The Harvard Memorial Society has placed a tablet in the post of the Yard fence adjoining Wadsworth House, to indicate the site of the two earliest College buildings, the foundations of which were discovered in December, 1909, and February, 1910, in the course of the excavations in Massachusetts avenue for the Cambridge subway. For a few hours the stones were to be seen in their original places after having been covered for more than 275 years; then they disappeared therefrom forever, and one more link with the past was broken. But the exact position of the stones was measured and recorded, and when the street pavement was restored, the Railroad Company caused yellow bricks to be inserted to mark the sites.
Both these houses antedate the foundation of the College. The one to the East is described in the Cambridge records as belonging to William Peyntree, September 5, 1635, and to Nathaniel Eaton, March 12, 1638. Nathaniel Eaton was appointed "Professor" of the College in December, 1637, being its first teacher and officer, and there can be little doubt that while he occupied this house and while the first College Hall was being built, probably further back on the same lot, he held his classes here, and also cared for all or part of the scholars as boarders. In September, 1639, Eaton was dismissed "being accused for cruel and barbarous beating of Mr. Natha. Briscoe, (his usher) and for other neglecting and misusing of his scholars," but his house must have continued to be used for College purposes at least until the new Hall was finished in 1642. When it was taken down is not known.
The other house, on the adjoining lot to the West, was owned by James Olmstead in 1635, but he, like Peyntree and many of the early settlers, removed to Hartford, and in 1638 Edward Goffe was the owner. Before 1654 it had been acquired by the College and was then used as a dormitory, being called Goffe's College. In the early College records it is described as containing five chambers, eighteen studies (i. e. small rooms off the chambers) a kitchen, cellar, and three garrets.
The exact position of the first Hall or "Harvard College" is not known, but it can with comparative certainty be located further back from the street on the Eaton lot.
The tablet bears the following inscription:
NEAR THIS SPOT
AS INDICATED IN THE
STOOD WHEN THE
COLLEGE WAS FOUNDED
TO THE EAST
THE HOUSE OCCUPIED BY
FIRST TEACHER OF THE COLLEGE