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Initial Planning Underway for Eliot House Renovations

Initial planning for the renovation of Eliot House as part of Harvard's House Renewal project began in January.
Initial planning for the renovation of Eliot House as part of Harvard's House Renewal project began in January. By Sarah G. Erickson
By Danielle J. Im and Jackson C. Sennott, Crimson Staff Writers

Initial planning for a renovation of Eliot House as part of Harvard’s House Renewal project began in January, according to a Saturday statement from Harvard spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo.

House Renewal, a project to renovate all 12 of the College’s undergraduate houses, is “one of the largest and most ambitious capital improvement campaigns in Harvard College history,” according to the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication.

The Eliot project will follow the ongoing renovation of Adams House, which has been plagued by delays and a ballooning budget because of setbacks related to Covid-19.

“The project is currently on schedule for the broader house renewal timeline,” Palumbo wrote.

Leading the designs is architecture firm Kieran Timberlake, which also partnered with the University for renewals of Quincy House’s Stone Hall, Leverett House’s McKinlock Hall, Dunster House, and Lowell House.

The renovations of Eliot House will include “the full replacement of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; upgrades to the building envelope including insulation; new doors and windows,” Palumbo wrote.

The renewal will also include “interior reconfiguration to address accessibility, code, and privacy issues,” he added. Eliot House, which opened in 1931 and is five stories tall, does not currently have an elevator.

Palumbo also wrote that a “preservation survey” of each House was conducted during the early planning phase of the renewal project to identify “significant interior spaces and elements that should be preserved.”

The renewal will “take the utmost care to preserve the historically significant spaces and features of Eliot,” he added.

Situated on the banks of the Charles River at the corner of Memorial Drive and John F. Kennedy Street, Eliot House was first commissioned in 1931 by University President Abbot Lawrence Lowell, class of 1877, and was designed by Boston architectural firm Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbot.

Eliot House Faculty Deans Stephanie A. Paulsell and Kevin J. Madigan — who are stepping down from their roles at the end of the academic year — wrote in a statement to The Crimson that house affiliates are “looking forward” to the project.

“The Eliot community is looking forward to working with the architects and the university to renew the house for future generations of Eliotites while retaining the architectural features and character that play such a crucial role in shaping and sustaining Eliot's close community,” they wrote.

According to Palumbo, the University “will follow a process consistent with previous House Renewal projects” to temporarily relocate some of Eliot’s more than 400 residents who will be displaced by the renovation.

“Student feedback is collected and incorporated into planning, an approach that will be maintained with Eliot House,” Palumbo added.

In a December interview, incoming Eliot House Faculty Dean David F. Elmer ’98 said he and Bonnie Talbert will have “one year to get to know the community in Eliot House itself, before we all move to the swing housing, over at the Inn at Harvard.”

The Inn currently serves as overflow housing for Adams House residents displaced by ongoing renovations.

—Staff Writer Danielle J. Im can be reached at

—Staff writer Jackson C. Sennott can be reached at

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