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Inventing Harvard home

History of Colonial Harvard
17th Century Harvard

18th Century Harvard

19th Century Harvard
20th Century Harvard
Final Project: Indian College
Final Project: John and Ann


Because Harvard is the nation's oldest university, visitors expect it to
look "colonial." It seldom disappoints. When people walk into the
Yard, they have a sense of walking back in time. The red-brick
buildings and the gold-capped towers along the river enhance the sense of antiquity.

But when did Harvard start to look like Harvard? Has it always looked and felt like a colonial college writ large? This site is intended to help you think about how our twenty-first-century university came to look the way it does. We've selected some of Harvard's most familiar landmarks and many of the buildings that made way for them to give you an idea of how the campus has grown and changed over its four centuries.

Although no buildings survive from the seventeenth century, you can see what those buildings might have looked like and where they were located. You can also look at buildings constructed (and sometimes demolished too!) in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries as well.

Maybe you spotted the eye featured in our introductory animation. The eye, which evokes an early Harvard coat of arms, reminds us of the importance of visual culture in creating (or inventing) myths. And if we, as detectives, keep our eyes peeled and look closely enough, we might just find that things aren't always what they seem.

Eliza Susan Quincy. Procession of Harvard Alumni, September 1836.

Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College