Harvard Square

From Academic Kids

Harvard Square, May
Harvard Square, May 2000

Harvard Square is a large triangular area in the center of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Often traffic-congested, it is located next to Harvard University at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and John F. Kennedy Street, and is a highly travelled space for Harvard and MIT students, along with residents of Boston, Cambridge, and other nearby cities. In an extended sense, the name "Harvard Square" can refer to the entire neighborhood surrounding this intersection for several blocks in each direction.

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

Discussions of how the Square has changed in recent years usually center on the perceived gentrification of the Harvard Square neighbourhood and Cambridge in general. During the late 1990s, some locally run businesses with long-time shopfronts on the Square were displaced to make way for national chains, including the unusual Tasty Diner, a tiny one-room hamburger and sandwich shop. Some characteristic businesses on the Square still remain, however, including the newspaper stand Out of Town News, which stocks daily and weekly newspapers in a variety of languages and from a wide variety of countries. A short video of Out of Town News, which stands on the "island" at the center of the Square, appears in transitional clips used on CNN. The office of NPR's Car Talk radio show faces the square, with a stencil in the window that reads "Dewey, Cheatham and Howe", the fictional law firm often referenced on the show.

The sunken region next to the news stand, which leads into the Harvard Square stop of the Boston MBTA, is sometimes referred to as "The Pit." Its arena-like appearance attracts skateboarders and, more generally, young, high-school aged people from surrounding neighbourhoods who are associated with countercultural movements such as the Punk, Straight-edge, and Goth subcultures. They are sometimes derogatively referred to as "pit kids" or "pit rats," and 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. One block east of the pit, an outdoor cafe features always-busy tables for chess players. de: Harvard Square



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