The Dean’s House was designed by Coolidge Shepley Bulfinch and Abbott. Construction was completed in 1929, two years after the dedication of the first 12 HBS buildings and just two years before the death of George F. Baker, the prominent banker who funded the construction of Harvard Business School’s original campus. The brick, 10,978-square-foot Georgian Revival-style building includes a gracious entry hall, study, living room, dining room, kitchen, and pantry on the main floor, with a circular staircase leading to a sitting room, bedrooms, and baths on the second and third floors. The surrounding garden was part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s original landscape design. At the time of its completion, the Dean’s House was on the outskirts of campus, far enough from Baker Library to allow room for future structures. HBS Deans lived at the house until 1980, when it came to be used primarily for social functions. Dean Nitin Nohria revived the in-residence tradition when he was named Dean in 2010.
Construction of a Dean’s House was important to George F. Baker (1840-1931), who believed that Dean Wallace B. Donham and his successors should live in close proximity to students and faculty. Although a Dean’s residence had been part of the original campus design, plans for its construction had been eliminated to reduce costs but reinstated at Baker’s insistence.
A prominent financier, philanthropist, and president of the First National Bank of New York, Baker was an extraordinary business leader. At the age of 23, he invested $3,000 to become an original shareholder in the First National Bank, where he worked as a teller. Just 14 years later, he became the bank’s president. Under his conservative management, the institution remained financially sound throughout the panics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Baker’s business acumen extended to serving on the boards of more than 40 corporations, including several failing railroads that he bought and revitalized. He also had great success investing in the utilities, steel, and rubber industries. Although he famously kept a low profile, leaders of business and government consistently sought and received his advice.
Baker appreciated the impact of unsteady economic times, and his 1924 gift to the School was understood to be an endorsement of the need for professional management education. When Harvard Overseer Bishop William Lawrence approached him for a $1 million donation to help build the new campus, Baker refused. After consulting with his son, Harvard College graduate George F. Baker Jr., the elder Baker told Lawrence he preferred to contribute $5 million “for the privilege of building the whole school.”
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Harvard Business School
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