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'Pink House forever': Student house holds generations of memories

lifestyle-pink-house-chapel-hill

Photos courtesy of Erik Ose and Carolann Parran.

UNC roommates Alicia Buckminster, Lizzy Rotchford and Anne Stuart Freemon want to throw a big house party this spring.

They’ve hosted their fair share of get-togethers since they moved into their pink house on North Street last fall — a fake wedding, tailgates and cocktails — but their newfound desire to buy a keg seems to have come from a blog started in 2009.

The website pinkhouseforever.org is devoted entirely to their home — a fact they didn’t know until being interviewed for this story.

The blog’s pages are filled with photos, party flyers, letters and salvaged ephemera from years of residents in the 1980s and '90s, curated by Erik Ose, who lived in the house from 1991-94.

“The blog is not only about the Pink House, it’s about Chapel Hill in the early '90s and it was a very magical time and place,” Ose said.

The site’s title card describes the Pink House as a place that “won't allow the vibe to ever fully dissipate.”

Ose began nostalgically archiving the materials 15 years after he graduated. He wrote an initial post reminiscing about his time in the house and sent out calls for materials from his former housemates.

“It’s nice to look back and it’s nice to think about where you were then and how things have progressed in your life,” Lydia Craft, a former housemate from 1991-93, said. “I’m thankful that Eric did create that blog and went through all the trouble to catalog all the notes and photographs and everything."

When Carolann Parran moved into the house in 2010, she had no knowledge of the blog or the house’s history, either. A quick Google search yielded Ose’s site, with its detailed descriptions of parties, bands and the pop-art mural of Mona Lisa mysteriously painted — but since covered — on the wall of one of the rooms. The living room now boasts a large mural of the Old Well. 

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Photo Courtesy of Anne Stuart Freemon.

“It was cool to find a place that also seemed to be housing people who were a little off-beat,” Parran said.

She told Ose about her and her roommate's search for the house, their first party of the year and the return of a supposed ghost in the Pink House, which Buckminster has  also encountered. Parran also maintained the legacy through hosting a band for a feature by The Daily Tar Heel, where she worked.

Throughout the blog, it’s clear that live music, and music in general, was a large part of life in the house, and some of its most famous housemates and regular visitors included singer-songwriter Ben Folds and indie-rock group Archers of Loaf. 

Jay Murray, who lived in the house from 1992-97 during graduate school, said there was often a drum kit set up in the living room or jam sessions in the basement.

The music was also an integral part of the Pink House’s parties, which Ian Williams, a former resident from 1995-97 who already graduated when he lived in the house, said could have hundreds of people coming and going throughout the night. 

After moving across the country, Williams wrote a screenplay and returned to North Carolina to film a movie based on these parties in 2001. The film, titled "The Pink House," eventually ran out of money in post-production and much of the footage was hard to retrieve, he said.

“Everyone in Chapel Hill who has any memories of the Pink House, that’s generally been their first impression — going to a Pink House party,” Ose said. “Because the house was legendary for its parties — even before we showed up — and I like to think we took it to a higher level.”

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Photo Courtesy of Ian Williams.

Craft said the parties were often so large and well-known that she would get invited to her own house by acquaintances.

For Ose, the Pink House's widespread appeal across social groups is what made its events so special in the '90s party scene.

“It became a place where people could overcome whatever other differences they had and meet as equals on the dance floor or in the backyard with a blue cup in their hands,” Ose said

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The house basically had an open-door policy in the '90s. This, Craft said, probably wasn’t the safest or cleanest idea, but it always ensured that there were cool people to talk to.

And the people, according to current housemate Freemon, are what make any college house special.

“You’re not meant to live in luxury,” she said. “But you’re living a very rich life with the people you’re surrounded by and a plethora of new experiences.”

This year, all of Freemon’s housemates are graduating, so she is savoring the days she gets to wake up every morning next to her best friends

Parran, who graduated in 2011, still keeps up with her housemates through a Pink House group chat, as well as in person.

“I think [college is] just a time in your life when you create bonds with people unlike anything afterwards,” Parran said. “You kind of have to enter the real world after that.”

The blog's legacy is continued by the current housemates' private Instagram, filled with pictures of debriefs following nights-out or the many times the washing machine has stopped working.

For Williams, keeping up in person with his college friends throughout the years has given him much more joy than the blog itself.

“Your kids grow up, you have your job, you have your things,” he said. “But these people who have seen you through all of your phases and still want to be around you? My God, is anything better than that?"

Editor's Note: Carolann Parran and Ian Williams are former employees of The Daily Tar Heel.

@emimaerz

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com


Emi Maerz

Emi Maerz is a 2023-24 assistant lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously covered UNC for the university desk. Emi is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and dramatic art.