Living in a 100-year-old, all-male dormitory isn’t ideal for many freshmen. Their mothers complain about brown stains on carpet and ancient radiators while peering out Pembroke Hall’s window to see other parents moving their children into suite-style residence halls. But a few weeks later, the Pembroke men are the most connected with their neighbors and have the most enriching campus experience, according to the men who live inside.
“This dorm has camaraderie, and it gives me a chance to make friends and participate in community activities,” said Chandler Thornhill, a freshman communications major from Alpharetta, Ga. “If it didn’t have these traditions, we wouldn’t have this brotherhood.”
As Pembroke Hall moves into its centennial year of housing men on Belmont’s campus, its residents prepare for their haunted house ritual to take place Friday evening. The haunted house, which is free and open to the public from 8 to 10 p.m., will take visitors through the lobby, up the staircase and through the third-floor hallway.
Other Pembroke traditions include annual date auctions, the Pembroke Masters – a miniature golf course through the dorm’s hallways – as well as Christmas and spring extended play musical recordings featuring residents.
“My favorite (tradition) is supporting the volleyball team because it’s so neat to get all the guys together, get dressed up with our different themes and support the greater Belmont,” said Joel Graham, a sophomore from Prospect, Penn. studying marketing and entrepreneurship. The men attend every volleyball game each fall and wear costumes or body paint as they cheer on the Bruins. President Bob Fisher presented the Spirit Award Trophy to Pembroke Hall for the most school spirit after the volleyball match Oct. 5.
“I had a really great experience my freshman year being a part of a vibrant community, and I want to facilitate that same kind of community for new freshmen,” said Graham, returned to Pembroke this fall as a resident assistant.
Located on North Lawn, Pembroke Hall is the fourth oldest building on Belmont’s campus, housing its first residents in 1913. It was the second dormitory built on Belmont’s campus and fell victim to a fire in 1952 shortly after the Tennessee Baptist Convention purchased the property, said alumnus and Belmont Mansion Executive Director Mark Brown (’77).
Brown, who lived in Pembroke from 1973 to 1977 while studying history at then-Belmont College, recalls before the days of a student center when Pembroke’s front porch was lined with wooden rocking chairs, making it a popular campus hang out and place for dates.
“From buildings we get a sense of place. So often it is the physical objects – buildings or rooms or statues – that become the touchstone by which we remember who we are and where we are. Those become the trigger that brings back memories,” he said.