On Friday’s post I began writing about Hollis Hall which appears inconspicuously behind Thomas Knowlton on Page #47. Then I realized I should mention that the scene takes place in Harvard Yard. I visited last summer and took a bunch of great photos that I always intended to, but never actually remembered to, share with you. It was soon apparent I just needed to write a new post exclusively about historic Harvard during the American Revolution. So here it is…
Last summer when I was in Boston, Sam Forman took me on a brief tour of the historic parts of Harvard Campus before dropping me off at the airport.
There were three things I really hoped to see there: the dormitories used as barracks by the Continental Army, Dr. Joseph Warren’s dormitory, and the building used by Dr. John Warren as Harvard’s first school of medicine.
After Bunker Hill, the Continental Army was established. Newly instated General George Washington came to Boston and set up headquarters for this ragtag group of misfit soldiers at Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Harvard Campus. Hollis Hall (above) was one such building used as barracks for the army. A plaque on the side of the building mentions this fact, rather nonchalantly, I might add. If I were a Harvard freshman I’d do whatever it took to make sure I lived here.
Adjacent to Hollis Hall in Harvard Yard is another historic, Revolutionary era building. This one is Massachusetts Hall. Most notably, to us Dreamers, this was the dormitory where Joseph Warren lived when he was a teenage Harvard student.
Joseph Warren, John Hancock, John Adams, Elbridge Gerry, James Otis and Samuel Adams also lived here when they were students. It’s not really a surprise then that the president of the university has his office there now, is it?
There is a famous little story about Joseph Warren climbing up a rainspout to get into a locked room. No sooner had he jumped through the window, the rainspout fell away from the wall and crashed to the ground. Safely inside and back on his feet, Warren, unfazed, declared to his classmates that at least the rainspout had, “served it’s purpose.”
The tale might not be true, but if it is, Sam tells me the rainspout in question would, at that time, have been a hollowed out log. That the son of an apple farmer would be good at climbing trees doesn’t surprise me. (We also know Warren for another famous climb– into the Old South Meeting House!)
Just because he could have doesn’t mean he did. It just means the story is plausible.
Massachusetts Hall was also converted into army barracks during the siege of Boston.
I love 18th century architecture before the Federalist style took over. It’s a good thing I had a flight to catch or I would have kept Sam there a lot longer that day…
Nearby was Holden Chapel. In 1783 this tiny little building was the site of new Harvard Medical School, established by none other than Dr. John Warren, Joseph Warren’s youngest brother who was also a Harvard alum.
The Two Nerdy History Girls just wrote a post about the ox heads carved above the doorframe here at Holden Chapel. Turns out, yup, soldiers stayed here too. I love the Nerdy History Girls, and if you haven’t been to their site yet, you should read this article then peruse the blog for more.
Our last stop at Harvard was the Wadsworth House.
Homes large enough to house the Generals’s staffs were picked as temporary headquarters near where the army was staying. This was one that Washington used while in Boston.
Well, next time you’re in Boston consider making the trip out to Cambridge and check out the historic buildings at Harvard Yard. I think students even give tours once or twice a day, if you don’t have your own personal historian to show you around.