I enjoy walking around Harvard Yard, admiring each building as it takes on a different hue with every passing season. Winters are an especially beautiful time to walk around the campus with no lines of eager visitors waiting to rub the famous gleaming shoe on John Harvard’s statue. I try to imagine the yard in its original form as a cow pasture, slowly evolving as the first college in the colonies. I admire the distinct buildings and the artistic wrought iron fences with the large H on them.
The Yard is on the National Register of Historic places, nestled in the center of all the freshman dorms. Walking by, I pass the stately university hall with its white granite, the imposing library and the churches.
The bronze statue of John Harvard, designed by Daniel Chester French, is a landmark just outside the University Hall. In 1638, clergyman John Harvard made a bequest on his deathbed for the institution proposed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He left them 780 pounds sterling and a 400-volume library. When his statue was unveiled in 1884, it is interesting to note that French designed the statue using Harvard’s descendants to recreate an assumed likeness (since no portrait of John Harvard was known to have existed).
I often like to connect places I visit to the books I read. As a young girl, I read Erich Segal’s Love Story and remember enjoying Jenny’s outspoken character as a Radcliffe student. Set at Harvard, the story of two college students, was captivating to me. I haven’t read it in a long time now and it may feel dated, but the book was probably my introduction to Harvard (and Radcliffe). Maybe it is time to find the book and identify the places in the narrative that I now encounter on my walks in Cambridge.😊