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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
If Massachusetts Hall seems to be caving in when you look at it, don't let the sag in the roof feel you. It's built that way.
Fifty years age the woodwork of the old Mass Hall, built in 1720, and therefore oldest building in the school, was termiter ridden, the structural beams were weak and the roof was collapsing. The building was in such sorry condition that the Board of Directors gave up hope of salvaging it. The new Mass Hall was modeled after the old one-the reproduction was so faithful that even the original sag of the roof was duplicated-and is visible today.
Mass Hall is not the only relic of past executives' inspiration of tradition. Behind the Widener Library, facing Massachusetts Avenue, stands the largest gate in the College. Originally, it was built to be part of the Grand Entrance to the Yard.. An avenue running from the portal to the Charles River was planned, but the Corporation wouldn't buy the property the street was to be built on. The plan was temporarily postponed, but when Massachusetts Avenue was built, plans for the Grand Entrance had to be scrapped.
Few realize that the small building sandwiched between Hollis and Mower Halls has served as an engine house, senato chamber, dissecting theatre, museum, barracks, and lecture hall.
This building is Holden Chapel, of course. While it has served a variety of functions since its 1774 construction, it was used as a chapel only during the 21 years immediately after it was built. At least four major reconstruction jobs have been done on Holden Chapel.
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