Building the Foundation for Community

Established in 1896 as a gift from the Houston family in honor of their son, H. H. Houston ‘78, Houston Hall officially became a university space unlike any other in the country. Managed entirely by students (known as the Houston Club), the hall was intentionally designed to promote leisure, community building, cultural exploration, and intellectual endeavors. Originally thought of as an experiment in student governance, Houston Hall paved the way for today’s modern student unions, but more notably, the introduction of Houston Hall into the Penn community built the foundation of what it means to create a sense of community and belonging on a modern university campus.

Since 1896, Penn has celebrated and embraced its incredibly diverse student body and continued to establish innovative, inclusive campus spaces that nurture community and a sense of belonging. We invite visitors of this exhibit to explore the history of Penn’s campus spaces that serve as building blocks for intellectual growth, cultural exploration, identity development, community service, and leadership. With the addition of each space to the Penn campus, we’ve affirmed the value and importance of a diverse, thriving community.

The spaces featured in this timeline are by no means an exhaustive list; they serve as a snapshot of our community’s evolution over time. They are building blocks highlighting Penn’s continuous endeavor to construct intentional communities and campus spaces that meet the needs of a diverse, global society. We kindly ask that you take a moment, starting with the portrait of H. H. Houston, to discover – and celebrate – the community we’ve collectively built at Penn. 

Timeline details coming soon!