Higgins House

Happy Centenary, Higgins House

This year marks the 100th anniversary of WPI’s majestic Aldus Chapin Higgins House. Once known as “The Castle” and greeting all who enter campus from the Park Avenue Garage, Higgins House is beautifully woven into WPI’s history. The Tudor-style mansion was commissioned by Aldus Chapin Higgins, the son of the Washburn Shops’ first superintendent, Milton P. Higgins. Construction of the house began in the early 1920s as a partial replica of the c. 1525 Compton Wynyates Castle in Warwickshire, England.

Upon its completion in 1923, the house became one of the city’s finest examples of Revival period architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and visitors continue to enjoy the building’s beautiful, yet unusual architecture. Aldus Higgins and his wife, Mary, lived in their beloved home until Aldus’s death in 1948. Upon the death of Mary Higgins in 1971, Higgins House was bequeathed to WPI.

Initially the house became home to lucky students who lived there in the 1970s and part of the 1980s. “It definitely felt special to be able to live in Higgins House. We were lucky to be so close to the classrooms and have just a short walk home to unwind in ‘our’ Tudor mansion after a busy day of classes. The whole atmosphere in Higgins House, with its wooden beams and unique design, made us feel relaxed and a part of another era,” says Albert Barrett ’74, former Higgins House student resident.

The whole atmosphere in Higgins House, with its wooden beams and unique design, made us feel relaxed and a part of another era.

Albert Barrett ’74

Since its tenure as student housing, the stunning 29-room house has become an impressive backdrop for all manner of campus events, receptions, and gatherings—while also currently housing offices in WPI’s University Advancement Division, including the office of the division’s vice president; Office of Lifetime Engagement for Alumni, Parents, and Friends; External Relations; and the Student Alumni Society.

In 2017, an upscale café known as The Quorum became the newest live-in guest. Using the original Higgins family dining room and sunroom, the university renovated the space to create a warm and intimate gathering spot for faculty and staff.

In 2019, the house underwent its most extensive restoration with the help of generous philanthropic support from WPI alumni. Texas-based alumnus Michael Abrams ’77, who noticed the challenges of using the house’s outdated electronics to communicate in meetings with fellow Alumni Association Board members, made a significant donation with his wife, Nancy, and the WPI Alumni Association contributed additional funds to update the building’s electronics as well as restore the grand beauty and character of the house. Higgins House now is also home to the WPI Alumni Center and a welcoming spot on the Hill for WPI alumni.

“Higgins House is one of the most iconic symbols of the WPI campus. I always look forward to opportunities to come back to Higgins House, whether it’s for attending Alumni Association Board meetings, supporting a student activity, or working remotely from the Alumni Lounge in hopes of connecting with other alumni,” says incoming Alumni Association President Pamela Lynch ’05. “The most recent renovation to Higgins House created more productive space for meetings and a lounge available for use by all alumni.” 

The Alumni Association Board is currently working on a strategic plan to map out objectives and focus areas for the next five years. Lynch says Higgins House will be a part of the plan, adding, “We welcome input and ways to bring alumni, parents, and WPI friends back to campus to maximize engagement and promote meaningful connections. There are many fond memories of Higgins House, and I look forward to hearing from our alumni on how it remains a key part of WPI traditions.”

Contact alumni-office@wpi.edu to share your input or to contribute your Higgins House story.

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