Friday, September 04, 2015

24 June 2015: Official Harvard Tour

When I was visiting Massachusetts, I planned for a visit to Algiers Coffee House and Harvard on the same day.

Holyoke Center.

As I was very new to Harvard, I decided that it was necessary to sign myself up for the Official Harvard Tour. The earliest tour started at 10 a.m. As I was in Harvard area very early, I signed up for the tour way before 9.30 a.m. I later learnt that it was helpful to be early to sign up for the Official Harvard Tour. The tours were so popular that the 10 a.m. tour was fully booked before 9.45 a.m. However, as registration starts only one hour before a designated tour, it does help to plan ahead the visit to the Harvard Events and Information Center in Holyoke Center so as to secure a place on the Official Harvard Tour.

The Official Harvard Tour was led by one of the student volunteers. In addition to attending the Official Harvard Tour, I bought myself a copy of "A self-guided walking tour of Harvard Yard and surrounding areas".

Our guide led us to various locations on the Harvard Yard. Our guide introduced us to the Massachusetts Hall and the Harvard Hall. The former is the oldest building that is still standing at Harvard and the second-oldest academic building in the country. When the guide spoke about Harvard Hall, she shared with us the story of the fire that had happened in January 1764 which had destroyed the former Harvard Hall that was on the same location.

Harvard Hall.

As we progressed into the tour, we learnt about the Johnston Gate, the Science Center and the Memorial Hall. I learnt that the Memorial Hall is the building whereby first-year students of Harvard would dine in so as to foster a sense of community.

The Memorial Hall.

During our tour, we also passed by the Memorial Church. This was the place that is used for commencement. Our guide shared with us that the Memorial Church was intended to commemorate Harvard men who died in World Wars I and II.

Memorial Church

Widener Library.

Widener Library in Harvard had a moving story that touched my heart. The library was built using funds donated by Eleanor Elkins Widener in honour of her son, Harry Elkins Widener, Class of 1907, who was a rare-book collector who died on the Titanic in 1912. There were four stipulations set by the donor to honour Harry Elkins Widener. One of the four stipulations was that free soft-serve ice-cream will be served. To find out more about the moving story behind the Widener Library, please visit this site:

John Harvard Statue.

Concluding the tour was a visit to John Harvard Statue. It was very popular with visitors. This is called the "Statue of Three Lies", cast in 1884 by Daniel Chester French. I learnt that because there were no known portraits of John Harvard, French had used someone else as a model. Next, Harvard College was not founded by John Harvard but was named after him. Thirdly, the College was founded in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and not in 1638.

My reflections following the tour was that Harvard makes thoughtful efforts to foster a sense of community among its students and the Harvard community. I felt thankful for the opportunity to learn a bit more about Harvard. I love the spaciousness of Harvard Yard, and it was a lovely experience being there on a day in summer.

If any one wants more after the Official Harvard Tour, I heard that there is a fun alternative to the Official Harvard Tour. It's the Hahvahd Tour.

Official Harvard Tour
Harvard University Information Center, Holyoke Center Arcade
1350 Massachusetts Avenue
Tel: +1 617 495 1573

Nearest T-station: Harvard

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