Origins of the East Side

I don’t know if people here have already seen this or not, but I found this recently when cleaning out my archives.


When MIT moved to Cambridge, Bosworth was commissioned to draw plans for a dormitory unit of six houses, named Ware, Atkinson, Runkle, Holman, Nichols, and Craft. Built on Memorial Drive in 1916 this dormitory was designed in the classic tradition with Pompeian accents, and the group as a whole exhibited the light and gay elements of a Roman villa. But it was planned, as were all living quarters, for
practical student housing in accordance with the result of a study of dormitories at other colleges. Major contributions to this study were
made by A. Farwell Bemis, ’93, an eminent authority on housing problems and founder of the Bemis Foundation at MIT.

The dormitory group had six stories and a two-story loggia above the main building. From this loggia arches open into rooms described as
‘dens, attractive probably to students in architecture, small in comparison with the other rooms and for the moderate purse.’ The dormitory itself is L-shaped, a plan that allows sunlight to penetrate all sleeping rooms, for in designing this group sun and shadow where studied in relation to room arrangement.

In 1924, the second dormitory, designed by Bosworth as part of a quadrangle, was built north of Walker. While less elaborate than the
first, Bemis dormitory is a plain rectangular building planned to form the central section of the east wing of a quadrangle. Its walls of
cream-colored brick are broken by fluted pilasters and the doorways suggest classic dignity. As considerable study had been made of living requirements for students, the rooms provide maximum comfort and privacy without luxury. Four years later, a unit was connected to
either side of this dormitory — Goodale on the north and Walcott at the south — forming a continuous structure that completed the east
wing. In 1931, the architects, Coolidge and Carlson (Harry J. Carlson ’92) constructed the entire west wing — Wood, Hayden, and Munroe — of the intended quadrangle which still lacks the enclosing north and south units. This wing is almost identical in appearance with the east group of dormitories, except for the central unit which has a parapet along the roof adorned with Grecian urns.