House History

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The History of Leverett House

Attending Harvard College means living in residence. Harvard freshmen live in seventeen Yard dormitories, ranging from Massachusetts Hall, built in 1720, the oldest Harvard building, to Canaday which was completed in 1974. The Dean of Freshmen oversees these students. Harvard upperclassmen live in one of 12 residential Houses, each housing 300-450 students and presided over by a Faculty Dean, who is often a professor or senior administrator, or by co-Faculty Deans. In each of the Houses, an Allston Burr Resident Dean serves as a resident academic dean.

Harvard's current House Plan, the inspiration of President Lowell, dates back to the early 1930's, but the idea and ideals behind it stretch back almost as far as the College itself. Across all four centuries of Harvard's history, learning together has meant living together. President Lowell's wishes came to fruition in 1928 when Edward S. Harkness, Yale '97, offered more than ten million dollars to provide for the first seven Houses. The Houses were to be patterned after the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges and were meant, in President Lowell's words, "to unite learning with the fine art of living." Two of the new Houses, Dunster and Lowell, opened in 1930; Eliot followed in 1931, along with Adams, Kirkland, Leverett, and Winthrop. Dudley House was created in 1935 to serve non-resident students. Quincy House followed in 1959, Pforzheimer and Cabot (formerly North House and South House respectively) were formed in 1961; Mather and Currier opened in 1970.

The oldest Leverett building is McKinlock Hall, constructed in 1925 and named in honor of Harvard alumnus George Alexander McKinlock, Jr. '16, an Army Lieutenant who was killed by sniper fire in France in July 1918, during World War I. Leverett House also has two 12 story towers and the award-winning Saltonstall Library building, all completed in 1960. Leverett has the largest student body of all of the Harvard Houses.

Leverett House was named after John Leverett, who was President of Harvard from 1708 to 1724. Leverett's election was one of the significant turning points for Harvard, as every President before him had been a clergyman. Leverett was a leader of the liberal movement in the Congregational Church and he opposed the powerful clergymen Increase and Cotton Mather, who had attempted to impose upon the College a new charter containing a loyalty oath that would have refused appointment to the faculty of anyone not willing to acknowledge the primacy of Biblical scripture. According to Samuel Eliot Morison, "Leverett, in a word, founded the liberal tradition of Harvard University." Leverett, during his tenure as president, also improved the quality of instruction in the College and maintained the position of Harvard in the critical years when Yale was becoming a formidable rival.

The word leveret means young hare as reflected on the Leverett family crest, which is the source for the Leverett House Shield. The motif of three hares, running in a circle and sharing three ears, spread from Asia to Europe in medieval times. The significance of the number three is universal, and hares are prominent in cultural history around the world.

Harvard in the mid-twenties had constructed on the banks of the recently dammed Charles River student residences, occupied originally by freshmen. McKinlock Hall was one of those original buildings, built in 1925. With the formation of Leverett House in 1930-31, Mather Hall across Mill Street was built along with the present dining hall and Master's residence. Six squash courts were also constructed adjacent to Mather Hall. Leverett remained in that configuration until the early 1960's when the College expanded and the new Houses were added. Mather Hall became a part of Quincy, the squash courts were lost, and the Leverett Towers built. The Saltonstall family gave money for a new library, and the House offices moved to F tower. McKinlock was closed for extensive renovation in 2013-14 as part of the House Renewal process, the first House to undergo renovation of its primary common spaces. The new Light-Court and Rabbit Hole and the refurbishing of the Library Theater dramatically expanded programming opportunities in the House, while the dining hall and the Junior Common Room were restored to their original magnificence.

The first Master of the House was Kenneth Murdoch, Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The second Master was Leigh Hoadley, a biologist interested in the development of animals. The third Master was John Conway, an historian and bachelor for most of his tenure at the House. He married his wife Jill in Leverett House in the early 60's, and later they were at Smith College where she served as President. Richard Gill, an economist, was the fourth Master. Master Gill was a wonderful bass and he sang each year in the Leverett House Opera--a fixture in the House. While Master he auditioned for the New York City Opera and was offered a contract. He accepted and left Harvard, economics, and Leverett to begin a new career, first with the New York City Opera, and later with the Metropolitan Opera.

The fifth master was Kenneth Andrews, who was appointed in 1971. During his tenure the Houses became coeducational and Leverett had for the first time a Co-Master, Carolyn Andrews. Ken Andrews was a professor at the Business School (the first Business School faculty member to be appointed Master), and during Harvard's 350th anniversary celebration, was one of the 20 individuals receiving Harvard Medals for distinguished service to the University. His citation read: "He understands, as Mark Twain never did, how business works best; his writings elucidate the complex subject to the benefit of his Harvard colleagues and of managers everywhere." Renowned biologist John Dowling and his wife Judith were appointed as the sixth Masters of Leverett House in 1981.

The late ‘90s saw important changes in the House system: Randomization; Housing Day on which House assignments are announced and celebrated with the unveiling a new House Shirt each year; and perhaps most important, the opening of House Dining Halls 24 hours a day.

Howard and Ann Georgi became the seventh Masters, in 1998. Because Ann was an enthusiastic sports fan, the students called her “Coach” and the House Committee suggested the moniker “Chief” for Howard. These names were used almost universally for 20 years. Ann and Howard Georgi have been the longest serving Heads of Leverett House.

The Georgis became the first Faculty Deans of Leverett House in 2016. The change in the name is consistent with the gradual change to a more student-centered and less ceremonial Leverett House leadership. Both students and Senior Common Room members are now invited to all events.

In 2018, Brian Farrell and Irina Ferreras became the 8th appointed Heads of Leverett, with the current title of Faculty Deans. Irina is the first Head of a Harvard House from Latin America.

Distinguished guests of Leverett House have included W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, and Malcolm X. Yo Yo Ma was a music tutor. Archibald MacLeish, Perry Miller, and Lillian Hellman lived on the top of F-Tower.

House Crest and Shield

House Song

A few years ago, JoAnn unearthed a copy of the Leverett Song from the 1960s in some dusty files in the House Office. New verses were constructed to bring it up to date, and it was actually performed at the Leverett Coffeehouse. Here it is!

Leverett Song - Midi File

Leverett Song - SATB arrangement by Nick Vines of the original TTBB

Dining Hall Painting

In Leverett dining hall, the painting, “John W. Weeks Bridge in July,” hangs above the majestic fireplace. It is a beautiful acrylic of the Charles River and Weeks Bridge that was painted by Julia Rozier (Leverett '08). Rozier created the painting from a photograph that she took of the Charles, exactly from the angle that Leverett looks onto the river. This picture was the last one that she managed to snap before her camera memory ran out. The lucky image will open up the room to the outside world, especially during the chilly winter months, said Rozier, “It brings a big splash of summer sunshine into the dining hall—what better to remind you of things to come?”

The painting should be interpreted however the viewer sees fit, and enjoyed simply for its own sake, but for those who are curious - these are the meanings that the artist, Julia Rozier, originally intended for various elements displayed or hidden in the composition. See if you can find all of them!

The Eastern Cottontail – common in New England, and closely related to the hares symbolized in the Leverett house shield. Photograph credit for the cottontail goes to Steven Pinker.

The Rower’s T-shirt – Homage to “Coletrane,” by John Webster. “Coletrane” graced the walls of this dining hall for years, inspiring strong reactions in many generations of Leverites.

Canada Geese – Symbol of companionship and New England.

Alice – Beloved pet dog of legendary superintendent Paul Hegarty; her name means “noble spirit.”

The Woman on the Bridge – Symbol of the future.

The Rower – Symbol of the past.

Boston Skyline Visible under the Bridge - The viewer stands on the Harvard campus, but faces out, so that he or she might think of ways to apply his or her education beyond the school walls.

The Bridge Itself – Common metaphor, of course, for forging paths to new frontiers and the meeting of opposite sides, like the meeting of minds. Also, tribute to Leverett, since the viewer of the bridge from this angle would stand directly between the bridge and McKinlock courtyard.

Northern Cardinal – Token of love for the artist’s father, who requested it be placed in the tree.

The Reflections – As there is no real focal point to this painting, perhaps the reflections themselves are the focal point. May the students be able to reflect upon their work, thoughts, and life as they are eating!

The Summer Season – May students remember the promise of warmer days, even when in the cold grip of winter.

For more information, check out the Crimson story on Leverett's new dining hall painting at the following link: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2009/9/23/a-dining-room-with-a-new/

Monkey Bread Recipe

Here is the Monkey bread recipe, enjoy and be careful!

Ingredients

  • a large cookie sheet or large flat pan with sides at least 1/2 inch high (we use a baker's half-sheet)
  • 2 rolls of large ("Grands") homestyle buttermilk biscuits (regular, not flaky)
  • 2 slightly-packed cups dark brown pure cane sugar (about 1 lb - both dark brown and pure cane are important)
  • 1/8 cup cinnamon (heaping)
  • 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) of butter

Directions

  1. Cut the pre-sliced biscuits into pieces about 1/2" in diameter. The shape is not crucial--but the size is important. For large "Grands" sized biscuits (preferred), cutting each biscuit into six pieces (three cuts) seems to work best.
  2. Melt the butter completely (microwave for one minute or so).
  3. While the butter is melting, distribute the biscuit pieces evenly across the bottom of the pan.
  4. When the butter is melted, stir the brown sugar and cinnamon into it.
  5. Pour the butter/brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the biscuit pieces, trying (but not obsessively) to wet them evenly.
  6. Spread the resulting mixture evenly in the pan. Do not to "bruise" the biscuit pieces in the process through excessive mixing. They should not dissolve in the butter mixture.
  7. Bake on the middle rack of the oven at 350°F for about 15 - 20 minutes. Cooking times may vary widely depending on the oven and pan used, etc., so be sure to visually check the progress every few minutes or so after about twelve minutes of cooking have elapsed. The desired color is a beautiful golden brown.
  8. Gently but thoroughly mix the pieces in the baking pan (best done by turning over several times with a spatula) to coat the bread with "monkey goo."
  9. When serving the monkeybread, it is essential to pour all of the remaining monkey goo from the bottom of the cookie sheet or pan over the bread, after it has been transferred to the serving dish.

If you use a little extra cinnamon (Step 4) as the spirit moves you, it's OK.

You can cut the biscuits into shapes (hares?) for a little extra elegance.