Although today Harvard Square looks like an outdoor version of a Jersey mall (just replace the mafia housewives with a
Although today Harvard Square looks like an outdoor version of a Jersey mall (just replace the mafia housewives with a horde of slow-walking tourists), it wasn’t always this way—and most Cantabrigians don’t need a book to tell them that.
But the arrival of “Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950”, by Mo Lotman, has afforded long-term residents a unique opportunity to revisit—and scrutinize—the gentrification they’ve experienced over their lifetimes.
“I was definitely shooting for an immersive feel,” said Lotman. Appropriately, the book is large in size, filled primarily with photos and a colorful arrangement of descriptive text. It is divided into separate sections, one for each decade ranging from the 1950s to the 1990s and beyond.
Craig A. Lambert ’69, who is reviewing the book for Harvard Magazine, said he was impressed by the “prodigious amount of research” that went into producing the elaborate volume. “It’s a wonderful book; he’s gotten just about everything in there for the history of Harvard Square.”
Those who have witnessed the changes to the Square said they have noticed an obvious trend. “I think it’s gone from being a little grungier and funkier to being a little more upscale,” said Lotman.
Likewise, Robert S. Manning, a Boston resident for the past ten years, says he felt “a little bit of nostalgia for the quirkiness, uniqueness, idiosyncratic-ness of Harvard Square,” while perusing the book in the Coop earlier this week.
“I was interested to see how all the independent places are gone, and how it’s become more homogenized and generic,” he said. “Now it’s like going anywhere else in the country.” Like New Jersey?
Lambert referred to the current state of the Square as an “academic theme park,” catering primarily to Cambridge’s heavy tourist industry rather than serving the needs of the Harvard community.
Despite their opinions about the state of the Square today, both Lambert and Manning said that the book brought back fond memories of the older days in Harvard Square.
That would likely please Lotman: “I guess it’s more of a celebration of Harvard Square than anything else, and that’s what I intended it to be,” he said.