Dunster House is one of the first two dormitories constructed under President Lowell's House Plan, and one of the seven Houses given to Harvard by Edward Stephen Harkness. The House was named in honor of Henry Dunster, who became the first President of Harvard College at the age of thirty-one, immediately after his arrival in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay in 1640. He held the office during the early years of the Colony, and left the College in 1654 after it had become a well-established institution.
The House was completed in 1930 and began operations in the fall of that year under the leadership of Master Chester N. Greenough, English Professor and former Dean of Harvard College. One of Greenough's primary concerns was the Dunster Library. Through a gift of $25,000 in memory of Alexander Moss White (1892) and numerous other donations, the library had over 11,000 books by the end of the first year.
Dunster's House Masters are Professor Roger Porter, the IBM Professor of Government and Business, who served in the White House during the Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush administrations, and Ann Porter. Carlos E. Diaz serves as the Allston Burr Resident Dean.
Famous inhabitants of Dunster House have included Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones, who were roommates there in the late 1960s. Other notable Dunster alumni include Al Franken, Norman Mailer, Caspar Weinberger, and Deval Patrick. For many years Dunster was reputed to have the highest grade-point average (GPA) of any house.