Spotlight on Harvard!

Freedom's Way and The Harvard General Store and Fruitlands Museum our
Spotlight on Harvard! joint sponsors, encourage you to get out and experience the sites of Harvard. As you tour the sites, take photos and email them to us at or post them on our Facebook page. Download the This Place Matters sign from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and include the sign in your photos.

download a printable pdf version of this tour from the bottom of this page

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Harvard Center Cemetery
Entrance next to #1 Still River Road

The Center Cemetery or the Old Burial Ground was created less than one year after the Town of Harvard was incorporated. Once part of the original Common, it holds gravestones from the late 18th into the late 19th centuries.

It is a well-maintained cemetery that includes the works of two of the well-known Harvard stone carvers Thomas Park and Jonathan Worster. Both carvers used high quality slate from Pin Hill, where the carvers were part of a cooperative, which came to an abrupt end when someone decided to use dynamite to get the slate and fractured all that remained.

Throughout the cemetery are many interesting epitaphs documenting disease, accidental deaths, infant mortality, childbirth deaths and slavery including a small marker in the corner that marks the grave of Othello, a slave of Henry Bromfield.

Harvard Common
Corner of Still River and Ayer Roads

Established in 1733, the same year as the Center Cemetery, the Common area is the core of the community, and is surrounded by civic buildings such as the town hall, the old library, churches and the aforementioned cemetery.  There are also numerous handsome well-kept houses, most dating from the late-18th to late-19th centuries. Once a hub including an Inn, butcher shop and tearoom, all local enterprises all have folded for economic reasons over the past 35-40 years except for an antique store (open by appointment only) and the General Store.

Although the original common lands were approximately 30 acres, over the passage of time, town fathers permitted development so the official open common space is much smaller.

Harvard Center is a local historic district and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Photo courtesy Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Ralph Houghton House
204 West Bare Hill Road
c. 1685
Private residences should only be viewed from a public way.

Perhaps the oldest house in the Town of Harvard, this garrison was built by Ralph Houghton. At the time of its construction, this land was part of Lancaster, and Houghton, then 29-years old, was the first clerk of Lancaster. He and his son, James, owned the house. The second half of house was added when James’ son got married. The house continued in the family until 1912 (227 years).

The large farmhouse is the sum of at least three structures, all very old. The western end is the original garrison house built between 1692 and 1704. Among the many Houghton family members who resided at the garrison, Elijah is listed in "Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution" as having marched on April 19, 1775, to Cambridge and served in various capacities throughout the war until 1780.

Shaker Cemetery and Trail to Holy Hill Worship Area
South Shaker Road

The Shaker Village in the northeast part of the town of Harvard reached its peak population in the middle of the 19th century. However, the Shaker community existed here from the late-18th century to the early-20th century.

The Shaker Cemetery and Holy Hill worship grounds form an important part of the village that extends along Shaker and South Shaker Roads. The Shaker settlement in Harvard was one of several religious communities established by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, followers of Mother Ann Lee. The industrious Shakers packaged and sold seeds, invented the circular saw and other laborsaving devices.

The town-owned conservation land and trail to Holy Hill is reached from the marked parking lot on South Shaker Road that is adjacent to the Shaker Cemetery. The religious Shakers would walk from their village to their worship grounds.

Accessible only during daylight hours.

Fruitlands Museum
102 Prospect Hill Road

One of the first outdoor museums in America, in addition to the four galleries and collections, the Fruitlands Museum is sited on more than 200 pastoral acres, trails and vistas. It is named after the famous failed transcendental experiment conducted by Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May and his associate Charles Lane. Miss Clara Endicott Sears, who founded the museum that now includes exhibit galleries in addition to the historic trails and inspiring scenic views, purchased the Fruitland’s farmhouse and grounds.

This year, the museum's first juried outdoor sculpture exhibition, Art in Nature, explores balance, strength, fragility, curiosity, and knowledge through a selection of engaging sculptures integrated into Fruitlands’ dynamic landscape.

Purchase admission to the grounds at the museum store. Trails/Grounds -- Adults $6.00, Children $3.00 Dogs are allowed if they are on a leash. Admission to the galleries additional. Visit them at

Thomas Conroy,
May 11, 2011, 11:17 AM