Radcliffe Yard, Harvard University

At the time when Harvard College was set up higher learning was considered to be for men only. This did not change when in 1643 Lady Anne Moulson (nee Anne or Ann Radcliffe), the wealthy widow of a London Mayor,  founded the first Harvard Scholarship. It was not until 1879 that ‘Harvard Annex’ was opened for women and in 1894 it was named Radcliffe College in honour of Harvard’s early female benefactor.  Even though Harvard has been educating women since the 19th century, it was not until 1963 that graduates from Radcliffe were awarded Harvard degrees.


Old Burying Ground & Christ Church

While the burying ground goes right back to the early days when Cambridge was called New Town, the church alongside it is a little more recent. Christ Church was founded in 1759 and opened its doors in 1761. The architect, Peter Harrison, had the foresight to adopt a design that could be enlarged as increasing local population enlarged the congregation. His plan was put into action in 1857 with the church being extended by adding two windows on each side.

John Harvard Statue, University Hall, Old Harvard Yard

In 1636 the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to set up The New College. Unfortunately there was little money available to turn this grand vision into reality so progress was slow. In 1637 a young minister  educated at Cambridge in England arrived in Charlestown. John Harvard was appointed teacher at the local church but he died in 1638 at the age of only 31. Harvard was a wealthy man and had built up a considerable library that he had brought with him to the colony. He left his library and half of the remainder of his estate to the New College. Harvard’s money enabled building work to commence in 1639 and in recognition of his contribution the college was renamed  Harvard College.



 Massachusetts Hall (1720) Old Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA, USA
 John Harvard statue outside University Hall, Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA, USA
 Radcliffe Yard, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
 Longfellow House, Cambridge, MA, USA
 Old Burying Ground & Christ Church, Cambridge, MA, USA


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After the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Massachusetts many others followed. Eleven ships set out from England in 1630 carrying Puritans bound for Massachusetts Bay. They set up their villages mainly around the bay but one group went a little way up the Charles River and set up the village of New Town on the north bank about 8 kilometres (5 miles) upstream from present day Boston. In 1636 a college was founded to train young men either as ministers or as Puritan leaders.  The importance of education to the town was recognised in 1638 when it changed its name to Cambridge, after the University town  in England.  Today that college is Harvard University and it is respected  worldwide.

- Lots of historic buildings.
- Easy to get to via the Boston subway
- Best seen by walking rather than on a tour.
- Can be busy with students unless you do as we did and go there when the students are away for the holidays.
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Longfellow House

This house was built in 1759 by Colonel John Vassall as his summer residence and for a time  George Washington made it his Revolutionary War headquarters.  However it is for a Harvard Professor of Modern Languages that this house is most famous. Henry W. Longfellow lodged here from 1836 and in 1843 his father-in-law bought the house for him as a wedding present. Longfellow’s fame as a poet soon spread and the house became a centre for poets, artists and also politicians.  Longfellow died in 1882 but the house remained in his family until 1950. It is now maintained as a National Historic Site, and is still filled with Longfellow family possessions. Sadly it is closed in winter so we were not able to tour the interior.

Massachusetts Hall Old Harvard Yard

Harvard University is the oldest  seat of higher learning in the USA, and although the earliest buildings are no longer standing it still has buildings of considerable antiquity. The oldest part of the university is clustered around a 10 hectare (25 acre) open area called Harvard Yard. The western end of the yard is the oldest and hence known as the Old Yard, and there stands the earliest remaining building, Massachusetts Hall which was built in 1720. Originally a dormitory for students, it now houses university administrative offices.

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