Harvard's Hallowed Yard
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.
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.
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.