Harvard University Trip (Tuesday 10th)

Category: Boston + Pax East 2015 Published: Wednesday, 11 March 2015 Written by Evilmatt

We got reasonably late played some games had coffee and then bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast. 


After that we headed out and got on the bus to Harvard. It took us across the river past MIT and then further up to Harvard Square. 


We had a bit of a wander and then located the building where they had the tour. We signed up and waited for it to start. We eventually joined a large group of many nationalities led through campus by a senior.


Harvard University is the umbrella organization for a series of different colleges like Harvard College and the various graduate colleges. Contrary to popular myth the university was not founded by John Harvard he donated his entire collection of books and half his land to the preexisting university which changed it’s name to honor him.


All the first years live on campus in a series of halls of residence. They share rooms depending on the hall with as many as 5 students. Something like 98% of all students live in some form of campus housing as when they get to their second year students are allocated a house which is then their social hub (it was explained a bit like the houses in hogwarts though they used a computer instead of a sorting hat). 


There are two and half halls on campus that didn’t house students. Harvard hall was one it was built 3 times and used to house lecture halls and the library with all of the books donated by John Harvard. The first time it had wooden foundations which rotted and had to be torn down. The second time someone late with their homework took a book out of the library (which was a expellable offense) and also left a candle burning. So he burnt down the library all john Harvard's books but the one he nicked. He then tried to claim to be a hero for saving the last book of the collection but was expelled instead though he was later allowed to graduate. Also lost in the fire all known portraits of John Harvard. The current building is then the third iteration so third time lucky.


The other non residential hall was the one across from the Harvard hall which was designed by the same person that did the Boston state house. It houses mostly administrative stuff. 


The point 5 is the top two floors of Massachusetts hall (next to Harvard hall) as the bottom two floors are the office of the president. Local lore has it that the president selects the quietest and most studious of students for that hall. However our guide suggested that might not be the case. 


Massachusetts hall is the oldest standing structure on the campus and the second oldest academic building in the USA.


Between Massachusetts hall and Harvard Hall was Johnson Gate lore has it that you can only pass through this twice as a student once when you arrive once when you graduate otherwise you fail. So students mostly use the side gate.


Next we saw the fire pump that they put in after the fire but never used.


Then we saw the science hall and what looked like a church was actually memorial hall. Our guide told us a little about the educational ethos of Harvard that every student should know a little about everything and a lot about one thing. They have various general education requirements but rather than saying maths or english they use weird names. They idea being they then are much broader categories. Personally I think Maths is a pretty broad category and covered everything she mentioned as examples but I guess that’s just me. 


We then went inside the Memorial hall that has a series of plaques for soldiers who died for the north side of the civil war. The south side are not commemorated. It also had some nice stained glass. One end of the hall is a cafeteria for first year students (no one else can enter) and the other end is a theatre which is patterned after the globe theater in London. 


We then passed the only church on campus which is a non denominational church. The area where it is is where they hold the graduation ceremony. They have so many graduates that they don’t hand out diplomas (they are handed out at the students house in a smaller ceremony) they just have speeches and the like. The opposite side of the courtyard is the library building. Built to commemorate Harry Elkins Widener a harvard graduate and bibliophile who died on the titanic. This library was opened with money from his mother who gave 3 rules if they wanted her money. Its facade could not be altered, the had to have room inside that was a replica of Harry’s study which had fresh flowers every day and every student had to learn to swim. Rules one and two were kept to but three proved too difficult.


Rule one posed some problems as they ran out of room so they came up with a clever solution that left the building as was. The building now has 9 stories 5 of which are underground and the whole library extends under the quad area in front of the library. It’s one of Americas few underground libraries and it’s anchored to the bedrock without that it would literally rise up from it’s underground location. It holds the worlds second biggest collection of books and some 5 miles of shelving.


Last stop was the statue of John Harvard the 3rd most photographed statue in America other two being Statue of liberty and the Lincoln memorial. So now I have two out of the three :D


It’s also called the statue of the three lies. One thing is the likeness is not that of John Harvard all known portraits burnt with the library in Harvard Hall, they think it might be a grandson of one of the presidents or perhaps just an attractive student. Secondly he didn't found it just donated books and half his land and thirdly the date is wrong. For some reason people were touching the statue’s toe which was worn shiny by this practice but the guide didn’t mention this.


After that we headed to a nearby cafe and had some tea. I had a lovely cup of lapsang souchong while Byrnie and Jen tried Bubble Tea. Which is a drink invented in Thailand in the 1980’s that uses a flavored tea in this case cold with little balls of tapioca in it. We all had non dairy brownies that were quite good.


Then we headed over to a shop to buy some supplies and then made our way back to the bus stop.


We rode the bus back to the stop across the road then popped into the sandwich and booze shop to get some bits for dinner. We got lasagne fixings and some Sriracha beer.


Then we headed over to a shop to buy some supplies and then made our way back to the bus stop.


We rode the bus back to the stop across the road then popped into the sandwich and booze shop to get some bits for dinner. We got lasagne fixings and some Sriracha beer.


Heading home we got back and put our feet up.



We made some nachos with the remaining chips and then some more burrito style enchiladas. We washed the nachos down with the Sriracha beer which was quite fiery. It was very tasty we watched some tv and turned in.

Hits: 503