Harrison: The House and its History


Harrison College House, is the big house with a big heart that promises the seamless integration of education in the classroom to life in residence.  It first entered the Penn world as High Rise South.  With the advent of the Department of College Houses and Academic Services, the massive, somewhat impersonal, high rise gained a coterie of residential faculty and staff, and students. Over time, Harrison gained its purple facade and its reputation for the house where all the magic happens.

Harrison College House proudly offers Penn students the opportunity for intellectual engagement, social exchange, and profound interactions among its residents and guests.  Regular dinners with faculty through the Dinner and Conversation series;  courses taught in residence, such as Cinema in Residence; theatrical performances by Front Row Theater, Harrison's residential theater company; provocative discussion of literature on race, gender, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation through the Harrison Reading Community; creative activities hosted by the Penn Art Club; and a wide-range of student-initiated activities from karaoke nights, brunches, board game nights, Casino Nights, provide limitless opportunities for residents to engage fully in the Penn community and beyond.  

Harrison College House is configured as an apartment building, with seasonal air conditioning, private baths, and, in many cases, kitchens. Due to the apartment-style layout, Harrison's 797 residents enjoy a great deal of freedom and privacy, balanced by a healthy sense of floor community. They also enjoy spectacular views of Philadelphia and its surrounding area from the upper floors. Harrison is situated near to the Class of 1920 Commons, one of the dining halls here at Penn.


Harrison College House was built in 1970, following the University's decision to place a mixture of skyscraper apartment buildings and low-rise dormitories on the newly acquired land between 38th and 40th Streets. T-shaped in plan, with a boldly massed rear facade in which the top floors appear to stand on tall columns of glass, Harrison and its two skyscraper sisters, Harnwell and Rodin, were designed by G. Holmes Perkins, Dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts from 1951 to 1971. Dean Perkins assembled the stellar team of architects to work on the project, including Louis I. Kahn, who propelled Penn to the top of the list of American architecture schools in the 1960s.  Harrison College House is named in honor of W. Welsh Harrison, an alumnus of the Class of 1904.

Since 2004, Harrison College House has undergone a series of renovations that have provided the House with a number of new amenities -- the Heyer Sky Lounge features a kitchen and baby grand piano, a lounge on every residential floor, a computer lab open 24-hours, an exercise room, a multimedia classroom, an ATM, a DVD/video library, and a music practice room with several upright pianos.