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Holworthy Hall

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Title: Holworthy Hall  
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Subject: Harvard Freshman Dormitories, Mike Reiss, The Valiant (1929 film), Conan O'Brien
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Holworthy Hall

A view of Holworthy from Harvard Yard

Holworthy Hall is one of the dormitories housing first-year students at Harvard College. Housing 85 students, it is located in Harvard Yard and borders Kirkland Street. It is the closest dorm to the Harvard Science Center and the second-closest dormitory to Memorial Hall, which houses the freshman dining hall, Annenberg. Throughout its first century of existence, it was considered the finest dormitory on Harvard Yard and the most desirable in terms of the physical accommodations it offered.[1]

Holworthy is part of the Ivy Yard grouping of freshman dorms at Harvard, along with Apley Court, Hollis Hall, Lionel Hall, Massachusetts Hall, Mower Hall, Stoughton Hall, and Straus Hall.[2]


  • Floorplan 1
  • History 2
  • Trivia 3
  • Past residents 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Holworthy's floorplan is unique among Harvard dormitories. On each floor of three entryways — Holworthy East, Middle and West — there are two suites connected by a 10-foot-long hallway and a shared bathroom. Each suite features a large common room, with two double bedrooms. While some residents choose to close the hallway doors, many leave the bathroom hallway open, creating an eight person "mega-suite," unmatched by other freshman housing. Each bathroom contains two sinks, two toilets, and two showers. The bathroom itself has no windows, but the lighting is bright.


Holworthy was named in 1812 in honor of a wealthy English merchant, Sir Matthew Holworthy, who died in 1678 having bequeathed £1,000 to Harvard — then the largest donation in the college's history — "for the promotion of learning and the promulgation of the Gospel" in Cambridge.[1][2] When it opened on August 18, 1812, then-President John Thornton Kirkland of Harvard referred to it as "Holworthy College." It did not have indoor plumbing; for almost a century, students had to go outside to use the college's pump. Rent was $26 per year.[1]

The dorm was originally used for all classes, as evidenced by famous residents like Thomas Bulfinch and Horatio Alger being housed in it multiple times, but was predominantly used for housing seniors during its early existence. By the turn of the 20th century, the senior classes expressed a desire to formally make the oldest Yard buildings — first Holworthy, then Hollis and Stoughton — their own and petitioned the college administration to make Holworthy a senior-only dormitory.[3] By the hundredth anniversary of the dorm in 1912, about 1,300 men had lived in Holworthy.[1]

By 1904, Holworthy was fully a senior dorm. Although it was not considered as fashionable as some of the newer dorms, Holworthy and its neighbors on the Yard became the center of student life on campus.[2] It also became known for housing many of the most prominent students within the college's social life, including athletic team captains and managers, Lampoon presidents (including Robert Benchley '12, who spoke at Holworthy's centennial dinner), Advocate presidents, and the leaders of the college's various musical groups.[1][3] By the 1910s, the New York Times reported that Holworthy's "record of men afterward illustrious who have occupied its rooms is probably longer than any similar list possessed by any other college building," making it the "pet" dorm of seniors.[3]

With the other freshman dormitories in the Yard, Holworthy joined the Harvard–Yale sister colleges arrangement in 2005, when Harvard's freshman dormitories — which are not otherwise formally affiliated with Harvard's residential houses — became associated with Harvard houses and their counterparts among Yale University's residential colleges. Holworthy was paired with Hollis Hall to become part of Winthrop House's affiliation with Davenport College at Yale. The arrangement is subject to change.


In 1860, Edward VII of the United Kingdom, then the Prince of Wales, visited Room 12 while on a visit to Harvard. The occupants at the time were Joseph Howe Wales and the geologist Samuel Franklin Emmons, both Class of 1861. The same room was visited by Grand Duke Alexis in 1871; the occupants were James Wade Gaff and Walker Hartwell, both Class of 1875.

Until 1860, Room 24 served as the library of Harvard's chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and also housed the librarian, who kept the chapter's several hundred books in his study closet.[1]

Holworthy is notable for having been the freshman dorm of several writers and producers of the The Simpsons who graduated in the 1980s — Al Jean '81, Bill Oakley '88, Conan O'Brien '85, and Mike Reiss '81. O'Brien referenced his time in Holworthy during his Class Day speech to the Harvard Class of 2000.[4]

Past residents


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Volume 14". Harvard Alumni Association Bulletin, 1911. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  2. ^ a b c "Freshman Dorms: Ivy Hall". Harvard College Freshman Dean's Office. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  3. ^ a b c Back to the Yard' Is the Cry These Days in Harvard"'". The New York Times. 1911-11-05. Retrieved 2010-09-00. 
  4. ^ "Conan O'Brien's Speech to Harvard". You've Got Laughs. Retrieved 2010-09-09. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Dorm History Search". Harvard College Freshman Dean's Office. Retrieved 2010-09-08. 
  6. ^ Barzilay, Julie R. (2010-05-27). "The Conan We Knew". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2010-09-08. 
  7. ^ Guehenno, Claire M. (2006-11-07). "Governor's Mansion Not the Last Stop on Patrick's Path, Classmates Say". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2010-09-08. 

External links

  • Harvard University Office of Residential Life
  • Harvard College Freshman Dean's Office
  • Harvard Freshman Dorms: Ivy Yard

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