Harvard freshmen usually look forward to eating and socializing in the College’s grand Annenberg Hall, which features a decorative vaulted ceiling supported by detailed wooden trusses.
But the members of the class of 2026 have yet to see Annenberg’s famed interior in its full glory.
Memorial Hall, the complex that includes Annenberg Hall and Sanders Theatre, has been under renovation since 2020. Now in the last phase of the project, Harvard is replacing the 148-year-old slate and copper roof above Annenberg, marking the first major renovation to the hall since 1995.
The first phase of renovations involved the replacement of the roof and rain leaders over Sanders Theatre. In the second phase, the University replaced the roof over Memorial Transept, the hall connecting Sanders to Annenberg. The transept’s masonry and window trimmings were also refurbished.
Since the final phase began this summer, white tarp has obscured Annenberg’s vaulted ceiling, and a skeleton of metal scaffolding has surrounded the hall’s exterior. Until earlier this month, students had to navigate through a wood panel tunnel to exit the dining hall.
Memorial Hall Complex Director Raymond Traietti wrote in an email that the construction should wrap up before the end of the fall semester, though freshmen will not be able to see the hall’s ceiling until the spring.
“The roof project is wrapping up over the next 4 weeks,” Traietti wrote. “Then, the final step will be to remove the dust netting that is up inside the hall, which will be done in late December.”
The project’s planning team was assembled by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and includes members from the FAS Department of Physical Resources and Planning.
Cambridge architectural firm Perry and Radford was hired to complete the project with oversight by LeMessurier Consultants.
According to Traietti, original materials will be used during the renovation whenever possible to closely follow the roof’s original design.
Asked if the renovations had made it more difficult to socialize over meals in Annenberg, freshmen reported that they felt the construction had a minimal impact.
“It makes it a little less aesthetically pleasing, but other than that, it doesn't really make a big difference,” Jordan S. Wallican-Okyere ’26 said.
Staff and students said the construction, while noisy, has not been a nuisance.
“I picked up a couple morning shifts a couple weeks ago, and I could hear workmen hammering on the roof, but it was not for too long, and it was not too loud,” said Patrick A. King, a Harvard University Dining Services worker.
Blake J. Bernhardt ’26, who lives in Canaday Hall across Oxford Street, said that about once a week, he would “get woken up at 8 a.m. by the workers on the roof.”
Staff expressed confusion about the timeline of the project, saying they understood renovations would be completed by the fall semester.
“I thought it was just going to be a summer job, but it stretched into the school year,” Vera said.
Traietti wrote in an email that the project was originally scheduled to span throughout the summer and fall.
"Construction is currently ahead of schedule, as the original plan was to work through mid-November with the interior debris netting to be removed at the conclusion of the fall term,” he wrote.
As the project approaches its close, HUDS staff remain optimistic that the hall’s ceiling will be revealed soon, King said.
“Whenever we get a chance, people will try to look on the roof and say ‘it’s beautiful,’” he said. “And they’re hoping that it will be completed soon.”