Cambridge & The College
In a Cambridge that is a strange mix of the bucolic and industrial, many of Harvard's most iconic buildings have yet to be conceived when FDR was a student: there is no Harvard Stadium (that comes in 1903); no Malkin, no Widener Library (Harry Elkins, a soon-to-be student , is still almost a decade from his watery fate on the Titanic); no Lamont, no Memorial Chapel, no Science, Holyoke or any other Center. The Fogg Art Museum exists in an much smaller, previous incarnation where Canaday now sits. Only the old buildings of the yard, and Memorial Hall, sporting a fancy new clock and bell tower – now lost – would seem vaguely familiar to living alums. Harvard Square too, crisscrossed by throngs of street-length dresses and straw hats, is strangely foreign ground, save for an almost recognizable nascent Harvard Coop.
|This gingerbread structure is Gore Hall, the College library during FDR's years at Harvard. The view is from the south-eastern side of University Hall, looking to where Widener now stands. Until it was electrified only 6 years before, Gore closed each day at dusk, as no flames were allowed inside. In FDR's time, most of the College still depends on gaslight or oil lamp. (Courtesy Harvard University Archives)|
Immediately north and south of the Square lie tracts of quaint wood-framed houses, or vast, desolate parcels of heavy industry. The Kennedy School is a railroad yard. The B-School a marshy field. Eliot and Winthrop Houses are covered by a smoky power plant and coal yards. Leverett is an ugly series of decrepit buildings and wharves. The Quad houses are still a dream. In fact, the House system doesn't yet exist. The College of 1900 provides no set system of housing or board for its scholars. In fact, it has room for only 27% of the young men it admits each year. Students find accommodation wherever they can: the poor live in boarding houses, or in the old, run-down Harvard dormitories in the yard – some still without central heating or plumbing, and eat together in Memorial Hall – if they can afford it. (Memorial charges $4.50 a week for board; the less expensive Randall Hall, where the food was substantially less substantial, $2.50) The wealthy, like FDR, rent apartments in a series of luxurious private complexes along Mt Auburn street known as the Gold Coast, and dine in private clubs.
Tuition, by the way, is $150 per year, payable in three installments. Students are required either to prepay their bills, or post a bond for $400, to guarantee expenses. Housing costs range from 60 - 500/year (FDR payed 400), depending on location and amenities; students in buildings without central heating (the majority) must buy their own coal or wood, and keep their own grate. Rooms on the lower floors of the various Yard halls are in high demand; 5 steep flights several times a day with a heavy coal bucket rapidly become wearing. There are no elevators.
|The Cambridge FDR knew: A panoramic view of the Charles, 1901, taken from the now destroyed chimney of the Cambridge Electric Light company on the corner of Western Avenue and what will one day be Memorial Drive. Of familiar Harvard landmarks, there are few: only the the 1900 creation of architects Peabody & Sterns, the Newell boathouse (on the left shore just below the "s" in "Playing Fields") remains substantially unaltered. The Newell was FDR's club, for which he actively rowed his freshman and sophomore years. (Courtesy Harvard University Archives)|