Completed in 1890, the Johnston Gate is the first of 25 entrances built that lead into Harvard Yard. Yes, there are 25 entrances just to get into Harvard Yard (or 25 ways to escape for stressed out freshmen)! The gate is named after Samuel Johnston, a Harvard graduate from the class of 1855, who left the school $10,000 for its construction. His donation definitely did not cover the entire cost.
The incredibly expensive gate was designed by Charles McKim of the New York firm McKim, Mead, & White. He was a Harvard graduate, as well. When first built, many people were outraged by its lavish metal work, hoping for a more modest design to showcase Harvard’s Puritan origins (seriously). Yet, the gate matched existing 18th century architecture in the area. At the request of the university, the gate was built with a special type of hand-made red brick. It was the first time the iconic Harvardian brick was used. It’s now a staple you see everywhere…well, everywhere on campus.
Nearly a century later, 1983 to be exact, a guardhouse was built at the Johnston Gate. Known as the “Gatelodge,” it was designed by Graham Gund. The Gund name is familiar on campus, as George Gund Hall is named after Graham’s father. The guard house is about the size of a port-o-potty, but considerably more expensive, taking $57,000 to build (and another $10,000 in the restoration of the area around it for a total cost of $67,000 in 1980’s money).
Why would the school build it then?! Before the guardhouse, a security guard would sit in their car, all day, in front of the gate. Harvard thought this was a waste of time and money, so “Gatelodge” was built.
Johnston Gate, including the guardhouse, is one of the most photographed locations on the Harvard Campus, as well as Cambridge.