ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Introducing Harvard

Updated on August 21, 2019
rickzimmerman profile image

Rick is an architect, designer, technophile, and Mac enthusiast.

High-Profile Landmark of the Cambridge Campus

Memorial Hall and Annenberg Hall
Memorial Hall and Annenberg Hall | Source

World's No. 1 University

Considered by many to be not merely America's finest institution of higher learning, but in fact the greatest and most prestigious university in the world, Harvard is a natural draw for aspiring students, parents, educators and tourists from around the globe. Let this architect guide you around its famous campus.

Harvard is centered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, abutting the Charles River just eight miles from central Boston. Harvard Square, the site of the original 1630s village of Cambridge, is now a hub of traffic and commerce surrounded by both the sprawling Harvard University campus and the thriving city of Cambridge (population: 100,000). Though Harvard's undergraduate population is a modest 6,100, its graduate degree population is more than double that, at about 12,500. Those seeking graduate degrees range across such prestigious schools as Harvard Law, Harvard Divinity, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Business School, the Graduate School of Design, the Graduate School of Education and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. All told, the student populations of Harvard and its Cambridge sister university, MIT, account for 3 of every 10 Cambridge residents.

Begin The Tour:

We begin this tour at the historic core of Harvard Yard. Pictured above is Memorial Church, a classic Colonial edifice of 1932 that overlooks that portion of Harvard Yard known as Tercentenary Theatre. Memorial Church is a memorial to Harvard's war dead from a number of the nation's wars, and Tercentenary ('third Century') Theater was so named in 1936, upon the 300th anniversary of Harvard's founding. The Theater has since served as the site of each graduating class' commencement ceremony. Here we see the striking visual character of Harvard Yard — that iconic image of a landscaped Ivy League quadrangle under towering trees, ringed by red-brick buildings and criss-crossed by perpetual student traffic. The Yard is actually a network of almost a dozen smaller quadrangles that interconnect to form the 25-acre central hub of this famous campus. The portion known as Old Harvard Yard is, fittingly, the oldest portion of the Yard, and contains both the longest-standing academic building in America (Massachusetts Hall, built 1718-1720), and a great many of the university's 17 freshman dormitories. Virtually all freshman (numbering roughly 1600 in the August 2009 entering freshman class) are housed about Harvard Yard. They therefore experience many of their first semesters' days on campus via the scene depicted below:

Across the Charles River

Harvard's Athletic Quad
Harvard's Athletic Quad | Source

The Statue of Three Lies

Within the Yard are both Harvard Hall and the statue of John Harvard. Actually, that statue is known among Harvard cognoscenti as 'The Statue of Three Lies': 1) despite the name etched into its pedestal, the statue does not really depict John Harvard, as he left neither portraits nor detailed descriptions; instead a likely-looking student was chosen by the artist to sit for the sculpture; 2) though so inscribed, John Harvard was not the school's founder, merely its first major benefactor — he left the bulk of his estate including property in Southwark, England to the 'College at New Towne', as the university was previously known; and 3) the year of the school's actual founding, 1636, is mistakenly carved as 1638. The statue is also purported to provide luck to admission aspirants (as well as their families) and admitted students alike; hence the boot-tips polished to a high bronze sheen by the ever-present, ever-pressing hands of the hopeful.

Even George Gets the Commencement Spirit!

George Washington, Commander of the Colonial Army, wears Harvard gear in front of the Sheraton Commander hotel
George Washington, Commander of the Colonial Army, wears Harvard gear in front of the Sheraton Commander hotel | Source

The Widener Library

Opposite Memorial Church across Tercentenary Theatre (and in fact extending well beneath Tercentenary Theatre with multiple subterranean levels) is the Widener Library, anchor to the largest university library system in the world, and containing more than 3 million volumes of its own, including one of the few rare intact Gutenberg Bibles. The Widener Library also contains, as its primary central display, the completely reconstructed personal library of namesake Harry Elkins Widener, a bibliophilic teen who died in the Titanic disaster.

A Favorite Parent/Grad Photo Opp

Favored photo spot: at the feet of the John Harvard statue
Favored photo spot: at the feet of the John Harvard statue | Source

Red Brick Colonials Ring Harvard Yard

Fairly typical of the early-Colonial-era red-brick buildings of the Yard is Holden Chapel, a modest structure erected in 1744 (seen quite clearly in Paul Revere's famous 1757 engraving of the Harvard campus). Holden Chapel did in fact serve for a time as a chapel, though its other uses have included that of an autopsy theater for Harvard Medical in the 1780s, and its current use as a recital hall for various campus choral groups.

Home of Harvard Crimson Football

Harvard Stadium
Harvard Stadium | Source
Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138:
Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

get directions

Harvard Yard, the 25-acre core of student life, is the oldest section of America's oldest university.

Live on Campus All Four Years

Most of the other freshman dormitory buildings and office/classroom buildings ringing the yard conform to a similar type and style: clearly classic Colonial, three to four stories in height, all of red brick, with pitched slated roofs and projecting chimneys, regularly spaced with white-framed multi-pane double-hung windows. All of the buildings are also generally narrow enough in plan to allow daylight to penetrate both front and rear of dormitory suites, arranged in stacked pairs about an entryway and stairwell. Harvard is unusual among major universities in that it commits to four full years of on-campus housing for its undergraduates. Freshman are housed within the Yard's many brick structures, such as Lionel House. The several dozen students who access their dorm rooms daily via each entryway develop, over the course of their first two semesters, an 'entryway identity' — a kinship and bond that carries through academics, intramurals and university life beyond. Beginning in sophomore year, they then move on to the 'House' system, wherein groupings of perhaps 400 or more students reside their remaining three years within one of a dozen distinct houses, many of which overlook the bends of the Charles River.

One of the many historic gates providing access to Harvard Yard
One of the many historic gates providing access to Harvard Yard | Source

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)