What is now Unity House was built in 1880 for the Burnham School, providing a laboratory and lecture rooms. It was used for these purposes until 1968 when Smith acquired the school property and renovated the building to use as a space for students living off campus to meet and study.
Students who commuted to college were originally known as the Luba Club ("Let Us Be Acquainted"). Founded in 1920 to give commuter students a sense of community when on campus, the club had many different homes over the years. Its name was changed in 1946 to Hampshire House, a name that indicated its members' ties to Hampshire County while offering some elements of the house system for these local students.
When the college renovated the building in 1969, students had some say in its requirements, and it was outfitted with a kitchen, a large living room, a study room and two bathrooms. As Hampshire House, the building offered students who lived at home an important means of connecting with the social life on campus. In 1990, the club moved to Green Street, and its the building was renamed Carriage House. When organizations such as the Asian Students Association, the Black Students' Alliance, and the International Students Organization united to request a multicultural center where their members could relax and socialize, the Carriage House was designated as a shared space. The student leaders later changed the building's name to Unity House, "as a symbol of their togetherness and cooperation."
Unity House sits back from Bedford Terrace behind a parking lot. Its bright red brick stands out amidst its clapboard neighbors. On the right side of the house, the curving brick frames around the windows are articulated by an alternating pattern of black and red bricks, a detail that is missing on the right side of the house, suggesting that perhaps it served a different purpose. There is a vague sense of symmetry to the building with two gables framing the center block but the western block protrudes from the wall, whereas, the eastern gable stays flush. Most dramatic are the large, multi-paned windows on the ground floor. Local architect Thomas Douglas renovated Unity House in 1999, upgrading the bathroom and adding two new kitchenettes as well as new workstations. Unity House continues to be the organizing hub of multicultural affairs at Smith, enriching the social and intellectual life of the college.
The Unity organizations present a broad offering of cultural events and programs every semester, reflected in the calendar of musical performances and dances, guest and faculty lectures.