Old Quincy Tests Windows, Prepares for House Renewal

Kathryn H Kelley

New windows located between A and B Entries were installed in Old Quincy over the summer in order to determine which will ultimately be used during House Renewal renovations.

Over the summer, contractors installed seven new windows—each with different designs, costs, and mechanisms—in Old Quincy in preparation for the mass renovation of the building scheduled to begin in June 2012 as part of the House renewal process.

Contractors will use feedback from students and administrators to determine which windows will be installed in renovated Old Quincy.

According to Stephen L. Needham, the Old Quincy project’s program manager, the final decision on which window to use will be made with an eye towards each design’s energy efficiency, durability, and cost—three principles that administrators have said will inevitably guide construction decisions throughout the entire House renewal project.

“Old Quincy gives us an opportunity to test even things like windows, which allows us to see how they perform and how they stand up,” Needham said.

While Old Quincy has only 300 windows, the River Houses boast a total of 8,000 windows that might need to be replaced by the end of House renewal.


Most windows in Old Quincy have not been replaced since the building was constructed over 80 years ago.

According to Needham, contractors also tested the durability of the plaster and the wood over the summer.

Over the past summer, administrators bought new desks, beds, and dressers for several rooms in Old Quincy—prototypes of what will potentially furnish student rooms in the renovated building.

Quincy House Master Lee Gehrke described the beds as “adjustable,” allowing students to change the space between the bed-frame and the floor to allow for additional storage space.

Gehrke said administrators are also soliciting student opinions on the new furniture. Those comments, as well as feedback regarding the windows, will influence the final design decisions for Old Quincy.

Susie E. Double ’14, whose room has one of the new windows, described the mock-ups as “not very different” from the old windows.

“If anything, they’re aesthetically prettier,” Double said. “And they’re definitely easier to open and close.”

Because contractors are forbidden from changing the exterior of the Harvard Houses due to rules laid out by the Cambridge Historical Commission, the windows must be visually identical to those currently installed in Old Quincy.

Even so, the difference between the old and new windows is noticeable—while the green paint is chipping from the frames of the old windows, the newly installed prototypes shine with a fresh coat of paint.

The renovation of Old Quincy is the first step in Harvard’s ambitious House renewal process that aims to dramatically overhaul the internal structure of Harvard’s 12 residential Houses.

Administrators intend for Old Quincy to serve as a “test project” for future renovations.

Because Quincy contains two buildings, the neo-Georgian Old Quincy and the more modern New Quincy, planners will be able to test their renewal designs while impacting about 180 House residents.

The timeline for the remainder of the House Renewal project has not yet been determined.

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at


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