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Maintenance workers broke ground yesterday in front of Stoughton Hall as a first step in the much-delayed re-installation of the Yard Pump, University officials said.
The pump, a gift from Radcliffe to the College on the occasion of Harvard's 350th anniversary, is an oak replica of the 1936 pump which last occupied the site.
Boston artisan William Brouwer has nearly finished preparing the reproduction and said that it would be ready for installation by mid-October.
The five-foot tall replica will supply drinkable city water to thirsty Yardlings, said John Lach, Radcliffe's director of physical planning. A 10-second timer will simulate pumping action, negating the strenuous exercise once required to quench students' thirst.
The original plans for the restoration project, proposed by Radcliffe landscapers last year, included a surrounding garden, but such ideas had to be reduced for economic and aesthetic reasons.
The pump will be surrounded by a bluestone shale patio deemed by a Cambridge historical commission to be more in tune with the historical setting of the Yard.
The first pump to occupy the site was installed in 1764 but was later destroyed by vandals in 1901. In 1936 students reputedly christened their new pump by filling it with beer as part of Harvard's 300th anniversary.
The new pump will "last forever... or at least for another 50 years," Lach said.
A date for the pump's dedication ceremony has not yet been set, said a spokesman for Radcliffe President Matina S. Horner.
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