Chapter 1





CAMBRIDGE in midsummer is vastly different from the Cambridge of the college year. Except for a few members of the summer classes, undergraduate life is still; professors and tutors are off to mountain or seashore; only the bursar and janitors remain, while under the classic elms, instead of grave, spectacled scholars one meets painters, glaziers, upholsterers, and other members of the renovating corps. Most of the wealthy and cultivated families who make the place their winter home have also gone, and one discovers how dull, so far as mere physical animation is concerned, a university town may be without the university life. To the dreamy or reflective visitor, however7 the place presents now its most interesting aspect. He can loiter about the college quadrangles and assimilate whatever about them is venerable in history, grand in effort, or noble through association, without being stumbled over by hurrying undergraduates or eyed askance by officious proctors. Then, too, the historic houses in the town are more accessible, and


2 In Olde Massachusetts

the aged citizens who remain, more chatty and gossipy than in the busier season.

Could anything be more worthy or venerable, for instance, than Massachusetts Hall a mouldy, mossy brick pile on the west of the quadrangle, built in 1718 at the expense of the Government, and christened with the name of the colony? All the glory of the State seems to invest it. Or the Old Wadsworth House, on Harvard Street, built in 1726, the home of the early presidents of the college, the headquarters of Washington and Lee, the gathering place of all the patriot leaders of the Revolution one feels that the authorities cannot be aware of its history, to have put it to the uses which it bears a dormitory for students and an office for bursar and janitor. Harvard Hall is another of the time-honored structures in the quadrangle. It was built by order of the General Court in 1765, and from its roof, in 1775, 1,000 pounds of lead were taken and made into bullets for the needy Continentals. Washington was received there in 1789. In the first Stoughton Hall, also within the quadrangle, the Provisional Congress held its sessions, and mapped out the plan of the opening campaign.

The present Stoughton Hall, erected in 1805, is notable for the many eminent men who have been sheltered within its walls; Edward Everett, Josiah Quincy, the Peabody brothers, Caleb Cushing, Horatio Greenough, Sumner, Hilliard, Hoar, Hale, and Holmes


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being among them. Hollis Hall, next south of Stoughton, was also noteworthy in this respect; Prescott, Emerson, Wendell Phillips, Charles Francis Adams, and Thoreau having been among its occupants.

But Harvard is not all of Cambridge; there is as much without as within the campus to interest the tourist. One scarcely realizes the historical importance of the place until he stands beneath the Washington elm beside the ancient Common. This Common is noteworthy because here the first American army was marshaled, the American flag was first unfurled, and the raw Continental levies were organized and drilled for the attack on Bunker Hill. The elm is famous because under it Washington took command of the army, and because from a little stand built high up in its branches he could watch the movements of his antagonists in any direction. The old tree has been surrounded by an iron railing, in front of which is a granite tablet bearing this inscription, written by


"Under this tree Washington first took command of the American army, July 8, 1775."

The old relic has long been engaged in a pathetic struggle with age and decay. Nearly all of its original limbs have decayed from the top down, leaving only their stumps attached to the parent trunk, and most of what is green about it has sprung from these stumps, or from the vigorous old trunk.


4 In Olde Massachusetts

Under this elm the thinker is prone to yield to Cambridge priority among American historic places. Lexington and Concord were mere e’meutes. This was the point of decision, the matrix of nationality, the birthplace of concerted, organized resistance, while Putnam, spurring here on the news of Lexington, taking command of the excited, unprovided farmers, sending hourly expresses to Trumbull at Lebanon for arms, powder, provisions, and finally leading the organized battalions up to Bunker Hill, is the true historic figure-piece of the Revolution.

No town boasts such a wealth of ancient and noteworthy houses as Cambridge. A few minutes’ walk from the old oak, on Brattle Street, is a fine old-time mansion, seated on a terrace a little back from the street, which possesses a character, a dignity, that would render it a marked house even to one unacquainted with its history. This is the old Washington Headquarters, better known during the last forty years as the home of Longfellow. Its history dates back to 1739, when it was built by one Col. John Vassal. In the troubles of 1775, Vassal espoused the British cause, and was obliged to flee into the English lines, whereupon Col. John Glover, with his Marblehead regiment, took possession. In July, 1775, Washington fixed his headquarters here, and remained until the following February. Madam Washington and her maids arrived in December, and held many levees and



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dinner parties here, it is said, through the winter. After the war several gentlemen owned it for short periods.

During Dr. Craigie’s occupancy Talleyrand and the Duke of Kent were entertained there. Jared Sparks resided there in 1833. Edward Everett was also a resident at one time. In 1887 Longfellow, on his return from Europe to assume the professor’s chair in Harvard, took possession of the mansion, and in 1848 purchased it. Of its subsequent history it is not necessary to speak.

The park about the house comprises some eight acres. Passing up the broad graveled walk, we sounded the old-fashioned knocker on the door, and presently a pleasant-faced matron the housekeeperanswered the summons. To our inquiry if visitors were now admitted to the library, she replied that they were not, as the family was away, and the rooms had been closed until their return; then, seeing our look of disappointment, she inquired if we had come far, and on our informing her that we were from New York and members of the guild, she kindly admitted us to the study. From the wide hall we stepped at once into this study a large, airy front room on the right as one enters. A round center-table occupied the middle of the room, on which were grouped the poet’s favorite books, several manuscript poems as they came from his hand, his inkstand, pen, and other familiar articles.


6 In Olde Massachusetts

Mr. Ernest Longfellow’s fine portrait of his father in a corner of the room is a noteworthy feature. The furniture, table, and all the appointments of the room are as they were left by the former occupant, and we learned that it was the intention of the family to preserve them in this condition.

Down Brattle Street a quarter of a mile further, on the opposite side, is Elmwood, the home of the Lowells for two generations, and for years the seat of James Russell Lowell. This house, too, has a history; it was built about 1760, and previous to the Revolution was the home of Lieut.-Gov. Thomas Olivers, the last of the English colonial rulers. Olivers abdicated in 1775, in compliance, as he explained, with the command of a mob of 4,000 persons who had surrounded his house. A little later it was used as a hospital for the wounded in the skirmish on Bunker Hill, and the field opposite was taken for the burial of the dead. Elbridge Gerry resided here for a term of years, his successor being the Rev. Charles Lowell, father of the poet. The house and grounds could not be quainter or more delightfully rural if they were a hundred miles in the interior. The original mansion, the great pines and elms, the old barn, outhouses, and orchard, have been preserved as they existed a hundred years ago.

Another mansion notable in letters is the Holmes House, near the Common, between Kirkland Street and North Avenue, an old gambrel-roofed structure,


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with the mosses of more than one hundred and fifty years clinging to its clapboards. Here the Committee of Safety planned the organization of the army; it was also for a short time the headquarters of Washington. Some years after the war the place came into the possession of Judge Oliver Wendell, maternal grandfather of the poet, from whom it passed to the Rev. Abiel Holmes, the father of the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. "Old Ironsides" was one of the many poems written within its walls. It is now the property of the college.

The Lee, the Fayerweather, the Brattle, the Waterhouse, and other mansions have famous and interesting histories; but we have perhaps said enough to give the reader an idea of what a midsummer walk in Cambridge may develop.