Harbison House

Both Harbison House and Whittemore House were designed by James P. Jamieson, former Washington University in St. Louis campus architect.

The houses, both built in 1912, were commissioned by Henry Haarstick as homes for his two daughters: Harbison House for Clinton and Emma Haarstick Whittemore, and Whittemore House for Oscar and Ida Haarstick Herf.

In 1999, the building was named to honor Earle H. Harbison Jr., a graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences and member of the Board of Trustees, and Suzanne Harbison, a graduate of the Olin School of Business.

History of the Chancellor’s Residence

Prior to 1908, all of Washington University’s chancellors lived in their own homes.

The first chancellor’s residence was the building now known as Blewett Hall. Blewett was built in 1909 for Chancellor David Houston. Houston lived in Blewett Hall until 1913, when he went on leave from the university to serve in the Cabinet of President Woodrow Wilson.

Houston’s successor, Frederic Aldin Hall (chancellor 1913-23), chose to live off campus in his own home.

In 1923, the university acquired the building now known as Alumni House for use as a chancellor’s residence. Alumni House served as a chancellor’s residence until 1958. Chancellors who lived there included:

  • Herbert S. Hadley, 1923-27
  • George R. Throop, 1927-44
  • Arthur Holly Compton, 1945-53
  • Ethan A.H. Shepley, 1954-58

In 1958, the university acquired the properties at 6420 Forsyth Blvd., now known as Harbison House, and 6440 Forsyth Blvd., now known as Whittemore House. The chancellor’s residence was moved to 6420 Forsyth; the house at 6440 was designated as a faculty center and a venue for university events.

The first chancellor to live in Harbison House was Ethan Shepley, who lived there until the end of his chancellorship in 1961. In 1958, Chancellor Shepley, who had been living in Alumni House, moved his residence to the new Harbison House. Shepley’s successor, Thomas H. Eliot, lived in Harbison House during his chancellorship (1962-71).

Chancellor William H. Danforth (1971-95) lived in his own home, not in Harbison House. Chancellor Danforth did use Harbison House for university events and for housing special guests of the university.

With the arrival of Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton in 1995, Harbison House was extensively modernized and renovated. Central heating and air conditioning were installed; handicapped-accessible restroom facilities were added; electrical systems were upgraded; kitchen facilities were modernized; old furniture and color schemes were replaced; and the second floor was remodeled. Chancellor Wrighton used Harbison House as his personal residence, as well as for official university functions.