0.1 cubic feet
The Apthorp House, now the residence of the Faculty Dean of Adams House, a senior faculty member who presides over the House, was built in 1760 by Reverend East Apthorp, the first rector of Christ Church, the first Anglican church in Cambridge. However, Reverend Apthorp was forced to flee his home in 1764 when rumors spread that the Church of England was planning to appoint a bishop in the colonies and that Reverend Apthorp was the top candidate. This sparked controversy in Cambridge because Congregationalists were apprehensive about the Anglican Church's motives. Reverend Apthorp's brothers sold the house to the next owner, John Borland, who was also forced to flee at the beginning of the Revolutionary War in 1775 due to his Loyalist leanings. After Borland fled, General Israel Putnam of the Continental Army planned the Battle of Bunker Hill while staying in the house, and in 1777, the British General John Burgoyne was held prisoner there after his surrender at the Battle of Saratoga. Apthorp House passed through the hands of several owners in the nineteenth century until Harvard professor Archibald Cary Coolidge and his brothers, descendants of one of Reverend Apthorp's sisters, acquired it in 1901. They converted it into a Gold Coast dormitory, a series of privately-owned luxury dormitories that solely housed wealthy Harvard undergraduates. Three other Adams House buildings were also Gold Coast dormitories: Claverly Hall, Randolph Hall, and Westmorly Court.
The Adams House buildings that had once been Gold Coast dormitories were all acquired by Harvard in the World War I era. Apthorp House and Randolph House, built in 1897, were both acquired in exchange for College House in 1916. Claverly Court was built in 1892 and was considered the beginning of the Gold Coast dormitories, and it was acquired in 1920. Westmorly Court was built in 1898 and acquired in 1920. Russell Hall, the successor of a derelict Gold Coast dormitory of the same name, was rebuilt in 1937. The construction of Russell Hall and renovations of the other Adams House buildings, which had all been used roughly by the dormitory residents, were funded by the gift of Edward Harkness, a Yale alumnus who struck a deal to build dormitories at Harvard after he became frustrated with his alma mater when it delayed a similar deal for too long.
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. Adams House was created as one of the original Harvard Houses by combining Apthorp House, Randolph Hall, Claverly Hall, Westmorly Court, and the rebuilt Russell Hall. Adams House was named by James Phinney Baxter, first House Master (now Faculty Dean), in honor of John Adams and the Adams family, who contributed much to the United States as a new nation. The House seal was derived from John Quincy Adams's seal ring, with a gold background to symbolize the Gold Coast and five oak branches to symbolize the Adams House buildings. The House motto, "Alteri Seculo," comes from the Tusculan Disputations by Cicero, from a segment meaning, "He who plants tree labors for the benefit of future generations."
The Adams House buildings contain living quarters for students, a dining hall, common rooms, a library, seminar rooms, theatres, and art studios, as well as tunnels connecting the buildings to each other. Also notable are the Gold Room, the gold-plated entrance hall to Adams House, the Pool Theatre, a swimming pool converted into a theatre in the 1990s, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Suite and Historical Collections, a suite of rooms restored to appear as they did when President Roosevelt lived in Westmorly Court from 1900 to 1904. The architectural styles of Adams House differ from the otherwise uniformly Georgian revival styles of the other original Houses. Because the buildings were built at different times by different architects, Adams House has an eclectic combination of styles, such as a Moorish main staircase in the Gold Room, an English library and dining hall, Flemish exterior details, and Florentine, Italian, and Spanish Renaissance details in the common rooms.
After eighty-five years of existence, residents at Adams House have developed a number of traditions, which are still followed as of this writing. Such traditions include the Faculty Dean's teas on Friday afternoons, the Halloween Masquerade, a black tie reading of Winnie the Pooh at the annual Winter Feast, and the Winter Waltz. One noteworthy tradition is Drag Night. The tradition, which involves students attending an event that includes performances and dancing in clothing typically attributed to the opposite gender, began in 1980 as a show of solidarity amidst concerns for the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.
Notable Adams House residents include President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Buckminster Fuller, William Burroughs, William Randolph Hearst, Jr., Henry Kissinger, Bernard Law, Martin Feldstein, William Weld, Fred Gwynne, Peter Sellars, John Lithgow, and Donal Logue.
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.
- Bunting, Bainbridge. Harvard: An architectural history. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985.
- Education, Bricks and Mortar: Harvard Buildings and Their Contribution to the Advancement of Learning. Cambridge, Mass.: The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1949.
- Lynn-Jones, Sean. "Tales of an Old House." The Gold Coaster, June 2011. http://www.goldcoaster.fdrsuite.org/June2011/tales.html
- Snibbe, Kris. "A look inside: Adams House." Harvard Gazette, November 4, 2010. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/11/a-look-inside-adams-house/
- Harvard University. Adams House
- Harvard University--Buildings--History
- Harvard University--Buildings--Photographs
- Harvard University--College students--Social life and customs
- Harvard University--Student housing
- Harvard University--Student housing--Photographs
- Architecture--Massachusetts--Cambridge--19th century
- College buildings--Massachusetts--19th century
- Student housing--Massachusetts--History
- Adams House (Cambridge, Mass.)
Formats and genres
- Gelatin silver prints
- Photograph collections
Description of the Photographic views of Adams House, 1931-1961, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collection initiative.
- Photographic views of Adams House, 1931-1961: an inventory
- EAD ID
Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository
Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA