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Adams House Residents Keep Up Cheer, Traditions As Renovations Enter Last Phase

Two construction workers stand beyond a fenced-off portion of Adams House. The renovation of Adams has entered its final scheduled phase with work beginning on Westmorly Court.
Two construction workers stand beyond a fenced-off portion of Adams House. The renovation of Adams has entered its final scheduled phase with work beginning on Westmorly Court. By Sami E. Turner
By Jackson C. Sennott, Crimson Staff Writer

As students gathered to celebrate the 92nd birthday of Adams House last Thursday, one crucial guest was missing — Adams House itself.

With the start of a new phase of construction at Adams in June, residents of the house were not able to access their traditional gathering spot of Westmorly Court, which contains Adams’ dining hall. Instead, the House birthday party was held at The Inn at Harvard, where many Adams residents have been relocated into overflow housing.

The celebration shined a light on the resilience of the Adams spirit despite disruptions to House life caused by the longest of all 12 house renewal projects so far.

“The Adams of old still remains, and the Adams of old is still strong,” said Senior Resident Tutor Santiago Pardo Sánchez ’16, moments after students finished a rendition of “Adams, You’re There,” the House song.

“For our Alma Mater fair, our cheers will fill the air. But the song we sing, with the loudest ring, is Adams, you’re there!” students, faculty, and alumni sang, cheering afterward.

The ongoing construction is part of the third and final phase of the Adams House Renewal Project, contracted by Shawmut Design and Construction, and the most recent development of the broader Undergraduate House Renewal Project of all twelve undergraduate houses, which began in 2012.

These renovations to Adams’ Library Commons and Russell Hall, in addition to Westmorly Court, broke ground this past June following the completion of Randolph Hall and are expected to be complete by the summer of 2025.

Adams House Faculty Dean Salmaan A. Keshavjee — whose tenure began in July 2021, with the House already deep into renovations — has met with the construction team monthly to discuss the project.

He commented on the frustrations of some students with the extended timeline of construction and their displacement to overflow housing at 8 Plympton St. and The Inn at 1201 Massachusetts Ave.

“People miss those special places,” Keshavjee said. “You want to be able to walk wherever you want in your slippers, and obviously you can’t because you gotta go on the street. So I think construction does eat into that.”

Speaking from experience, several students from Adams said the renovations are critical to restore the aging buildings, which have not undergone major construction in more than a century.

“Westmorly was definitely falling apart,” said former Westmorly resident Richard Reid ’23-’24.

Other students echoed concerns of a lack of air conditioning, rat problems, and a lack of accessibility.

The project seeks to correct these concerns by updating infrastructure, providing accessibility through elevators, and building more common spaces, Harvard spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo wrote in an email.

“They’re making it fitting for the 21st century,” Keshavjee said.

Beyond physical displacement from the construction, students said they’re concerned that Adams’ modern makeover could erase its history and character.

The historic features of the buildings — including the gold stair hall, the Franklin D. Roosevelt suite, and the pool theater — are viewed by many residents as essential to the culture of Adams.

“They’re very complex buildings, but they’ve maintained the art, they’ve maintained the finishes,” Keshavjee said.

“The project will take the utmost care to preserve the historically significant spaces and features of Adams House,” Palumbo wrote in an email.

Ultimately, because of Adams’ scattered geography — the House is one of only a few with separate buildings that are divided by a road — many students said Adams is less about the structure of the buildings and more about maintaining their culture.

“Fundamentally, Adams House is a mindset,” said Pardo Sánchez, who lived in Adams as an undergraduate.

“Adams House has always geographically been separated with its different buildings,” he said. “Because of that, culture means so much more in Adams House.”

As a result, while the renovations may have been an uninvited guest to Adams’ birthday celebration, residents did not let it dampen their spirits.

“What drew us here was the culture,” said Ja’Karri Pierre ’25, who transferred to Adams from Kirkland House last year during the ongoing construction.

“The quality is still there, the character is still there,” he added. “Ultimately it’s the people that make the House what it is.”

—Staff writer Jackson C. Sennott can be reached at jackson.sennott@thecrimson.com.

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