Screenshot of staircase leading from the Bulfinch Lawn to the Bulfinch Building, the top step is painted with a red line across its length

The Intern’s Step

Leading from the Bulfinch Lawn to the Bulfinch Building’s second floor are two sets of stone stairs. The top step of each has been known for decades as the Intern’s Step. This top step is, on one set, half an inch higher than the rest, and on the other, a full 1½ inches higher. As Peter G. Barrett, MD, explained in the book Voices of the Massachusetts General Hospital 1950-2000: “In the 1960s, anxious interns with clean, pressed, white uniforms hurried up the stairs each week on their way to teaching conferences. Early in the academic year, some of them would misjudge the top step and trip, scattering charts, papers and stethoscopes everywhere… within the view and the sound of the house staff and faculty who were gathered inside the nearby conference room.”

Decades later an administrator asked Buildings and Grounds to paint a red line on those steps.

It is not known if the varied step height was a miscalculation during construction or a settling of the staircase that led to the need for one slightly higher step on each side.