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Winthrop House, Harvard University

Updated on July 23, 2016
Courtyard of Gore Hall, Winthrop House, Harvard University
Courtyard of Gore Hall, Winthrop House, Harvard University | Source

Formally known as John Winthrop House, this pair of five-story brick colonial-style structures constitutes one of Harvard University’s twelve undergraduate residences. With school-term occupancy of nearly 400 of the college’s sophomores, juniors and seniors, Winthrop is situated along Memorial Avenue, commanding views of the Charles River and promenade immediately to its south. The design of the House structures was originally conceived by the architectural firm of Coolidge, Shepley, Bullfinch and Abbott, and incorporates influences of Sir Christopher Wren.

Winthrop House was the resident house for Sloan M. Zimmerman, Harvard '13, Bachelor of Science in BioMechanical Engineering from Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), who went on to achieve her Master's degree at The Ohio State University's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Her father, Rick Zimmerman, a Northeast Ohio architect, created rickzworld.

Courtyard View of the Charles River and Promenade
Courtyard View of the Charles River and Promenade | Source

Winthrop is comprised of Gore Hall on the west and Standish Hall on the east. Each of the structures — constructed initially as freshman dorms in 1912 — is U-shaped in plan, with the open ‘mouth’ embracing a grassy, treed and gated courtyard facing the River. Those courtyards serve as staging areas for a variety of popular House events, including the Arbella Ball (an annual spring formal named for the vessel upon which John Winthrop, Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor, sailed to the Americas in 1630), and Thropstock (the House’s yearly Woodstock-styled music festival, with food and amusements).

A portion of Harvard's campus, with Winthrop House at center bottom
A portion of Harvard's campus, with Winthrop House at center bottom | Source
Typical stairwell to an upper-floor Winthrop room
Typical stairwell to an upper-floor Winthrop room | Source
View from Gore Hall to Lowell House and Quincy House beyond
View from Gore Hall to Lowell House and Quincy House beyond | Source

Primary entrances to the two halls of Winthrop are along Mill Street, providing ready access north (and slightly uphill) to the pubs, restaurants and shops of Massachusetts Avenue, as well as to Harvard Yard, classroom buildings and libraries beyond. At a half-level below street, Gore Hall encloses the residential house’s dining hall. The similarly situated former dining room within Standish Hall now serves as the House library, and contains many fine portraits by John Singleton Copley.

Winthrop House may be the most athletically enthusiastic of all of Harvard’s residential houses, having captured the intramural sports’ Straus Cup each of the past four years, as well as a majority of the past years of competition. For still greater insight, travel to rickzworld.

Setting for spring's Thropstock
Setting for spring's Thropstock | Source

In addition to serving as the Harvard dwelling of former students J. Robert Oppenheimer, Barney Frank, Ben Bernanke, and Edward Kennedy, Winthrop House was also the campus domicile of President John F. Kennedy. JFK’s senior rooms within Gore Hall have been maintained, renovated and furnished to accommodate University guests, especially those affiliated with Harvard’s famed Kennedy School of Government.


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