September Contest

may 1900

A solitary Harvard student, replete with bowler, May 1900. A mystery view, courtesy of the Harvard University Archives.

Here’s a scene that FDR knew intimately. It was taken in May 1900, during the period Franklin was in Cambridge finalizing his room arrangements at Westmorly Hall for the upcoming year. Though the perspective would change considerably during his time at Harvard, owing to the ambitious enclosure program instituted by President Eliot, this view would remain instantly recognizable to any member of the class of ’04.

Can anyone tell me what we’re looking at?

There’s a prize if you can: each month until the next FDR Memorial Dinner in February, I’ll be offering two free tickets to the 3rd Annual lecture for anyone who correctly guesses my monthly puzzler. Think hard: we have a very special guest coming to speak – all the way from France, in fact – someone who knew FDR as well as he knew this view, so good guessing will have quite a payoff.

(The mandatory fine print: Contest deadline is one week from the posting date; one winner per contest, to be announced in subsequent posts. Awards are good only for the lecture portion of the event. To enter, leave your guess as a comment below. I will contact winners by email.)

OK, a small hint: to my knowledge, only one of the buildings seen in the distance is still standing, though it’s no longer visible from this angle.

2 comments on “September Contest

  1. Ross Green '80 on

    The view is from Harvard Yard, looking towards Massachusetts Avenue, with Plympton Street on the right and Bow Street on the left. The building that is still standing is the brick building at the corner of Bow Street and Mass Ave.

    • Michael Weishan on

      Wow! Ross, either I should have made this contest harder, or you have fantastic visual ability. You are absolutely correct. I didn’t think anyone would get this, given how much the scene has changed. The picture was taken just before the construction of the the Dexter Gate in 1901, from approximately where Widener Library now stands, looking through what would latter be Wigglesworth Hall to Mass Ave. The large house at the corner of Plympton and Massachusetts Avenue was replaced in 1907 by the building now housing the Harvard Book Store.


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