Parts of History


The Crimson Key Society gives daily tours of the Yard, reciting the history of each building. And each spring, most every newspaper account of Commencement describes the ceremonies as taking place in the shadow of historic Widener Library.

Most of the time, the University enjoys its historic image. Not last week, though, when Harvard officials asked the Massachusetts Historical Commission not to nominate nearly 60 campus buildings--including sections of the Yard, the River Houses, and Radcliffe Yard--for the national historic register.

Though its representatives argued that Harvard had not been given enough time to review the nominations, the real motivation for Harvard's opposition was more complex. Should the buildings be placed on the federal register, the University would have to submit to federal review before using government money to renovate or demolish any of the structures.

The state board paid little attention to Harvard's argument, voting 9-1 to send the list of campus properties--along with nearly 800 other Cambridge buildings--to the Secretary of the Interior with the recommendation that they be placed on the list.

Harvard won't have another public hearing on its plea, but copies of their correspondence with the state and city historical commissions will be forwarded to Washington, Pat Weslowski, director of the state board, said this week.


And though Harvard hasn't given up the fight, University lawyers "have some homework to do" to figure out possible ways to challenge the nomination, Supratik Bose, a University planning officer, said yesterday.

Even if the University won its shortterm battle for extra time to review the nominations, its real fight would just be beginning. To keep the properties off the register in the words of city historical society director Charles Sullivan, "sooner or later they [Harvard] will be placed in the position of arguing that parts of the campus are not historic."

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