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HUV 662

Photographic views of Eliot House, 1930-1990: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 662
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Eliot House, 1930-1990
Date(s): 1930-1990
Quantity: 0.5 cubic feet (148 photographs)
Abstract: Built in 1931, Eliot House is a dormitory that is part of Harvard's House system and is a River House. Located along the Charles River near the intersection of Memorial Drive and John F. Kennedy Street (formerly Boylston Street), Eliot House was the third House built with funding from the gift of Edward Stephen Harkness. The House was named for Harvard University President Charles Eliot, who served from 1869 to 1909 and whose portrait hangs in the dining hall. The Photographic views of Eliot House provide a visual record of one of the houses in Harvard University's House system, its grounds, and surrounding area from 1930 to1990.

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 Eliot House, 1930-1990, 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 Eliot House, 1930-1990. HUV 662, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives:

Historical Note

Built in 1931, Eliot House is a dormitory that is part of Harvard's House system and is a River House. Located along the Charles River near the intersection of Memorial Drive and John F. Kennedy Street (formerly Boylston Street), Eliot House was the third House built with funding from the gift of Edward Stephen Harkness. The House was named for Harvard University President Charles Eliot, who served from 1869 to 1909 and whose portrait hangs in the dining hall. Eliot House was designed by the architectural firm Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch and Abbot, and construction cost $3,290,000. The land it was built on was previously occupied by the power plant of the West End Street Railway Company; the land was purchased in 1930 for $370,000, and the plant was demolished.
The House system was established in 1930 by Harvard University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell 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.
Eliot House consists of a complex of buildings in a hexagonal shape, with the west buildings standing five stories high and the south and east buildings at three stories. A gap in the south side of the complex, along with the lower buildings, allows views of the river and more sun in the dormitory rooms in the winter. Eliot House features a tower and three courtyards: the Forecourt at the entrance of the House, the Great Court in the middle of the buildings, and the Master's Court by the Faculty Dean's (formerly House Master) house. The House accommodates approximately 450 students and has amenities such as a dining hall, library, common rooms, dance and art studio, woodshop, a room containing a grand piano called the Tower Room, and a room for screening movies called the Golden Arm. Eliot House also contains the F. O. Matthiessen Room, named for the first Senior Tutor who was a literature scholar. The room holds Matthiessen's library and manuscripts, as well as the manuscripts of T. S. Eliot, Perry Miller, Theodore Spencer, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams.
The Eliot House shield is derived from the Eliot family coat of arms, consisting of a silver background, a thick horizontal red line through the middle, and two wavy blue lines sandwiching the red line that symbolize the Devonshire and Cornwall branches of the Eliot family. The Eliot House mascot, the elephant, also comes from the Eliot family crest, which features elephants. The House motto is, "Floreat Domus de Eliot," which translates to, "Long Flourish Eliot House." Between the 1930s and 1990s, when students were able to submit House preferences during the House assignment process, Eliot House had a reputation for attracting the social elite, including students from Boston Brahmin society, as well as champion rowers and Rhodes scholars. In the 1990s, Harvard began to randomize House assignments, thus making each house more diverse. Traditions at Eliot House include the Annual Charity Bash, Spring Fête, and the Charles Eliot Dinner.
Notable residents of Eliot House include Leonard Bernstein, Benazir Bhutto, Ben Bradlee, Archibald Cox, John Harbison, Rashida Jones, Ted Kaczynski, Jack Lemmon, Thomas Oliphant, George Plimpton, and Jay Rockefeller. The House also served as the residence of United States Navy officer candidates who were part of the V-12 college training program from 1942 to 1946.

References

Arrangement

The photographic views of Eliot 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 Eliot House provide a visual record of one of the houses in Harvard University's House system, its grounds, and surrounding area from 1930 to1990. All 148 images are photograph prints, and formats include gelatin silver prints and collotype prints. Images in the collection have primarily been contributed by the Harvard Alumni Bulletin and the Harvard University News Office.
Exterior photographs show Eliot House and the grounds from a variety of angles in the daytime and at night. The images show the Eliot House tower, gate, and courtyard, as well as the Charles River. Of particular note, one image shows United States Navy officer candidates who were part of the V-12 college training program during World War II doing laundry in the courtyard, and a series of photographs documents the demolition of the power plant that previously stood on the site that Eliot House was built on, as well as the construction of Eliot House. Interior photographs include the dining hall with and without students eating, the library, and two images of students acting in plays.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 May 10.

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