Built as a temporary facility in 1943, Building 20 survived until 1998 and housed research activities in a wide variety of fields.  The MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has a web site, The Magical Incubator, devoted to the history of Building 20.
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  • My first job at MIT, in 1984, was in building 20…organizing a new, and green,
    program called MITAC for the MIT community. I loved it there. We were in 20A-023,
    with the Quarter Century Club. The building was not a pleasurable sight ~ mustard yellow on the outside; dirty and musty (but delightful, really) on the inside…..
    but aesthetics aside, it was a creative fusion of amazing groups….the Glass Lab,
    Machine Shop, Writing Program, ROTC….we were a fascinating, ecletic group. Truly wonderful things happened there ~ the holiday get-togethers in the Machine Shop, with deli platters and pastry boxes perched on top of drill presses…summer barbecues out in the backyard…furry and aerial critters welcoming themselves into our offices each spring when the weather warmed, and the windows were opened. There was, above all else, a sense of community in Bldg. 20, and we all took care of each other. It was a wonderful initiation into MIT.

    Diane Tavitian

    10 Apr 09 at 5:13 pm

  • I was in Building 20 from about 1981 through 1985 or 6. I was on the 2nd floor at the end of 20C. I remember the windows were so loose that some mornings there would be snow on the inside on the window sill! Back then the model railroad club sold Cokes in bottles, long after you couldn’t get them in the stores. It was a great place to be!

    Allan Doyle

    10 Apr 09 at 6:03 pm

  • In the mid 1960s, I inherited room 20B-160 (if I recall the number correctly) from another physics department grad student as the site for the assembly of the equipment for my doctoral thesis. It was a great place to be. The Lab for Nuclear Science machine shop was down the hall; the Tech Model Railroad Club was around the corner; and all the janitors called me “doc” (prematurely). But the biggest attraction was a fenced in area outside my window. It housed a pack of beagle puppies. On one occasion, some Russian physicists visiting our lab were completely distracted by the beagles, all of whom had blue Amphenol connectors in their heads. To this day, I wonder what THAT was all about.

    Allen Krieger

    9 Oct 09 at 3:26 pm

  • Building 20, which was very long lived as a “temporary” wooden structure, was fascinating. The old radar test setup was still in 20F when I arrived at MIT. Later that concrete fortress was transformed into a Center for Theoretic Physics (no ivory towers for MIT!).. The place was so complex, I recall visiting many years later and seeing the roof access open. Calling to the people I was with, I said I’d be back soon and went up and walked the roof. It would still support me (amazing).

    During anti-ROTC protests, the Linguistics Dept, home of Profs Noam Chomsky (nstitute professor) and Morris Halle to name a few, put out a “please trash selectively” leaflet, since they were very near the ROTC part of those wooden buildings. No (significant) harm, no foul, as I recall.

    Building 20 was also the site of Institute Prof. Jerome Y. Lettvin’s office after he returned from the “mistake” as he put it of spending 6 years at Rutgers. (no offense to them implied.). Prof. Lettvin was as gracious and as capable then as ever.

    Wells Eddleman '71

    24 May 10 at 3:19 pm