Underpass Threatens Boat House; New Access Road May Brush Eliot

A proposed underpass at Memorial Drive and Boylston St. may force the demolition of Weld Boat House and bring the finished roadway within a yard of Eliot House, the CRIMSON learned yesterday. Work on the underpass--one of three scheduled for completion in the spring of 1965--could begin as early as next March.

John H. Finley '25, Master of Eliot House, reacted with "pure, horrid gloom" to the prospect of a new access road at the corner of the building. "I can see why they'd want it," Finley conceded; "all this pressure from Detroit and the ghastly Chevrolets they keep turning out. But it would be horrible. It would be the final victory of inhumanity."

Edward P. McSweeney, vice-president of the Metropolitan District Commission, confirmed that the Drive would "probably" be widened, but the man directly in charge of construction, chief park engineer Benjamin W. Fink, said he had only "a vague conception" of the underpass. The MDC, an autonomous agency that controls Memorial Drive and other parkways, owns the strip of land along the Charles and can seize property by eminent domain.

Fink said the Boston engineering firm of Jackson and Moreland was conducting traffic and physical surveys of the Drive in order to draft preliminary plans, which would be ready in December. "I'd be crazy to say anything until preliminary plans are accepted," he declared.

Well-informed sources, however, were able to supply details of MDC plans, based on the assumption that the Memorial Drive underpasses would be patterned after those on Soldiers Field Road, on the other side of the Charles.


They said the Drive would have to be at least 100 feet wide at the Boylston St. underpass in order to accommodate the necessary turn-off ramps and median divider. Depending on the exact position of the underpass, a ramp will grase--or run directly through--the Weld Boat House.

Another casualty of the underpass would be the sycamore trees along the Drive. Perhaps as many as 70 of them, from Winthrop House to beyond the MTA Yards, will fall before the bulldosers.

Since it would be unsafe for the Drive to widen beneath the underpasses and then narrow to its present width elsewhere, observers consider it likely that the road will eventually be widened along its entire length. Although this might not eliminate the grassy strip by the river, it would probably make it difficult for students to reach what remained of it.

L. Gard Wiggins, administrative vice-president, declined comment last night on the proposed underpass on the grounds that the MDC had not yet contacted the University. He said the Commission had promised to consult with Harvard "as soon as possible."

Some opposition to the MDC's plans is developing in Cambridge, based mainly on the threat to the sycamores. State Sen. Francis X. McCann (D-Cambridge) pointed out, however, that residents would have to obtain an amendment to his bill directing the MDC to build the under-passes. Gov. Peabody signed that into law in June, 1962