- Historical Sites»Harvard Yard
So many great men have walked through this yard to attend class, even if women couldn’t until the end of the 1800′s. Barack Obama joins Presidents George W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, John Quincy Adams and John Adams as the eighth president to have a Harvard degree. Nearly a fifth of our most powerful government employees have been alumni of Harvard. The name has become as synonymous with higher education as Cambridge in England.
Actors, scholars, philosphers, Al Gore, and even the founder of Facebook have come from Harvard’s crop. These powerful men were forced to live in buildings with names like “Wigglesworth,” it’s true, but the original Harvard Yard looked quite different.
Harvard Yard used to look a lot more like a yard. There were two buildings, some chickens, and some cows in 1638 when the school first began under Nathaniel Eaton. Eaton’s good friend and Charlestown Assistant Minister (a man named John Harvard) got sick with tuberculosis and died fairly quickly at the age of 31.
John Harvard gave just shy of 800 pounds to the school, becoming its first benefactor and its namesake. His 400-book library was also donated, but almost entirely destroyed in the fire of 1764.
The famous statue of John Harvard sits in Harvard Yard, looking precisely nothing like John Harvard. Also, we would not recommend rubbing his foot no matter how much luck it might be said to bring. If you’d like to know why, come on our tour and find out.
The Founding of Harvard College
by Samuel Eliot Morison
Colleges were a very different animal 400 years ago. Learn about the academic traditions and standards that made the first American university what it is today.