Jones’ Lunch at the Boston campus gymnasium, ca. 1878

Jones’ Lunch at the Boston campus gymnasium, ca. 1878
Courtesy MIT Museum

Jones’ Lunch cafeteria was attached to MIT’s combination drill hall and gymnasium on Boylston and Clarendon Streets in downtown Boston, shown here circa 1878. Pictured is the main floor, along with exercise equipment, two lunch staffers (at left), and four gym instructors (at right).

The earliest photographic representation of a black presence at MIT is that of Jones' Lunch. Blacks were most evident on campus in roles as cooks, waiters, and janitorial staff, along with the all-black porter service that was attached to certain buildings, mostly residence halls.

During the mid-1870s, a black caterer named Jones owned and operated the small cafeteria located at one end of the gymnasium in the Boston campus. This was the first eating establishment at MIT, having come about after much student lobbying. Jones' Lunch offered MIT professors, students, and their guests hot, cooked meals at a reasonable cost. The restaurant's popularity grew to the point that by 1877 it was also serving members of other local college communities. Jones' Lunch, however, did not survive the Institute's move from Boston to Cambridge.

The gym building was erected in the fall of 1874, on the recommendation of a special committee of the Corporation and with financial assistance from Corporation members, local businesses, and interested citizens. It was a single-story in height--155 feet long by 50 feet in width--with a corrugated iron and slate roof. In addition to space for drill and exercise, there was room for gun-racks, uniform wardrobes, and boxes for storage of gym equipment.

A large number of our students live on the lines of the railroads leading into Boston, and find it convenient to remain in town all day...I am fully satisfied that it is the duty of the Institute to maintain this restaurant as a means of promoting the health of students, and of reducing their necessary expenses.

John D. Runkle, President's Report of 1874

Timeline: 1870s
Department: Administration
Career: CommunityEducation
Object: Photograph
Collection: Administrators, John D. Runkle, MIT Corporation, Roots and Exponents 1875-1920, Staff, Students