Holworthy Hall is one of the dormitories housing first-year students at Harvard College. Housing 85 students, it is located in Harvard Yard and borders Kirkland Street. It is the closest dorm to the Harvard Science Center and the second-closest dormitory to Memorial Hall, which houses the freshman dining hall, Annenberg. Throughout its first century of existence, it was considered the finest dormitory on Harvard Yard and the most desirable in terms of the physical accommodations it offered.
Holworthy's floorplan is unique among Harvard dormitories. On each floor of three entryways — Holworthy East, Middle and West — there are two suites connected by a 10-foot-long hallway and a shared bathroom. Each suite features a large common room, with two double bedrooms. While some residents choose to close the hallway doors, many leave the bathroom hallway open, creating an eight person "mega-suite," unmatched by other freshman housing. Each bathroom contains two sinks, two toilets, and two showers. The bathroom itself has no windows, but the lighting is bright.
Holworthy was founded in 1812 in honor of a wealthy English merchant, Sir Matthew Holworthy, who died in 1678 having bequeathed £1,000 to Harvard — then the largest donation in the college's history — "for the promotion of learning and the promulgation of the Gospel" in Cambridge. When it opened on August 18, 1812, then-President John Thornton Kirkland of Harvard referred to it as "Holworthy College." It did not have indoor plumbing; for almost a century, students had to go outside to use the college's pump. Rent was $26 per year.
The dorm was originally used for all classes, as evidenced by famous residents like Thomas Bulfinch and Horatio Alger being housed in it multiple times, but was predominantly used for housing seniors during its early existence. By the turn of the 20th century, the senior classes expressed a desire to formally make the oldest Yard buildings — first Holworthy, then Hollis and Stoughton — their own and petitioned the college administration to make Holworthy a senior-only dormitory. By the hundredth anniversary of the dorm in 1912, about 1,300 men had lived in Holworthy.
By 1904, Holworthy was fully a senior dorm. Although it was not considered as fashionable as some of the newer dorms, Holworthy and its neighbors on the Yard became the center of student life on campus. It also became known for housing many of the most prominent students within the college's social life, including athletic team captains and managers, Lampoon presidents (including Robert Benchley '12, who spoke at Holworthy's centennial dinner), Advocate presidents, and the leaders of the college's various musical groups. By the 1910s, the New York Times reported that Holworthy's "record of men afterward illustrious who have occupied its rooms is probably longer than any similar list possessed by any other college building," making it the "pet" dorm of seniors.
Due to its becoming a freshman dorm, Holworthy was not part of the Harvard–Yale sister colleges arrangement until 2005, when additional affiliations between Harvard's freshman dormitories — which are not otherwise formally affiliated with Harvard's residential houses — and Yale University's residential colleges were established. Holworthy was joined with Hollis Hall to become part of Winthrop House's pairing with Davenport College at Yale. The arrangement is not considered permanent and may be changed in the future.
In 1860, Edward VII of the United Kingdom, then the Prince of Wales, visited Room 12 while on a visit to Harvard. The occupants at the time were Joseph Howe Wales and the geologist Samuel Franklin Emmons, both Class of 1861. The same room was visited by Grand Duke Alexis in 1871; the occupants were James Wade Gaff and Walker Hartwell, both Class of 1875.
Holworthy is notable for having been the freshman dorm of several writers and producers of the The Simpsons who graduated in the 1980s — Al Jean '81, Bill Oakley '88, Conan O'Brien '85, and Mike Reiss '81. O'Brien referenced his time in Holworthy during his Class Day speech to the Harvard Class of 2000.
- Henry Adams, journalist and novelist, Room 05
- James Barr Ames, former Harvard Law School dean, Rooms 14 and 20
- Horatio Alger, novelist, Rooms 07, 18, and 24
- George Bancroft, statesman and historian, Room 24
- Robert Benchley, humorist and actor, Room 23
- Thomas Bulfinch, writer and mythographer, Rooms 09 and 16
- Joseph Hodges Choate, lawyer and diplomat, Room 21
- William Gardner Choate, judge and Choate School founder, Room 21
- Adam Clymer, journalist, Room 18
- Richard Henry Dana, Jr., lawyer and politician, Room 13
- Charles William Eliot, former Harvard president, Room 11
- Robert Grant, novelist, Room 9
- Christian Herter, politician, Room 15
- David Halberstam, journalist, Room 19
- Steve Hely, television writer, Room 21
- Al Jean, television writer and producer, Room 17
- Samuel Longfellow, clergyman, Room 14
- Percival Lowell, astronomer and businessman, Room 21
- Edward S. Martin, Lampoon co-founder and Life founder, Room 4
- James Murdoch, media executive, Room 07
- B. J. Novak, actor and television writer, Room 10
- Bill Oakley, television writer and producer, Room 15
- Conan O'Brien, talk show host and comedy writer, Room 16
- Deval Patrick, politician
- Wendell Phillips, abolitionist and orator, Room 24
- Josiah Quincy, Jr., politician, Room 7
- Mike Reiss, television writer and producer, Room 20
- William E. Russell, politician, Room 7
- Steven V. Roberts, journalist, Room 14
- Charles Sumner, politician, Room 23
- Pablo S. Torre, sportswriter, Room 18
- Luis Ubiñas, Ford Foundation president, Room 16
- Cornel West, philosopher and activist, Room 08
- Robert Wrenn, Hall of Fame tennis player, Room 3
- Jeffrey Zucker, media executive, Room 07
- "Harvard Alumni Bulletin, Volume 14". Harvard Alumni Association Bulletin, 1911. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
- "Freshman Dorms: Ivy Hall". Harvard College Freshman Dean's Office. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
- "'Back to the Yard' Is the Cry These Days in Harvard". The New York Times. 1911-11-05. Retrieved 2010-09-00.
- "Conan O'Brien's Speech to Harvard". You've Got Laughs. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
- "Dorm History Search". Harvard College Freshman Dean's Office. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
- Barzilay, Julie R. (2010-05-27). "The Conan We Knew". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
- Guehenno, Claire M. (2006-11-07). "Governor's Mansion Not the Last Stop on Patrick's Path, Classmates Say". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
- Le, Van (2006-12-06). "Mower, you say? Sorry, we don't serve that here". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
- Harvard University Office of Residential Life
- Harvard College Freshman Dean's Office
- Harvard Freshman Dorms: Ivy Yard