The House is named for the Reverend John Thornton Kirkland, Class of 1789, who served as President of Harvard from 1810 to 1828 in an important period of growth and expansion for the College. Kirkland House was one of the seven original residential Houses established in 1931. It is composed of Smith Halls, which were constructed in 1914 as freshman dormitories; Bryant Hall and the Masters' Residence, both constructed in 1931; and Hicks House, which dates from 1762 and serves as the House Library. Kirkland students also live in the 20 DeWolfe Street apartments. Located in Smith Halls, the dining hall and Junior Common Room boast magnificent woodwork and high ceilings that highlight Kirkland's classic charm and elegance.
Kirkland traditions are stepped in history both recent and colonial. Playing on the history of Kirkland's Hicks House, once the quarters for officers in General Washington's army, an opening ceremony marks the start of each school year. Students and Masters march behind a troupe of Revolutionary Era re-enactors who provide musical accompaniment on drum and fife. Kirkland residents take advantage of the House's relatively small size by hosting more intimate community events. Most notably, Secret Santa Week features skits performed by "Elves" for their "Santees." The week of celebration culminates in a Kirkland-only dinner and dance to toast the end of the semester. Residents also participate in the Kirkland Drama Society's two annual productions, one of which is based on a Shakespeare play.
-From The Harvard Houses, published by the Office of Student Life