Harvard Lampoon Building – Cambridge, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

Harvard Lampoon Building

The headquarters of one of the world’s longest-running humor magazines bears a noticeable resemblance to a head wearing a Prussian helmet. 


This bizarre little building in the middle of Cambridge holds a colorful history and houses one of the world’s longest-running humor magazines.

Sometimes referred to as the “Lampoon Castle,” it was built in 1909 by Edmund M. Wheelwright, who took inspiration from the local architecture of Jamestown, Virginia. From the front it bears an obvious resemblance to a human head wearing a Prussian helmet. As a result, it has drawn much criticism over the years. The comical nature of the building is fitting, for it serves as the headquarters for the Harvard Lampoon.

The Harvard Lampoon is famous on campus for its wild parties and initiation rituals, and many of its members have gone on to become big names in entertainment, including Conan O’Brien, Colin Jost, and John Updike.

At the top of the building is a four-foot copper ibis, the mascot of the Lampoon. This ibis has been stolen and returned several times since 1909. The building’s interior consists of several offices, a now-defunct bookstore, a medieval dining hall, a vast library, and a lounge decorated with delft tiles, the largest collection in North America.

Some people see this building as a caricature of a sphinx:  The steps are seen as its front paws, its shoulders are on the sides, and its haunches at the rear. A small window high up at the rear is considered the sphinx’s sphincter.

Know Before You Go

The nearest T station is at Harvard Square, a brief walk from the Lampoon Building.

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April 4, 2018

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