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American Artisans At Work Preserving History

Harvard University’s Dunster House Custom Lanterns Complete

Harvard University, established in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Harvard University’s Dunster House was originally constructed as part of a House Plan proposed by University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell to construct seven dormitories to separate upperclassmen from the freshmen. Dunster House derives its name from Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard College elected in 1640.

Beginning in June 2014, Dunster House became the first of twelve undergraduate Houses committed to being fully restored following Harvard’s ambitious, multiple decade restoration program. Having previously restored twelve renowned Edward F. Caldwell & Company historic fixtures from the Dunster House, Grand Light designed and manufactured thirty custom exterior lanterns and wall brackets.

Based off an existing exterior wall lantern, the custom lanterns were made in two sizes with surface or corner mounting brackets. Our extended life exterior satin black finish was applied incorporating multiple applications of primer, top color coats, and protective layers of UV resistant lacquer. All fixtures were wired with UL listed components and HIPOT tested in accordance with UL standard 1598.


Three shop drawings of the three types of custom lanterns were used in making an accurate depiction of dimensions and detailing to move forward with the fabrication of custom lantern components. Extreme care was taken to replicate the original fixture’s intricate details as to not debase but capture the historical significance of the lantern and its components.




All custom iron components were hand-crafted individually by artisans to accurately match the original lanterns intricate metalwork, including a distinct Harvard “H” located at the top of each fixture.




The custom lantern frames and brackets were cleaned and media blasted to create a smooth, clean, and consistent iron surface in preparation for finish application. Each custom lantern frame and bracket received two coats of primer, two applications of a satin black top coat, and three coats of UV resistant lacquer to ensure an extended life finish.



Grand Light technicians installed custom fabricated frosted seedy glass panels to each side of the replicated lanterns. A total of eight custom glass panels were fitted to each lantern attributing to a total of over 200 custom glass panels fabricated. Each glass panel required a custom removable mounting bracket to be fabricated, painted to match, and installed on the interior of each lantern to keep all glass panels anchored to the fixture without the use of silicon.




Grand Light technicians installed porcelain sockets and UL listed components in each custom lantern. UL standard wiring is fed through the bottom of each lantern frame into a canal that runs through the entirety of the bracket to the back-plate. Each lantern is HIPOT tested in accordance with UL standard 1598 prior to packing and delivery.




A complete custom lantern replicating the style, scale, and detailing of the original exterior lantern.

Grand Light specializes in the fabrication of custom lighting fixtures of every scale, material, finish, and design. Our team of specialists is comprised of professional metal workers and glass blowers whose mission is to create or re-create lighting fixtures of the utmost quality and authenticity. Our lighting fixtures are wired in accordance with UL standards, and our custom lighting team stands confidently behind their work with years of experience and dedication to quality craftsmanship.

For more information regarding this project, you may review the custom project homepage at Harvard University – Dunster House.

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