Dining in Place

Following the English tradition, students at Harvard College dined in a common dining hall. The original College Hall, as well as both of the Harvard Halls that replaced it (constructed in 1679 and 1766 respectively), contained a dining hall. Commons moved to the first floor of University Hall after its construction in 1815. By 1849 very few students were dining in commons, and the practice was abandoned.

Dining in commons did not start again until the creation of the Harvard Dining Association in 1874, following the successful experiment of the Thayer Club, an independent and voluntary dining association. The Harvard Dining Association, housed in Memorial Hall, existed until 1925. Until dining halls were opened in the new student houses that were built in the 1930s, the only campus dining option for non-freshmen was the Harvard Union. Regular student dining did not resume in Memorial Hall until 1994, when, after extensive renovations, the dining hall, renamed Annenberg Hall, was opened as the freshman dining hall.


Links in the timeline below direct users to related collections in HOLLIS.

1642: The first College building, Harvard College, which housed the dining hall, kitchen, storerooms, and the buttery, was completed.

1677: Harvard Hall was built on the previous site of Harvard College.

1766: New Harvard Hall completed after Old Harvard Hall was destroyed by fire.

1816: University Hall completed.

1865: Thayer Club established as independent and voluntary dining association.

1874: Harvard Dining Association established in the newly-constructed Memorial Hall.

1889: Foxcroft Club established as a cooperative dining association.

1899: Foxcroft Club moves to the new Randall Hall and becomes the Randall Hall Association, known both as a cheaper alternative to dining at Memorial Hall and for its student waiter system that allowed students to reduce their expenses while attending the University.

1925: Memorial Hall closed as a dining room.

1994: After extensive renovations, Memorial Hall's Annenberg Hall opens to Freshman diners.

Dining Rooms

Dudley House: Dudley House was developed to meet the needs of non-resident students. In later years the building came into use as a graduate student residence and graduate student center, and currently serves both GSAS students and undergraduates.

Records of Dudley House, ca. 1936-2001

Records of Dudley House, 1937-1970 (inclusive)

General information by and about Dudley House

Harkness Commons:

Dining trays used in Harkness Commons, circa 1950

Memorandum regarding the financing and naming of Harkness Commons

Harvard Faculty Club: 

Records of the Harvard University Faculty Club, 1929-

Records of the Faculty Club, 1933-1955 (inclusive)

A proper welcome : a lighthearted history of the Harvard Faculty Club / by June Cuomo (2005)

Harvard Union: At the turn of the twentieth century, Harvard undergraduate social life was ruled by a "club system" that was accused of elitism and exclusionary practices; the Harvard Union was established as an alternative club open to all Harvard students. The Harvard Union is now the Barker Center, where you can still enjoy a bite to eat in the Barker Rotunda.

Records of the Harvard Union, circa 1895-1948

Memorial Hall:

Records of the Harvard Dining Association, 1874-1925 and 1961-1962

Randall Hall Association: Randall Hall, built around 1899, housed a dining hall, which was known for being the cheaper alternative to dining at Memorial Hall.

Records of the Randall Hall Association, 1898-1909

Ferrell, G. P. "Randall Hall." Harvard Illustrated Magazine, Volume 1, No. 2 (November 1899): pp. 45-50