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Stroll the famed Harvard campus

Updated on August 19, 2013
Famed Harvard Yard (the Old Yard, in fact)
Famed Harvard Yard (the Old Yard, in fact) | Source

Come along with me for a stroll across the famed Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and walk in the footsteps trod by scholars for the past 375 years! This initial image is from within Harvard Yard, and, more specifically, within the Old Yard. The Old Yard includes the very first parcel of common ground — soon to be grazed by the headmaster's cattle — occupied by the fledgling university 140 years before the original 13 colonies of the Americas became an independent nation.

Johnston Gate, the most heavily used access to Old Harvard Yard
Johnston Gate, the most heavily used access to Old Harvard Yard | Source

If you should find yourself within Old Harvard Yard, you most likely entered it through the Johnston Gate. Situated along busy Massachusetts Avenue midway between the grand greensward of Cambridge Common and the bustling city activity of Harvard Square, the Johnston Gate is the most heavily trafficked of all entries to Harvard Yard. Virtually 24/7, students, faculty, parents, visitors and picture-snapping tourists alike stream through this ornate gate.

Bustling Harvard Square, Cambridge
Bustling Harvard Square, Cambridge | Source

Actually more of a triangle than a square, Harvard Square marks the convergence of Massachusetts Avenue, John F. Kennedy Street and Peabody Street. Add a newsstand, T stop, several connecting bus lines, teeming students, zipping bicyclists, restaurants, banks, shops and a continuing surge of daily traffic, and you've got a vibrant and vital hub just paces from Harvard Yard.

'The Statue of Three Lies'
'The Statue of Three Lies' | Source

One of the first destinations for many visitors to Harvard Yard is the noted sculptural image of John Harvard himself. Prospective students (and their parents) rub the figure's shoe for luck in being admitted to this world class university. Perched before the white stone flank of University Hall, the statue makes for a great keepsake photo.

Holden Chapel, just off the Yard's west flank
Holden Chapel, just off the Yard's west flank | Source

Perhaps one of the most charming and picturesque of Harvard's older structures is Holden Chapel. This modest 270-year old structure has served the university well, housing throughout its history a morgue, barracks, laboratory, fire engine company, rehearsal hall, museum, clubhouse, medical school, dining facilities and a dissection theater! Today, the bright blue pedimented structure hosts a variety of Harvard choral groups for practices and concerts.

Memorial Hall, just northeast of the Yard
Memorial Hall, just northeast of the Yard | Source

Exit any of the northerly gates of Harvard Yard and you'll be faced by the imposing mass of Memorial Hall. This landmark structure is perhaps the one most distinctly at variance with the sedate Colonial character of many of Harvard Yard's oldest buildings. Rendered in a colorful High Gothic style, Memorial Hall actually houses four distinct entities: Sanders Theater is an ornate in-the-round facility with steeply raked seating under heavy timber framing and exquisite stained glass; Annenberg Hall is a cavernous Harry-Potter-ish freshman dining hall; the memorial portion of Memorial Hall is a dark and ominous transept dedicated to the university's Civil War dead; and the Queen's Head Pub is a lower level drinking and event space.

Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library
Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library | Source

Let us criss-cross the Yard again, heading south, where we encounter the massive Widener Library. Anchor to the largest university library system in the world, Widener is dedicated to Harry Elkins Widener, Class of 1907, a confirmed bibliophile and an unfortunate victim of the sinking of the Titanic. The library was donated to Harvard by young Harry's surviving mother. Within the Library, one may tour a nearly perfect reproduction of Harry's home study.

Lionel House, on the Yard
Lionel House, on the Yard | Source

To feel what it must have been like to be a freshman at Harvard throughout any of its hundreds of entering classes, take a peek at Lionel House, one of the dozen and more freshman dormitories that ring Harvard Yard. Virtually all Harvard students reside on campus for their entire university career, and all freshman are housed about the Yard, to enable them to become immersed in the culture, tradition and interaction of the central campus.

Weld Hall, home of the Radcliffe (Harvard women's) rowing teams
Weld Hall, home of the Radcliffe (Harvard women's) rowing teams | Source

Even those attending the world's top university must round out their character with athletics. Situated just a few blocks south of Harvard Yard, where John F. Kennedy Street meets the Charles River, is Weld Hall. Remarkably, this fine and expensive structure is but a boat house. Within it are stored the rowing sculls, gear and workout equipment of the Radcliffe rowing teams made up of Harvard coeds. From the rear of Weld Hall, it's just a gentle slope down boardwalk decking to the calm waiting waters of the Charles.

A markerHarvard Yard -
Harvard Yard, Harvard University, 2 Kirkland St, Mid-Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
get directions


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    • rickzimmerman profile image

      rickzimmerman 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Yep. When you are around for 375 years (while a new nation is formed around you), you tend to develop a history. Thanks, GRP.

    • GlstngRosePetals profile image

      GlstngRosePetals 5 years ago from Wouldn't You Like To Know

      I did not know just how much history and time Harvard had. I have heard of Harvard but never gave it much thought to its history. Thank you for the share . Voted up!