From HODP Wiki
House Dunster
Neighborhood River East
Address 945 Memorial Drive
Residential Buildings Dunster proper
Faculty Dean(s) Sean Kelly, Cheryl Chen
Resident Dean(s) Michael Uy
House Administrator Rachel Barbarisi

Dunster House is one of the twelve undergraduate residential Houses at Harvard University. Many credible sources say that Dunster House is the greatest of them all (not least of which is the tourists' cameras, which have given rise to Dunster's title as "the most photographed building at Harvard"). By some chiasmatic twist of fate, the #1 House is fittingly named after president #1 of Harvard University, Henry Dunster.



Dunster House boasts a hand-washing station comprised of two hand-washers and over six different selections of scented soaps. These stations were installed during the summer of 2019, and the remarkable foresight of house administration made Dunster the last house to have cases of COVID-19 (the only competition the house has ever lost).


Dunster has the most beautiful library on campus. With its walls of books, fireplace, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the courtyard and the Charles River, it is sometimes hard to concentrate due to the obscene views. The library also hosts several concerts every year, and it has two pianos, a harpsichord, an organ, and a harp.

Dunster House, courtesy of The Crimson

Health and Fitness

The Lower Level (LL) has a gym with rows of treadmills, bicycles, weights, and more. In the same area is a squash court that doubles as a mini-basketball court. Above the squash court is a ping pong table, newly installed in 2020 by HoCo Chair Dylan Zhou during his first term in office. All equipment, including squash racquets, squash balls, basketballs, ping pong paddles, and ping pong balls are provided.

Art and Music

Dunster's art room has everything an artist could want: canvases, paint, paintbrushes, a paintbrush-washing station, etc. Students can stop by anytime to work on personal or course-related projects.

In the same hallway, there is a row of 5 soundproof practice rooms, three of which are equipped with pianos, and one of which has a Steinway, brand new in 2019. Many chamber groups choose to practice in these rooms because they are simply outstanding. Aside from the Library Concerts, Dunster also hosts a Messiah Sing around Christmastime, calling upon all student musicians to join the orchestra and inviting neighbors of Dunster to lend their voices in the holiday season.


Dunster is the proud home of the best grille. Typically open from 9pm to midnight, the best grille serves everything from mozzarella sticks to bacon cheeseburgers to fried Oreos to milkshakes.


If Helen of Troy were a dining hall, she would be Dunster's dining hall. With its wooden furnishings, its sparkling chandeliers, its grand fireplace and mantle, its Corinthian pilasters, and its floor-to-ceiling windows, the dining hall rivals the beauty of the Library. Like the Library, the dining hall has a great view as it overlooks the Charles River and the Weeks Bridge. Furthermore, the servery is extremely spacious and clean thanks to the hand-washing station. The food is excellent, and the squash in particular is very good. Dunster is an peanut-free dining hall, so people with peanut allergies can dine as liberally as they please, without fear of being hospitalized. The dining hall also has extra late hours, closing at 8:00pm rather than 7:15pm, allowing for an extra 45 minutes of enjoying the great views and feasting on peanut-free squash dishes.


Some people who think they are funny call Dunster the "quad of the river." But the real quads of the river are the ones Dunster residents develop due to it being an absolute HIKE to classes. Less physically inclined Dunster residents may find solace in the proximity of the Mather shuttle stop, which is three feet outside Dunster's main entrance.


Washing machines, trash, and mailrooms are on LL. The laundry machines are not the best but that's more than compensated for by the incredible Faculty Deans Sean and Cheryl and our Resident Dean Michael.

Dunster has a bike shop on LL, for repairing bicycles.

There is also a classroom with an entire wall of glass whose opacity can be adjusted. Very cool tech!

For an idea of how gorgeous Dunster is, check out the 2017 La La Land Housing Video!


Dunster is split into two wings, East and West, although it is one connected building. Some students also live in DeWolfe swing housing. Sophomores generally live in doubles or quads, while upperclassmen have a wider selection of living layouts, from singles to 8-person rooms.


Built in 1930, Dunster was one of the first two dormitories at Harvard University constructed under President Abbott Lawrence Lowell's House Plan and one of the seven Houses given to Harvard by Edward Harkness.

The tower of Dunster House is inspired by, but somewhat smaller than, the famous Tom Tower of Christ Church, Oxford. Above the east wing is the Dunster family coat of arms, and above the west wing is the coat of arms of Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Henry Dunster matriculated in 1627. Magdalene College commemorated the relationship between the two universities by sending medieval tracery stones from the First Court of Magdalene; these are now set in the wall near the doors to J-entry of Dunster House.

Dunster is located on the banks of the Charles River next to the John W. Weeks Footbridge, which links Harvard's Allston and Cambridge campuses. From above, its architectural shape, unique among the River Houses, resembles a branching flowchart due to the odd trapezoidal footprint of the land on which it was built. As a result, Dunster residents tend to do especially well in classes like CS 124, because while exploring the halls, they become well-acquainted with the concepts of "depth-first search" and "breadth-first search."

Dunster underwent a "full House renewal," a comprehensive renovation that was completed in 2016. Dunster House was the first of Harvard's residential houses to undergo such a full renewal, once again emerging as #1.

Dunster's mascot is the moose, inspired by the three golden elk on the Dunster family crest.

Notable Alumni

  • Al Gore, American politician and environmentalist, 45th Vice President of the United States
  • Tommy Lee Jones, American actor, director, producer and screenwriter, Al Gore's roommate
  • Al Franken, American comedian, politician, media personality, and author, served as United States senator from Minnesota from 2009 to 2018
  • Deval Patrick, 71st governor of Massachusetts
  • Lisa Randall, American theoretical physicist, Harvard professor