Monday, May 09, 2011

CHARLES RIVER MEMORIES, PART X, Harvard University and the Charles River

1. Archie’s Report.
2. Prior reports in this series.
3. Editor’s Supplement.

1. Archie’s Report.

By Archie Mazmanian

I conduct research on the Internet for this series not only to test my memory but to learn more about the Charles River. Recently such a search revealed an article by Corydon Ireland titled “A river runs through it” subtitled “Harvard’s long and complex ties to the Charles” in the Harvard Gazette, October 10, 2010. Many may recall the 1992 movie with that title starring Robert Redford about a river in Montana. Titles are not subject to copyright protection. I was aware of this with my July 21,2009 post on this Blog of “A River Runs Through It” about Harvard and the Charles in my series on Phase 2 of the Urban Ring Project. [Available here:] No reference was made in Ireland’s article to mine. So be it. But there are different perspectives to consider.

The Harvard Gazette article mentions a book “Bringing the Harvard Yards to the River” (Harvard Design School, 2004), “a slender volume edited by the GSD’s Joan Busquetss, the Martin Bucksbaum Professor in Practice in Urban Planning and Design. In it, the contributors imagined turning parkways into promenades, digging pedestrian tunnels, and even building a midriver recreational island.

Each of the ideas shared a goal, Busquets wrote, ‘the importance of establishing a better connection to the Charles River.’” (Better for whom?)

I have not been able to locate this book at a local library as yet, so I know very little of the ideas of the goal of Harvard in “establishing a better connection to the Charles River.” [Harvard Magazine in March of 2005 discloses some of the ideas pictorially, available via the Internet at:] We know of course of the hundreds of acres of land surreptitiously acquired by Harvard in Allston that remain to be developed. We have seen the new dorms with river views on the Allston side. What is to come, and will Allston residents have a say in what Harvard develops as it may impact upon the Charles, which belongs to all of us? What voice will or should Cambridge residents have? Others?

Harvard has a long history with the Charles River. Recall the exclusive ferry operations granted to Harvard back in 1650 between Boston and Charlestown discussed in Part VII of this series that were entwined with the 1837 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge. Harvard College was earlier recognized in Chapter V of the MA Constitution confirming and commending its incorporation with this: “ … the encouragement of arts and sciences, and all good literature, tends to the honor of God, the advantage of the Christian religion, and the great benefit of this and other United States of America.” But God did not endow the Charles River to Harvard. And of course we have religious diversity today, thanks to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

This brings to mind this poem:

"And here's to good old Boston
The land of the bean and the cod
Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots
And the Cabots talk only to God."

- Author Unknown

When it comes to the Charles River, Harvard must talk to all of us.

[Part XI of this series will address the roles of Harvard, MIT and Boston University regarding the Charles River. By the way, I am not aware of any of these venerable institutions addressing the cruelty imposed by MA and Cambridge government officials on the Charles River White Geese. I wonder why?]

2. Prior reports in this series.

Part IX, 4/29/11:

Part VIII, 4/20/11:

Part VII, 4/16/11:

Part VI,4/11/11:

Intermission, 4/1/11:

Part V, 3/29/11:

Part IV, 3/7/11:

Part III, 2/19/11:

Part II, 2/5/11:

Part I, 1/29/11:

3. Editor’s Supplement.

I find Harvard’s official 2010 statement of intentions in Cambridge in its 2010 Town - Gown report to Cambridge. I do not see the 2011 version.

Harvard’s official position as to its intentions in Allston are posted at:

Moving the Medical School to the current location of the Massachusetts Turnpike off ramps is not mentioned.

I looked for a comparable page for Watertown without success. Major purchases have been made across the Charles River in Watertown and I have seen plans for housing construction on the hillside above Greenough Boulevard facing the Charles River.

Additions are welcome.