Charles River Bridge Faces Identity Crisis

If you try to follow the maps and road signs to the Larz Anderson bridge, you'll never get there.

It's listed on Harvard's official information map, on a map produced by Cambridge's Community Development Department, and on signs posted along Soldiers Field Road.

But it doesn't exist.

Larz Anderson, Class of 1888, did in fact give local authorities $200,000 more than 60 years ago to build a new bridge spanning the Charles between the Houses and the football stadium along what is now Kennedy St.

But unlike most wealthy alumni, he decided against writing his own name into posterity. The bridge was instead officially named the "Anderson bridge" for "a scholar and a soldier." Nicholas Long worth Anderson, Class of 1858. Larz's father served as a general for the Northern states in the Civil War, according to a bronze plaque embedded in the stone bridge, completed in 1913.

Nicholas Anderson, however, was overshadowed by his more prominent son, said Albert A. Swanson, a historian for Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), which owns the bridge.

The younger Anderson was a prominent Boston-area philanthropist who worked as a diplomat in the Administration of then-President William Howard Taft, as an "envoy extraordinarie" to Belgium, Japan, and Rome.

"No class ever had a more devoted member than Larz Anderson," wrote class historians in 1923.

Harvard officials, when notified of their error, said the University is now planning to correct its map to give Nicholas Anderson the the recognition his son intended. Local officials said they would also consider changing the road signs, although an MDC official said, "Unless the community really wants the change, it might be better just to leave the signs the way they are now."

More Brouhaha

And a representative for the manufacturer of a popular post card sold in the Square, which identifies the "Larz Anderson Bridge" in a caption, said the name soon will be corrected.

"But we still do have a few thousand of the old cards left to sell first," he said.