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Residents Adjust to Swing Housing, Winthrop Renewal

Construction work on Winthrop House - including the renovation of the existing halls and the addition of Beren Hall - began during the Summer.
Construction work on Winthrop House - including the renovation of the existing halls and the addition of Beren Hall - began during the Summer. By Jiwon Joung
By Graham W. Bishai and Brandon J. Dixon, Crimson Staff Writers

Winthrop House residents have spread out to swing housing across Harvard Square this semester as House renewal resumes in earnest after a yearlong hiatus.

The construction on Winthrop, which began in late May as part of a more than $1 billion project to renovate Harvard's upperclassman Houses, is “moving along as planned” according to Stephen Needham, Harvard’s senior director of project management. The renovations will expand existing living spaces in the House, create new common areas, and erect Beren Hall, a new building that will extend Gore Hall to the corner of Mill and Plympton Streets. Beren Hall will open following the August 2017 completion of the rest of the House.

Construction work on Winthrop House - including the renovation of the existing halls and the addition of Beren Hall - began during the Summer.
Construction work on Winthrop House - including the renovation of the existing halls and the addition of Beren Hall - began during the Summer. By Jiwon Joung

In the interim, students are residing in swing housing. The bulk of sophomores are staying in the Harvard Inn (now called the Harvard “Winn”) and upperclassmen are dispersed among apartment-style buildings in the Square.

Winthrop Faculty Deans Stephanie Robinson and Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. said students are satisfied with the swing space.

“We are very pleased, and students seem to be really happy at least so far with swing,” Robinson said. “Our sophomores are just like, ‘I never want to leave this place.’”

Katie B. Kohn, a resident tutor in Winthrop, said, “Thropians really love not having pests, at least in the Prescott building, the rooms are clean and clear. I’ve heard horror stories already from Eliot students, I guess the cockroaches in Winthrop moved there.”

Ketura Webb ’19 said she appreciates her air-conditioned dorm and the Inn’s spacious dining hall.

Though residents are overall happy with swing space, some worry the scattered locations—over six different locations, according to Robinson—will diminish house community.

“I think it’s an anticipation that everyone has had because it’s part of the unique nature of a residential college,” Robinson said. “We all are planning to do what we can to enhance the opportunity for all of the House members to come together.”

Manizha Kholmatov ’17 said that while she is glad to have the larger apartment-style space, especially as a senior who is preparing to transition into independent adult life, she does feel the absence of having the dining hall physically located right in her House.

“It feels much more separate,” Kholmatov said. “The last couple years I was in Winthrop, the dining hall was kind of a central hub for students, where people would meet up and see each other, do work, and socialize. And although that may still be the case for those in the Inn, it does feel different not having that right there.”

Robinson said she and Sullivan have “charged” students with thinking of ways to fortify House community over the course of the next year. Already, Winthrop has thrown a “block party” for residents with carnival-style games and Boston-themed with food like “Fenway dogs.”

Matthew D. Disorbo ’17, one of Winthrop’s House Committee co-chairs, wrote in an email that the College is “very interested in supporting Winthrop during swing housing.”

“We are confident the proudest House at Harvard will flourish in swing,” he wrote.

As of March, the years-long House renewal project, a touted priority in Harvard's record-breaking capital campaign, had raised $230 million—or a little more than half of its overall goal.

—Staff writer Graham W. Bishai can be reached at graham.bishai@thecrimson.com.

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