Leverett House is the largest (by number of students) of twelve residence houses for upperclass undergraduates (who have already completed their first year) at Harvard University. It is situated along the north bank of the Charles River in Cambridge and consists of McKinlock Hall, constructed in 1925, and two 12-story towers built in the 1960s.
The bulk of McKinlock Hall consists of 5 entryways, each of which leads to four or five floors of suites for approximately 25 students. McKinlock also serves as the center of Leverett social life: it houses the Leverett Dining Hall, the Junior and Senior Common Rooms, the Old Library Theatre, the Master's Residence, and several other common spaces.
The Leverett Towers (commonly referred to as F- and G-Tower since the entryways in McKinlock span A-E), on the other hand, serve a primarily residential function. Each tower consists primarily of singles and doubles and holds approximately 150 students. The top floors of the towers - especially those facing south - boast outstanding views of the Boston skyline and the Charles River for the students lucky enough to live there. The ground floor of G-Tower features a common area that house residents have nicknamed the "G-spot," although the space goes largely unused due to its poor design. The ground floor of F-tower includes class and meeting spaces as well as several house offices. Between the towers and McKinlock sits the Leverett Library, which was constructed along with the towers and has won awards for its innovative design. The ground floor of the library building houses the superintendent's office.
Leverett House was named after John Leverett (whose grandfather, John Leverett had been the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony), who was President of Harvard from 1708 to 1724. Leverett's election was one of the significant turning points for Harvard, for every President before him had been a clergyman. Leverett was a leader of the liberal movement in the Congregational Church and he opposed the powerful clergymen Increase and Cotton Mather, who had attempted to impose upon the College a new charter containing a loyalty oath that would have refused appointment to the faculty of anyone not willing to acknowledge the primacy of Biblical scripture. Leverett, during his tenure as president, improved the quality of instruction in the College and maintained the position of Harvard in the critical years when Yale was becoming a formidable rival.
In the mid-1920s, Harvard constructed student residences on the banks of the recently dammed Charles River, residences initially occupied by freshmen. McKinlock Hall, built in 1925, was one of those original buildings. The building was donated by the family of Lieut. George Alexander McKinlock Jr., a Harvard graduate who was killed by a German machine gun near Soissons in 1918. With the formation of Leverett House in 1930-31, Mather Hall, across Mill Street, was built along with the present dining hall and Master's residence. Six squash courts were also constructed, adjacent to Mather Hall. Leverett remained in that configuration until the early 1960s when the College expanded and new Houses were added. Mather Hall became a part of Quincy House, the squash courts were lost, and the Leverett Towers were built. The Saltonstall family gave money for a new library in honor of the ten generations of Saltonstalls who had attended Harvard, and the House offices moved to the first floor of F tower. In 1983, McKinlock was renovated, and at that time a new entrance to the dining hall was constructed.
The first Master of the House was Kenneth Murdoch, Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The second Master was Leigh Hoadley, a biologist interested in the development of animals. The third Master was John Conway, an historian and bachelor for most of his tenure at the House. He married his wife Jill in Leverett House in the early 60s, and later they were at Smith College where she served as President. Richard Gill, an economist, was the fourth Master. Master Gill was a wonderful bass and sang each year in the Leverett House Opera—a fixture in the House. While Master he auditioned for the New York City Opera and was offered a contract. He accepted and left Harvard, economics, and Leverett to begin a new career, first with the New York City Opera, and later with the Metropolitan Opera.
The fifth Master, Kenneth Andrews, was appointed in 1971. During his tenure the Houses became coeducational and Leverett had for the first time a Co-Master, Carolyn Andrews. Ken Andrews was a professor at the Business School (the first Business School faculty member to be appointed Master), and during Harvard's 350th anniversary celebration, was one of the 20 individuals receiving Harvard Medals for distinguished service to the University. His citation read: "He understands, as Mark Twain never did, how business works best; his writings elucidate the complex subject to the benefit of his Harvard colleagues and of managers everywhere." Renowned biologist John Dowling and his wife Judith were appointed as the sixth Masters of Leverett House in 1981. Finally, in 1998, Howard Georgi and his wife Ann, were appointed as the seventh Masters. Howard and Ann, more commonly known as Chief and Coach respectively, are beloved for their house pride (Chief is rarely seen without a Leverett House tee shirt on), their three dogs, and their "monkeybread", a delicious cinnamon-flavored treat that is extraordinarily popular among Leverett students.
Notable alumni of Leverett House include Timothy Crouse, Al Jean, Anthony Lake, Steven Levitt, Mike Reiss, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Sydney Schanberg, Pete Seeger, Laurence Tribe, John Weidman, and Cornel West. Yo-Yo Ma was a music tutor for the house. Archibald MacLeish, Perry Miller, and Lillian Hellman lived on the top of F-Tower; ominously, both Dashiell Hammett and Italo Calvino died immediately after contracting to live there.
The House Shield is a derivative of the ancient Leverett family crest depicting three hares rampant with an inverted chevron. The family name is derived from the word "leveret" (with one "t") which means young hare; family tradition has it that the earliest recorded family members were keepers of ferrets in the royal household (the ferrets were trained to chase rabbits from their burrows). The official house colors are black and yellow, appearing on the earliest House paraphernalia that can be found. However, the combinations of black and red as well as green and yellow are often used. Annual t-shirt designs usually feature some combination of those four colors. Leverett House has a sister house at Yale, Timothy Dwight College.