward Cullen, the Not-Pfunny Bucket, and the Chair of Michael Oshima posting to the list.

The full archives of the Pfopen are here: and can only be accessed by members of the list. Each year lends its own distinctive flavor to pfopen. In '08-'09, there were extended threads about political issues, Harvard elitism, dining hall nutrition cards and eating disorders, and the student scalping of Harvard-Yale tickets.

Yet despite its capricious nature, various memes have surfaced and resurfaced with the passing of time: an old tradition of composing Pf-opens in haiku form, a new chain-mail style “X-Bus” spam email that features an ASCII graphic of a bus, the “share your passion with X” style header, discussing preparations for a zombie apocalypse, and translating a short post into another language and reposting it.

Pfopen veterans generally have one piece of advice for new members to the list: use a filter.