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Harvard Stadium Designated Landmark

At 84, America's Oldest Stadium Praised As Civil Engineering Marvel


Honoring performance on the architectural drawing boards rather than the grid iron, the National Park Service recently nominated the Harvard Stadium as a National Historic Landmark.

The Harvard football stadium, dedicated to the memory of legendary coach Percy Haughton, will join a bevy of Harvard buildings thus "beatified" according to the Boston Landmark Commission. The Stadium was the first football stadium built in the country.

The University at first was hesitant to accept the recognition because it was worried that landmark status would restrict control of the Stadium. However, as long as Harvard does not accept federal money for the building, any renovations or additions can proceed without prior approval of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, said Kathy Spiegelman of the Harvard Planning Office.

The Stadium was erected in 1903 under the direction of Lewis F. Johnson, a member of the civil engineering department at Harvard, Ira Hollis, a faculty member and Charles F. McKim of the architecture firm of McKim, Mead and White. It was one of the first poured-in-place, reinforced concrete structures in America. At the time of building, it was the largest structure of reinforced concrete in the world, seating 24,000. It has since been enlarged to seat 37,289.

Its design follows Classical and Roman models and was influenced by the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896. It became the prototype for the design of college stadiums throughout the country.

Betsy Friedberg of the Massachusetts Historical Commission said that besides technological uniqueness, the Stadium's connection with Harvard athletics and its influence on the formulation of the rules of football made it a natural selection as a historic site. "Soldier's Field has very important associations with the history ofcollegiate sport. The narrowness of the playingfield was the main reason that the rulesconcerning the forward pass were adopted."

Bettina A. Norton, the director of theCambridge Historical Society was delighted to see,"A classical form of a field of play joinreligious edifices, cultural sights and numerousinstitutional and residential buildings on theregister of National Historic Landmarks."

Individual buildings, such as Sever, MemorialHall and University Hall and areas such as HarvardYard and the River Houses are also on the registerof historic landmarks.

The Stadium fits into this year's recreationtheme selected by the federal government as amotif for historic designation. Other honorees areBoston's Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Plans for a ceremony comemorating the honorawait formal notification from the federalgovernment, which is expected soon

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