No visit to the Boston area would be complete without a stop in Cambridge, and Harvard Square makes a good starting point. The building anchoring the three-street intersection in this shopping, dining and public performance space houses the third-floor offices of Car Talk. The window stencil reads “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe,” the gag name of a fictional law firm. Although the long-running and much-loved NPR radio show no longer broadcasts new programming, it remains one of my favorites in reruns.
We strolled in every direction from Harvard Square, and in our wanderings we came across the Longfellow House. We could tour the grounds of this National Park site, but the home had not yet opened for the season when we visited in May. Not only did 19th Century American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow live here, General George Washington used the home as his Massachusetts headquarters during the Revolutionary War from July 1775 to April 1776.
Any fan of architecture will love Cambridge in general and the Harvard campus in particular for its awe-inspiring buildings, such as the Victorian gothic Memorial Hall. Walking in Harvard Yard, past student housing and classroom buildings, we felt a sense of nostalgia for our own college years — albeit on a much humbler scale — and the optimism and enthusiasm we had in our younger days of learning and exposure to new ideas. Of course, so far Project 100 has been like one enormous class field trip exploring nature, culture, history, and architecture. The best part is, now we have a greater capacity to appreciate what we’re learning.
Fast-forward to the opposite end of the lifespan spectrum for our next destination: Mt. Auburn Cemetery. We wandered for several hours on the Cambridge cemetery’s beautiful grounds, admiring trees in bloom, flowers, ponds, rolling hills and the most incredible array of tombstones old and new. Several notable New England figures are buried here, among them Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Mary Baker Eddy, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Winslow Homer.. Inexplicably, a sphinx statue sitting across from Bigelow Chapel — named in honor of one of the cemetery’s architects — memorializes those who died in the Civil War.
With three miles of paths weaving through the grounds, this is another great place to get some exercise. The top of the 62-foot-tall Washington Tower, which sits at the top of the highest hill on the grounds, offers fantastic views of Cambridge and all the way to downtown Boston.
In addition to the fascinating headstones, crypts and statuary, the cemetery teems with wildlife such as rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and turtles. At least three wild turkeys strutted about, picking in the grass between headstones and not at all wary of the living, and a plethora of other bird species draws birders from around the world.
Having entered through a side gate, we got into a bit of a panic when we realized that the cemetery would be closing and couldn’t remember how to get back to where we parked the car. What if we were locked in? Eventually we stumbled upon the main entrance and bought a map of the cemetery that helped us find our way. Thank goodness the main gate stayed open at least half an hour past closing time, or we might have had to spend the night in the car. Talk about a grave situation!