Then and Now: Moving In

“Then and Now” is an occasional series featuring the ways the George Washington University has evolved and the stability of its core mission during its 200-year history.



Hauling suitcases and staggering under boxes, students at the George Washington University will move this month into the residence halls they’ll call home for the academic year. Students have been living on campus almost continuously since the university’s founding 200 years ago—with some exceptions, like the Civil War, during which all university buildings were commandeered for Army use. (The few students who weren’t involved in the fighting lived and learned in professors’ private homes—another form of residential life.)



Original Columbian College University Hill location

The first students on campus lived in a single building at Columbian College’s College Hill location, which had five floors, 58 rooms and 60 fireplaces and could accommodate 100 students.




This is a move-in period unlike any other, with staggered moving dates that start on Aug. 16 and safety protocols in place after a year when COVID-19 made remote learning a necessity. But as these photos from decades of GW move-ins show, some things—help from families and new friends, piles of pillows and armfuls of towels—have stayed consistent.


Two students holding president's stand welcome sign

Welcoming the class of 2022 to campus, 2018.


Female student moving her belongings into her new residence hall

Cherry Tree, 1968



Cherry Tree spread "Getting Settled' showing students unloading belongings from vehicles

“Two rules seem to accompany making a move: one, you will always take too much, and two, you will always forget something.” Cherry Tree, 1985



three smiling students unpacking car

The Hatchet, Sept. 1, 1988


Hatchet article "Time keeps on ticking" showing photo of student checking her watch

Still better than taking the stairs. The Hatchet, Aug. 25, 1997



student carrying pillows

Cherry Tree, 2000


female student carrying pillows

Photo by William Atkins, 2017



father and daughter moving boxes

A family moves in furniture, 2010. Photo by Jessica McConnell-Burt



students pushing cart in the rain

No dampened spirits despite a rainy move-in in 2011. Photo by Jessica McConnell-Burt


cart with stuffed animals

Moving in some favorite companions, 2012. Photo by Jessica McConnell-Burt


Student moving boxes.

A big job, 2014. Photo by Jessica McConnell-Burt


Two students talking in their room.

Taking a break, 2017. Photo by William Atkins



masked student moving cart into residence hall

During the remote learning period, some GW students returned to campus in spring 2021 under robust public health protocols. Photo by William Atkins




Unless otherwise noted, historic images courtesy of the Special Collections Research Center of the George Washington University Libraries.