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Maseeh Hall

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Maseeh Hall
Address: 305 Memorial Drive
Building # W1
Occupancy: 468
Room Types: singles, doubles, triples
Dining: Dining hall (meal plan required)
Housemasters: Professor Suzanne Flynn and Jack Carroll
Opened: 2011
Housing info:

Maseeh Hall (formally Fariborz Maseeh Hall) is an undergraduate dorm on West Campus, and the largest undergraduate dorm at MIT. It is scheduled to open in fall 2011.

The dorm is named after Fariborz Maseeh ScD '90. It was originally constructed in 1901 (15 years before MIT moved to Cambridge) as the Riverbank Court Hotel, and served as an MIT graduate residence from 1938-2008.

Maseeh Hall is home to The Howard, a popular dining hall on campus.



Maseeh Hall was built in 1901. It opened as the Riverbank Court Hotel, and served as hotel lodging until 1937, when MIT acquired it.

In 1938, MIT reopened it as "Graduate House," later renaming it "Ashdown House" after its first faculty housemaster, Prof. Avery Ashdown of the Chemistry department.

The arrangement of suites in the former hotel proved almost ideal for conversion into a student dormitory. Horace S. Ford, Treasurer of MIT, and Professor Ashdown oversaw the conversion during the spring and summer of 1938. The building was modernized, redecorated, and furnished so that it was ready for occupancy by September 1938. The driveway entrance was converted into a pleasant courtyard and new plumbing and lights were installed. On September 19, 1938, the Graduate House opened its doors as MIT's first west campus building. Facilities in the new Graduate House (like the old facility) included a lounge, reading room, library, clubroom, buttery, and game rooms, plus an in-house dining room.

On June 12th, 1943, all residents of Graduate House were moved out and the dorm was occupied by nine-hundred apprentice seamen (V-12 unit) pursuing undergraduate studies of special value to the Navy. The graduate students were scattered in rooms spread over greater Boston and Cambridge. In February of 1946, the V-12 unit moved out and graduate students returned back to Graduate House.

After the Navy undergraduates departed, there would be many more discussions of a permanent conversation of the building into an undergraduate residence. Discussions on the topic emerged in the 1950s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. A final decision to convert the building to an undergraduate residence was not made until 2008. Graduate students were moved to a new Ashdown House (NW35) located in northwest campus.

In September 2010, MIT announced a $24 million gift from Fariborz Maseeh ScD '90, which funded the renovation.

The Phoenix Group

In the spring of 2008, ten undergraduates from across campus met with housemasters Suzanne Flynn (Professor, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy) and Jack Carroll to form the incubator community for what would become Maseeh Hall (then referred to simply by the building number, W1). The founders chose to call themselves The Phoenix Group to symbolize the rebirth of an undergraduate community from the 'ashes' of Ashdown House. Karl Wolff '11 was elected the first president of the founders group.

The Phoenix Group was very involved in the planning for their new community, making initial decisions about their living environment, providing preliminary input on design of the program space in W1, recruiting additional members to grow to 50 for their move to their temporary home in New Ashdown, and establishing a set of values for their new community. That spring, then-Dean of Student Life Larry Benedict sent seven of the Phoenix Group to England to learn about Cambridge University's model for a living and learning environment by visiting and staying in several of the Colleges.

In the fall of 2008, the Phoenix Group grew to 50 members and, at the invitation of the New Ashdown graduate community, moved into New Ashdown. Around the same time, due to the economic downturn, MIT postponed the development of W1 indefinitely. Serious questions were raised about disbanding the Phoenix Group and forming a new incubator community when W1 renovations were resumed. New Dean of Student Life Chris Colombo looked to the Phoenix Group to see what they wanted to do. Recognizing that possibly all of the founders would not get to move into W1 and that the time frame for resuming construction was indeterminate, the group responded by deciding to live together as a small living group until renovations resumed.

For two years, the Phoenix Group grew as a community - establishing traditions, welcoming new members, continuing to provide input to the W1 design team. Thanks to contributions from anonymous donors, the W1 project team was able to move forward with developing the plans for W1, secured the exterior of the building to protect it from the weather, and began to gut the interior, preserving historically important elements, but otherwise stripping the interior down to the underlying structure.

In the fall of 2010, following the gift from Fariborz Maseeh, construction of W1 resume. During the fall, activity within the Phoenix Group also ramped up, capped by an on-campus retreat in October at which the group finalized its core vision for the Maseeh Hall community, identifying the type of community they wanted Maseeh Hall to become and establishing a set of core values to guide its development.

The Howard Dining Hall

Maseeh Hall is home to The Howard Dining Hall, a popular food destination on campus. The name was chosen by an anonymous donor who made the first gift toward the W1 renovation. MIT has said that "Howard" has significant personal meaning for the donor, but it is not the donor's name.

Located on the first floor of Maseeh Hall, The Howard is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. It primarily serves Maseeh residents but is open to the MIT community.

The restored facility preserves building details such as several original fireplaces and includes private dining rooms, river views and broad, open seating areas. The Howard can accommodate up to 360 diners at a time.

Like other dining halls in the House Dining system, The Howard features all-you-care-to-eat service with stations that include salad bars, stir-fry, prepared entrées and a grill for burgers, pizza and other fare. The amenities include a dedicated kosher station, with kosher dinners available seven days a week. Each service also offers a range of vegan and vegetarian fare.

The Howard Dining Hall also sets a new standard for sustainability in dining at MIT. The kitchens will employ sophisticated, energy-efficient equipment. All food scraps are composted, and cooking oil will be reused as biodiesel.