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McCormick Hall

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McCormick Hall
Address: 320 Memorial Drive
Building # W4
Occupancy: 237
Room Types: singles, doubles, triples
Dining: Dining plan required; kitchens on halls
Housemasters: Charles Stewart and Kathryn Hes
Opened: 1963 (W Tower), 1967 (E Tower)
Housing info:



In 1959, Katharine Dexter McCormick 1904 donated $1.5 million to build a women's dormitory. McCormick Hall is named in honor of Stanley A. McCormick, Katharine's late husband.

At its founding, MIT followed the tradition of most European universities in providing no housing to its students. Thus, a strong tradition of fraternities and rooming houses grew up around the Institute in its earliest days. When Katharine Dexter McCormick attended MIT around the turn of the twentieth century, she lived at home and commuted to classes each day. Once MIT made the move from Boston to Cambridge and began to develop in the Anglo-American residential mode, the issue of where to house the small population of undergraduate women became more pressing.

The first women's dormitory, located at 120 Bay State Road, Boston, was opened in 1945 and housed 19 women students. This new dormitory was due to the efforts of President's Karl Taylor Compton's wife, Margaret Compton. Katharine McCormick provided a "taxi fund" for students to get across the river in any weather.

The enrollment of women at MIT did not significantly grow, however, until women's housing was constructed in larger numbers with McCormick's opening in 1962. McCormick at its opening housed 225 women—multiplying by more than a factor of 10 the number of women's beds on campus.

The construction of McCormick Hall came amid a major effort supported at the highest level of the MIT administration to strengthen and enhance the role of women in science and engineering, not only at MIT, but throughout the world. McCormick's construction and dedication were noted in the local and national press as an indicator of MIT's seriousness in this undertaking. Coinciding with the opening of McCormick Hall, MIT hosted a national conference on the role of women in American science which was organized by many of the residents of the new dormitory.


McCormick Hall is noted for the graciousness of its common spaces. First floor facilities include two large living rooms, 4 "date rooms," a dance studio, the dining hall, and the private dining room. Study facilities are available in three seminar rooms and in study carrels in the West Tower Penthouse. Both the East Tower and West Tower Penthouses offer places for students to socialize, watch television, or catch a spectacular view of the Charles River basin and Boston across the river. The East Tower is also home to an exercise room, dark room, sewing room, music room, and "kitchen in the clouds."

The Two Towers and the Annex

Although McCormick accomodates all four years of MIT undergraduate women, the East and West Towers have slightly different mixes of years and atmospheres. The residential rooms in the West tower are a mix of singles and doubles. The West Tower residential floor plan is like most traditional dormitory hallways, built in a ring, with communal bathrooms and a kitchen. In the West Tower, freshmen live either in doubles or triples; juniors, seniors and a small number of sophomores live in the singles. The East Tower consists entirely of single rooms, organized around suites, two to a floor. Residents in the East Tower are primarily freshmen, sophomores and a few juniors. Rooms in both towers are spacious, and are also noted for the mahogany furniture integrated into each room's construction.

The Annex is a converted 19th century two-family brownstone that houses a mix of singles, doubles, and triples. Approximately 25 undergraduate women live in the smaller-scaled, homier environment of the Annex. The Annex is a tight-knit community, with one GRT for all 25 residents; weekly House MD study breaks and hot drink study breaks characterize the kinds of group activities that Annex members participate in.


McCormick has many kitchens for use of the residents. In the East Tower, there are 2 kitchens per floor; in the West Tower, there is 1 kitchen per floor. The Annex has a kitchen on the first floor.

The kitchens have stoves, sinks, cabinets, and refrigerators sufficient to accommodate the residents on that floor or suite. All West Tower kitchens have TVs bought from the floor fund. Usually, there are also communal toasters, toaster ovens and various other kitchen supplies. The amount of cupboard space varies depending on the floor. Students are responsible for bringing all cooking and eating implements, and they are responsible for keeping the kitchens clean. Cleaning staff will mop the floor and wipe the counters every so often.

There is also a "country kitchen" located next the annex. The Country Kitchen is a large eating area equipped with a fridge, sink, stove, oven, large countertops and cabinets. Many student organization store groceries here for events that they host in the country kitchen. For example, The Association of Tiawanese Students holds there weekly Xi-Fan (chinese brunch) Sundays in the Country Kitchen.

Dining Hall

McCormick Dining is located on the first floor of the West Tower. McCormick is a member of the House Dining program; all residents are required to purchase the dining plan. McCormick Dining is open weekdays for breakfast from 8am-10am, and seven days a week for dinner from 5pm-8pm. On weekends, McCormick Dining is open for brunch from 10am-1pm.

Also in on the first floor of the West Tower is the Private Dining Room. It contains a long dining table and is used for medium sized dining events or meetings.

Exercise Room & Gym

The Exercise Room is located in the East Penthouse, overlooking the western parts of campus. It is equipped with one bike, a treadmill, an elliptical, a rowing machine, weights, yoga video, yoga ball and mat.

The Gym is a beautiful room which is best used as a dance room (renovated in 2005). It features skylights, a hardwood floor, floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall, and a barre on the other three. MIT Bhangra and Dance Team can usually be found practicing here. Dance Team sometimes offers free classes to McCormick residents on the weekends.

Social Spaces

There are two living rooms found on the first floor called the Brown Living Room and the Green Living Room, named according to the color of the carpet in each room. The Brown Living Room now has a red carpet, but the old name has stuck. Both rooms have a grand piano and comfortable furniture. Both can be reserved for group meetings, but are also great for studying or relaxing in. The annual McCormick winter celebration, Festivus, is held in the Brown Living Room. There is a humongous spread of delectable foods and desserts as well as a gingerbread house making, seasonal music and other fun activities.

There are two penthouses: the East Penthouse and the West Penthouse. Each have a television, furniture, and an amazing view of Boston and the Charles River.

The "Rec" Room is in the basement, below the East tower. There's a turbo airhockey table and ping pong table plus foosball and pool tables. There's also a tv/vcr in the room.

Other Facilities

There is a recently renovated Athena cluster containing several Athena computers, comfortable rolling chairs and one printer named Katharine (after Katherine Dexter McCormick).

There is a music room with one upright piano and several music stands. There is also enough room for nearly a dozen people, so the room is often reserved by the campus a capella groups such as The Muses.

A Laundry Room with washers, dryers, folding tables and sink, along with a change machine, are located in the basement of the West Tower.

McCormick also has a Sewing Room with three sewing machines and a Typewriter Room, which is located in the East Penthouse.

In modern times, the "Date Rooms" are used for study sessions, small meetings, etc. The rooms are along the north wall of McCormick's first floor and are furnished with a couch and/or chairs and table.

There are six guest rooms that can be reserved by McCormick residents.

Residence-Based Advising

McCormick Hall is currently one of four residences that participate in the Residence-Based Advising (RBA).

Freshmen choose either Traditional Advising or a Freshman Advising Seminar. All freshmen in McCormick are assigned to a small group of students advised by a Faculty or staff advisor and by a Resident Associate Advisor (RAA), an upperclass student who lives in the residence. RAAs create and plan many academic and social programs in McCormick, such as Destress Night, How to Get A's at MIT, Dollars and Sense, and more. They also coordinate fun outings to restaurants, shows, and museums in Boston and Cambridge.

Katharine Dexter McCormick

Katharine Dexter McCormick (1875-1967), a pioneer of the women's suffrage and birth control movements, was also one of MIT's most important and dedicated benefactors. The daughter of liberal parents—her father was a prominent Chicago lawyer who had been active in the anti-slavery movement; her mother, an advocate for women's rights—Katharine was imbued with concerns for social justice and encouraged from an early age to excel at her schoolwork. Her father's fatal heart attack when she was 14 and her brother's death from spinal meningitis when she was 19 inspired her to study biology at MIT. Because she needed several years as a part-time special student to ready herself for the Institute's entrance exams, she did not enroll until 1900 and received her degree in biology in 1904.

While an undergraduate, Katharine crossed swords with the MIT administration by refusing to wear a hat (as required by MIT policy for the few women then in attendance). She successfully argued that the feathers posed a fire hazard when worn in laboratories. After graduation, she married Stanley McCormick, heir to the International Harvester Company fortune. Her husband succumbed to schizophrenia only two years after marriage and spent the rest of his life in special care. When Stanley died in 1947, Katharine received full control of his estate and resolved to use her resources to do something about birth control and women's educational issues.

Katharine McCormick had attended a lecture given by birth control advocate Margaret Sanger in 1917, and the two became friends. Sanger envisioned a pill that women could take that would allow them to determine when pregnancies could occur and whether or not to have children. In 1950 Sanger introduced McCormick to Gregory Pincus and Min-chueh Chang at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, whose work focused on developing a contraceptive pill. McCormick funded the research, which yielded successful results that were announced in 1956 and licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1960. She then turned her attention to a problem that had been troubling her for over 55 years: the lack of adequate housing for women students at MIT. "I believe, if we can get them properly housed," she noted, "that the best scientific education in our country will be open to them permanently. Then I can rest in peace." The result was McCormick Hall.

Architect & Construction

McCormick Hall was designed by Herbert Beckwith, a member of MIT's architecture faculty and a principal of the firm Anderson Beckwith & Haible. It was constructed in two phases. The first saw the completion of a residential tower, now called the West Tower, in 1963, along with a dining hall, two date rooms, a private dining room, an ornate living room, and a spacious penthouse. In 1967 the East Tower was completed, adding another residential tower and additional amenities on the first floor and penthouse. The neighboring two-family brownstone, which had formerly housed the religious counselors, was converted to residential use and connected to the main McCormick building in 1994. This smaller building (W2) is now referred to as the McCormick Annex.

McCormick Hall People


  • Prof. Lynwood S. Bryant & Louise "Dolly" Bryant 1963-1967
  • Prof. Klaus Biemann (5) & Vera Biemann 1967-1972
  • Prof. Stephen D. Senturia (6) & Alice Senturia 1972-1978
  • Prof. Margery Resnick (21) & Steve Ault 1978-1986
  • Prof. Graham Walker (7) & Jan Walker 1986-1992
  • Prof. Charles Stewart III (17) & Kathryn Hess 1992-present

Notable Alumnae

  • Shirley Jackson '68 PhD '73, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, former head of the NRC
  • Radia Perlman '73 SM '76 PhD '88, the "Mother of the Internet," computer scientist andnetwork engineer
  • Karen Arenson '70, former writer and editor for the New York Times
  • Christina Stanley '85, Chief Medical Examiner, state of Rhode Island

Official (External) Links