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HUV 658

Photographic views of Dunster House, 1929-1959: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 658
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Dunster House, 1929-1959
Date(s): 1929-1959
Quantity: 0.5 cubic feet
Quantity: 146 photographs
Abstract: Dunster House, one of Harvard University's River Houses, is located along the Charles River near the John W. Weeks footbridge and was one of the first dormitories built as part of Harvard's house system with funding from the gift of Edward Stephen Harkness. The land it was built on was purchased by Harvard between 1926 and 1929 in sixteen parcels on two blocks, which formed a small triangular lot. Built in an English eighteenth century Baroque style, Dunster House was designed by the architectural firm Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbott, and was completed in 1930 at a cost of $3,010,000. The house was named for Harvard's first president, Henry Dunster, who served from 1640 to 1654. The Photographic views of Dunster House provide a visual record of one of the houses in Harvard University's house system, its grounds, and surrounding area from 1929 to 1959. This collection includes reproductions of drawings as well as photograph prints, and processes include gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints.

Acquisition information:

These images were acquired by the Harvard University Archives from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century.

Processing Information:

This finding aid was created by Amanda Sherman in March 2016.
Description of the Photographic views of Dunster House, 1929-1959, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collection initiative.

Researcher Access:

Open for research.

Online access:

All of the images have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Preferred Citation:

Photographic views of Dunster House, 1929-1959. HUV 658, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

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Historical Note

Dunster House, one of Harvard University's River Houses, is located along the Charles River near the John W. Weeks footbridge and was one of the first dormitories built as part of Harvard's House system with funding from the gift of Edward Stephen Harkness. The land it was built on was purchased by Harvard between 1926 and 1929 in sixteen parcels on two blocks, which formed a small triangular lot. Built in an English eighteenth century Baroque style, Dunster House was designed by the architectural firm Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbott, and was completed in 1930 at a cost of $3,010,000. The house was named for Harvard's first president, Henry Dunster, who served from 1640 to 1654.
The House system was established in 1930 with the goal of supplementing the students' education with intellectually, culturally, and socially stimulating living environments, as well as creating a sense of community among students. The Houses accommodate between 350 and 500 students, and at the end of their first year, students are assigned to a House, and they live there through the end of their undergraduate career. Each House typically has a dining hall, common rooms, a library, and recreational spaces.
Dunster House features a tower with a gold and crimson dome that was inspired by the Tom Tower at Christ Church in Oxford, England. On the east wing is the Dunster crest of three golden elk on a crimson background. The Dunster house mascot, a moose, is derived from the crest. The west wing bears the coat of arms from Magdalene College in Cambridge, England, the alma mater of Henry Dunster. The house also has two stones from Magdalene College incorporated into the building. Dunster House residents honor several traditions, such as a goat roast in the spring, a sing-a-long of Messiah by Handel in the winter, and an opera with an undergraduate cast, crew, and orchestra. Growing the library was a priority for the first Dunster House Master (now Faculty Dean) Chester N. Greenough, and through a $25,000 gift in memory of Alexander Moss White (Harvard College Class of 1892) and other donations, the library consisted of 11,000 volumes by the end of its first year. The motto inscribed above the library fireplace was also in honor of White.
Notable Dunster House residents include Al Gore, Tommy Lee Jones, Al Franken, Norman Mailer, Caspar Weinberger, and Deval Patrick.

References

Arrangement

The photographic views of Dunster House has a legacy arrangement reflecting over 100 years of interfiling individual photographs of the structure from many sources into one collection. The images are arranged into fifteen folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order.This collection is part of the Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Views, in which Archives staff compiled images, whether acquired individually or removed from larger collections, and arranged them in categories based on locations, buildings, or landscape features for ease of reference.

Scope and Content

The Photographic views of Dunster House provide a visual record of one of the houses in Harvard University's house system, its grounds, and surrounding area from 1929 to 1959. This collection includes reproductions of drawings as well as photograph prints, and processes include gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints. The 146 photographs have primarily been gifts of individuals or contributed by the Harvard Film Service and Harvard Alumni Bulletin. One photograph was taken by the studio of William Notman.
Exterior photographs show Dunster House and the grounds from a variety of angles in the daytime and at night. Specifically, these images show construction of Dunster House, the Dunster tower, courtyard, seal, and gate, and the Master's house. One photograph taken in front of the Dunster House gate displays a Harvard and Radcliffe student protest against President Franklin D. Roosevelt seeking a third term and in support of Republican candidate Wendell Willkie. Furthermore, these images show the Charles River, people ice skating on the river in the winter, the Weeks Bridge, the Weld Boathouse, and homes near Dunster House. Interior photographs include images of the senior and junior common rooms and the library and the library fireplace.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 May 10.

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