Campus & Community

Adams House renewal moves forward

Claverly Hall exterior.

Photo by David H. Armitage

4 min read

Claverly Hall complete; Apthorp scheduled to finish this summer

Claverly Hall, the first part of the Adams House renovation, is complete, with Apthorp House soon to be finished as well.

COVID-19 disrupted Undergraduate House Renewal for five months in 2020, but work resumed last August on the first of the three phases of the Adams House project. The residential Claverly had not been significantly updated since it was built in 1893. Along with the 120 beds, all en suite, it now has multipurpose common spaces (including one that was previously a small pool) that can be used for academic or social purposes and semi-private study nooks.

“This historic building has been made 100 percent accessible for visitors, and 5 percent of the suites are accessible for student living. The architects created more horizontal hallways to add more emergency egress, while also giving students more opportunity to cross paths, to meet more people in the hallways,” said Stephen Needham, executive director of the Undergraduate House Renewal Program. “But for all of the updates, the character of the House has not changed. When you walk in, you really get the sense you are in historic Claverly. It hasn’t lost any of the character.”

Claverly Hall stairs.
Claverly Hall main stairs.

“When you walk in, you really get the sense you are in historic Claverly. It hasn’t lost any of the character,” said Stephen Needham, executive director of the Undergraduate House Renewal Program.

Photos by Michael Leyne and David H. Armitage

The completion of Apthorp is scheduled for July, when construction on Randolph Hall will begin. Because it is comprised of four separate buildings, even before the pandemic paused work Adams House was the most complex renewal project to date. Randolph is expected to be completed in early 2023, followed by work on Russell and Westmorely halls.

Faculty Deans Judy and Sean Palfrey, who are set to retire this summer after 22 years of overseeing residential life in Adams House, are thrilled to be able to see the redesigned Claverly to completion.

“Adams is the crown jewel of the housing system and we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose the joy and diversity that it had and that everybody loves during renovation. We are fully confident that not only has that happened in Claverly, but is soon to happen in Randolph, Russell, and Westmorely,” said Sean Palfrey. “We just took two of our House committee members through and we thoroughly enjoyed the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’ It’s extraordinary. Even at Harvard standards, it’s extraordinary.”

Claverly Hall aerial.

An aerial view of Adams House on Plympton Street in Cambridge.

Photo by Peter Vanderwarker

Claverly Hall student suite.

A fireplace in a student suite and the expansive hallways have been updated but maintain the historic character of Claverly Hall, which had not been significant changes since it was built in 1893.

Photos by Michael Leyne and Lisa Giovanetti

Palfrey shared a sampling of the updates: brighter, more magnificent corridors; the stunning main staircase; enhanced skylights; refinished mantlepieces and wood paneling; state-of-the-art elevators. Even the poem that was painted on the walls between floors in the old elevator shaft has been placed behind the main staircase.

“At last people will see what we’ve been working on all these years. They have not removed any of the quirkiness (though I did want them to put the old elevator, which was the size of a birdcage, in the basement so people could visit it),” Palfrey said. “There has always been competition for certain of the best suites in Adams, but now I think the competition will shift. People will hopefully argue over every room in Adams House when we’re done.”

Claverly will be ready for occupancy this summer, but students’ return will depend on fall planning in the College. Needham said the House is on track to become LEED Gold certified. And while some details, such as the MERV 15 filters retrofitted to the new ventilation system and the bath-within-suite concept, were designed pre-pandemic, their value is even more important as the virus continues to inform residential living.

“Restarting the project under new rules in the pandemic, with the limits on numbers of workers and social distancing on site, it was a totally new world,” he said. “Just to be here in March with Claverly done, I have to give our team, including the hundreds of construction workers, a lot of credit.”