Amelia Lamp ’19 studying at the Annenberg dining hall, Harvard University. Photo by Shraddha Gupta

Photos by Shraddha Gupta

Campus & Community

Food for thought

5 min read

More than meals attract students to Harvard’s varied dining halls

The dining halls inside Harvard College’s 12 undergraduate residential Houses not only feed students at mealtimes but also become their comfort spots, places they can call home outside their dorm rooms.

Each dining hall has its own decor and charm. The grandest is Annenberg Hall — not just a treat just for freshmen — with dim lighting that lends an aura of medieval wizardry. There are high wooden walls, an elaborately carved ceiling, golden chandeliers, stained-glass windows, and portraits and statues lining the walls.

Decidedly different is the Kirkland House dining hall, a beautifully lit room full of friendly faces. “Kirkland’s dining hall is the nexus of all that happens in the House,” said Kate Drizos Cavell, the House administrator.

“It’s rare that one single place can be so many things at once for so many people: an office, a study space, a meeting place, a lounge, a dining room, and most of all, a home,” Cavell said.

The dining hall of Mather House is one of the most modern-looking, with brick walls and tall glass windows that look out on the Charles River.

Jing Qiu ’16 said, “You can see the sunset from the glass wall, and when it’s the Regatta on the Charles, most of us just sit and watch it from here in our pajamas.”

In the spring, Lowell House’s dining hall overlooks blooming flowers and trees leafing out.

“Our dining hall is the emotional and architectural heart of the House community,” said Elizabeth G. Terry, the House administrator. “Whether taking a seat at the traditional high table, watching the annual opera production, working out a P-set late into the night, or having supper with friends, its neoclassical beauty is exceeded only by its consummate utility.”

Adams House also has plenty of architectural history and cultural relevance to its community. With its bountiful light and lovely flooring, the dining hall is a striking combination of structure and function.

“It seems amazing to us now that they didn’t allow cellphones in here when they first came out, and people didn’t sit around much. It was a communal place where people could eat and meet,” said John G. “Sean” Palfrey ’67, a faculty dean of Adams House.

“But it has changed drastically in color and character over the years, and people are in here now more often, all the way through the night until the morning, and then the morning people come in.”

A morning inside the Lowell House dining hall, with the House opera set in the background.
Gabrielle Sejourne ’18 can often be found studying in the Adams House dining hall. “I like the fact that I can get my work done because it’s not too loud in here, but it’s not as suffocating as the library could be,” said Sejourne.
A look inside the Kirkland House dining hall on a sunny morning.
Roman Berens ’16 says he spends more time studying in the Lowell House dining hall than anyone else in the house. “I have been here since 10 last night and it’s time for breakfast now. I just love being here more than my room,” says Berens.
Annenberg Hall is utilized by Harvard College freshman for dining. Named in memory of Roger Annenberg ’62 and inspired by the great halls of Oxford and Cambridge, the hall covers an expansive 9,000 square feet.
Hanaa Masalmeh ’18 often reads inside the Mather House dining hall in the morning. “The dining hall is super-active on Friday morning because a lot of people don’t have classes on Friday mornings and they all come to the dining room to study,” she said.
The stained-glass windows in Annenberg Hall are an important element of its decor. They comprise a veritable museum of American stained glass, representing a variety of designers, manufacturers, and techniques.
A peek into the self-serve area of the Adams House dining hall.
Amelia Lamp ’19 studying in Annenberg Hall.
Boasting beautiful light, the Adams House dining hall is an elegant combination of structure and function. The walls are adorned with portraits, including Henry Hubbell’s rendition of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who resided in Adams House from 1900–1904.
A blooming spring morning outside the Kirkland House dining hall.
Philipp Nowak ’18 studies in the Lowell House dining hall after breakfast. He loves the yellow walls of the dining room. “I like the color,” he said. “It’s friendly!”
A glimpse inside the Kirkland House dining hall reveals a portrait of John Thornton Kirkland, the 15th president of Harvard University.
Jing Qiu ’16, who often studies in the Mather House dining hall, said, “I love being here. You can see the sunset from the glass wall, and when it’s the Regatta on the Charles, most of us just sit and watch it from here in our pajamas.”
Niya Avery ’17 on a rainy day at the Mather House dining hall. “I don’t like libraries that much and this is usually one of the brightest halls on the campus, so I love it,” said Avery.
The Adams House dining hall has several adjoining rooms that are also used as dining, socializing, and study spaces. The decor of this room includes a glass ceiling and glass doors that filter in natural light.
Cassandra Robertson is a tutor in Lowell House, and often eats at the dining hall with her dog, Stella.