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Harvard's Hallowed Yard

Travel - Harvard Yard - The Travel Information Company
It is fairly well known that Harvard is the oldest university in the United States, established only 16 years after the landing of the Mayflower.  Yet Harvard can also boast having one of the most attractive and historic campuses in the country and, as such, is a popular destination for those visiting the New England area.

The central, and most beautiful, part of the Harvard campus is the twenty-five acre tract known as Harvard Yard.  Many of the school’s alumni also consider it the institution's most hallowed ground, as the dormitories that surround it serve as the home for most students during their first year at that university.

Harvard has managed to preserve many of its most ancient buildings within an area known as the Old Yard.  These historical buildings contribute to the school’s rich heritage and legacy of traditions. George Washington briefly used Wadsworth House, one of the buildings within Harvard Yard, as headquarters of the Continental Army during the U.S. Revolutionary War.  Massachusetts Hall, built in 1720, is the oldest building still standing at Harvard and also housed soldiers of the Continental Army during the American Revolution.

Travel - Harvard - Yard - John Harvard Statue - The Travel Information Company
Watching over the large grassy field of Harvard Yard is the famous bronze statue of John Harvard.  It is also known as “the statue of three lies,” because the facts listed on its inscription are incorrect.  The inscription reads: "John Harvard, Founder, 1638."  However, John Harvard was not the founder of the college, the school was  founded in 1636, and the person depicted by the sculpture is not even John Harvard.  While working on the statue, Daniel Chester French was not able to find any portraits of John Harvard, so he used a student as a model.  Another tradition regarding the John Harvard statue is that rubbing its foot will lead to good luck, although many students that have tried it before their exams may argue otherwise.

Another fascinating story is that of Harvard’s Widener Library, which houses over 5 million books in 55 miles of shelves, and is the main building of the largest university library in the world.  The library is named after Harry Elkins Widener, a Harvard graduate and avid collector of rare books, who perished in the Titanic.  The popular legend states that as he was about to board one of the Titanic’s lifeboats, Widener remembered that he had left one of his treasured books in his cabin and decided to return to his cabin to retrieve it, but he was never seen again.  After Widener’s death, his mother donated $3.5 million to Harvard University to build the library.  However, the gift included several stipulations, including the requirement that a replica of Widener’s study is maintained within the building and always stocked with fresh flowers.

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The many prominent Americans that have graduated from Harvard also enhance its history.  Eight U.S. Presidents have graduated from the college, including Barack Obama.  The college has also been associated with 50 Nobel Prize winners, and other influential figures such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Helen Keller.

Those interested in visiting Harvard can take advantage of several guided tours offered by the Harvard Information Center and the Crimson Key Society.  The student-led tours include a walk through of the Harvard Yard and provide general information about the institution and its history.  Self-guided and audio tours are also available.  Regardless of your choice, you are sure to find your visit to this most revered educational institution a memorable experience.

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