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Harvard Square is a large triangular area in the center of Cambridgemarker, Massachusettsmarker, at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Brattle Street, and John F. Kennedy Street. Adjacent to the historic heart of Harvard Universitymarker, Harvard Yardmarker, the Square (as it is called locally) functions as a commercial center for Harvard students, as well as residents of western Cambridge and the inner western suburbs of Bostonmarker.

It is also home to Harvard stationmarker, a major MBTA Red Line subway bus transportation hub. In an extended sense, the name "Harvard Square" can refer to the entire neighborhood surrounding this intersection for several blocks in each direction. The nearby Cambridge Commonmarker has a large park area with a playground, baseball field, and some local memorials.

History

1873 Map of Harvard Square


Although today a commercial area, the Square boasts famous residents from earlier periods, including the colonial poet Anne Bradstreet. The high pedestrian traffic makes it a gathering place for street musicians; singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman, who attended nearby Tufts Universitymarker, is known to have played here during her college years.

Until 1984, the Harvard Square stopmarker was the northern terminus of the Red Line, and it still functions as a major transfer station between subway, bus, and trackless trolley. Automobile traffic can be heavy, and parking is difficult. Most of the bus lines serving the area from the north and west run through a tunnel adjacent to the subway tunnel. Originally built for streetcars (which last ran in 1958) and still used by trackless trolleys as well as ordinary buses, the tunnel lessens bus traffic in central Harvard Square, and lets buses cross the Square without encountering automobile traffic.

Transformation

Discussions of how the Square has changed in recent years usually center on the perceived gentrification of the Harvard Square neighborhood and Cambridge in general.

The Square also used to be a neighborhood shopping center, with a grocery store (Sages) and a Woolworth's five and ten. There does remain a small hardware store (Dickson Hardware), but the Square is now more of a regional shopping center, especially for youths.

In 1981 and 1987 the Harvard Square Theatre was converted into a multiplex cinema; it is now part of the Loews Cineplex Entertainment chain. During the late 1990s, some locally run businesses with long-time shopfronts on the Square—including the unusual Tasty Dinermarker, a tiny sandwich shop open long hours, and the Wursthaus, a beloved old-world German restaurant—closed to make way for national chains.

Following national trends, the local Harvard Trust Company bank has been absorbed into the national Bank of America through a series of mergers. Elsie's sandwiches and Ferranti Dege cameras is gone. The student co-op, the Harvard Coop, is now managed by Barnes & Noble. Schoenhof's Foreign Booksmarker is owned by the French Éditions Gallimard.

In 2004, it was announced that the famous Grolier Poetry Bookshop would be sold (although it ended up surviving under different, independent management), and today even the iconic Out of Town News is owned by the UK-based Hudson Group. The independent WordsWorth Books closed in 2004, after a tenure of 29 years as a fixture in the Square. Paperback Booksmith and Reading International closed by the end of the 1990s. Still, a few establishments, such as Algiers Coffee House, Leavitt & Pierce tobacconists (est. 1883), Harvard Book Store (est. 1932), the Hong Kong Chinese restaurant (est. 1954), Laflamme Barber Shop (est. 1898), Cardullo's Gourmet Shoppe (est. 1950), Café Pamplona (est. 1959), and Bartley's Burger Cottage (est. 1960) remain as longstanding, locally-run businesses.

Other features

Chess players in Harvard Square


At the center of the Square is the old Harvard Square Subway Kioskmarker, now a newsstand, Out of Town News, stocking newspapers and magazines from around the world. A video of it appears in transitional clips used on CNN. A public motion art installation, Lumen Eclipse, has been introduced at the Tourist Information Booth showing monthly exhibitions of local, national and international artists.

In the south-west part of the Square, on Mount Auburn St, stands the Igor Fokin Memorial. This memorial, created by sculptor Konstantin Simun, pays tribute not only to the late "beloved puppeteer," but to all street performers that are an integral part of the square, especially during summer months.

The office of NPR's Car Talk radio show faces the square, with a stencil in the window that reads "Dewey, Cheatem and Howe," the fictional law firm often referenced on the show. The popular show references this by asking its viewers to send in answers to the "Puzzler" to "Puzzler Tower, Car Talk Plaza, Harvard Square, Cambridge (our fair city), MA 02238".

The sunken region next to the newsstand and the subway entrance is called "The Pit." Its arena-like appearance attracts skateboarders and, more generally, young, high-school aged people from surrounding neighborhoods who are associated with countercultural movements such as the punk, hardcore, straight edge, and goth subcultures. The contrast between these congregants and the often older and more conservatively dressed people associated with nearby Harvard University and the businesses in the Square occasionally leads to tension. Harvard sports teams and clubs, including the track teams and all-male social clubs, are known to make use of this contrast through encouraging or sometimes forcing their newest members to engage in humorous or humiliating performances in "The Pit" as part of these members' initiations into the group.

One block east of the pit, an outdoor cafe features always-busy tables for chess players, including Murray Turnbull, with his ever-present "Play the Chessmaster" sign.

A number of other public squares dot the surrounding streets with a wide variety of street performers throughout the year, and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park stands a few steps away along the banks of the Charles river.

The square often attracts activists for the Communist Party USA, Lyndon LaRouche and other non-mainstream political factions. It is also known for its large number of panhandlers; Tom Magliozzi has called it "the bum capital of the world".

"The Garage" is a small, multi-story shopping mall, named thus because it was formerly a parking garage. The original car ramp has been preserved, and is a central feature of this adaptive reuse project. One of the main attractions in The Garage is Newbury Comics.

Notable establishments







Notable book stores



In film

Various parts of the 1997 film Good Will Hunting were filmed in and around Harvard Square, most notably at the former Tasty Sandwich Shopmarker and the outdoor seating area of the square's largest Au Bon Pain café.

The 1973 film The Paper Chase features Harvard Square landmarks of its era, including the old Out of Town Newsstand, the old MBTA Harvard station kiosk, with its "8 Minutes to Park Street" sign, and the now-defunct Kupersmith's Florists.

The 1977 film Between the Lines features similar Harvard Square footage as well as aerial footage of Back Bay.

The 1994 film With Honors has a scene filmed in Harvard Square. The Out of Town newsstand is featured in it. The scene is when Monty approaches Simon as he (Simon) is attempting to sell newspapers he took out of a vending machines.

The 2005 film Touching History; Harvard Square, the Bank, and The Tasty Diner chronicles the changing face of the square through the eyes of a small diner serving its last burger and closing its doors to make way for a large surface retail space.

Gallery

Image:Harvard Square, view in 1869.jpg|Harvard Square in 1869Image:Cambridge Harvard Square.JPG|Harvard Square with the Out of Town News kiosk, left foreground, May 2004Image:Harvard Square.jpg|Harvard Square on a rainy dayFile:Harvardbookstore.jpg|Harvard Book Store at duskFile:CambridgeMALowesCinema24June07.jpg|Lowes Movie Theatre, Church Street

References

External links




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