This bronze statue, which stands at the center of Harvard Yard, is frequently visited by both travelers and prospective students, and it’s also been the target of dozens of pranks since its unveiling. Whether it’s covered in tar, paint, or some other substance, the John Harvard statue remains at the heart of the school named for him … even though the statue isn’t actually of him.The Basics
Historians aren’t exactly sure what the founder of Harvard University looked like, so artist Daniel Chester French used one of Harvard’s descendants as inspiration for this 1883 statue. Some call it the “Statue of Three Lies” in reference to its inscription, which reads: “John Harvard, Founder, 1638.” Harvard was a major donor, not the founder; the university was established in 1636, not 1638; and the model for the statue was Sherman Hoar, not Harvard. Regardless, this image is among the most recognized in the city, and a stop here is common stop on walking tours of Cambridge.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tourists have been known to rub the left toe of the John Harvard Statue for good luck.
- Free hour-long campus tours are available, along with a self-guided tour option via an app that features a campus map highlighting important landmarks.
- The statue is most susceptible to incidents of vandalism during football season, when students from competing schools try to leave their mark (e.g., green paint courtesy of Dartmouth).
How to Get There
The John Harvard Statue is located in Harvard Yard in Cambridge, just north of Boston. If you are traveling by car to the university, take Interstate 93 to exit 26/26A. Note that parking is very limited around Harvard Square, but private garages are available. To avoid parking hassles, take Boston’s subway, which is known as the T, to the Harvard stop, across the street from Harvard Yard.
When to Get There
Expect smaller crowds in Cambridge in the summer, when school is out. From June to October, more tourists than students will be on campus, making it easier to explore. Come fall, visitors frequent the area to check out the colorful foliage. In general, travelers tend to avoid Boston and Cambridge in the winter when temperatures can be frigid.Harvard Book Store
Open since 1932, this locally owned, independent bookstore is known for its extensive selection of new and used books. Customers can even print paperback books on-site from electronic files that are available online. The bookstore also hosts author events and readings throughout the year, as well as organizing a book circle.