Higher Learning and Headstones in Cambridge

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Christi in Cambridge's Harvard Square

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.

Christi at Longfellow House in Cambridge, Mass.

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.

Hector on the Harvard campus

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.

Hector in front of Bigelow Chapel in Cambridge's Mt. Auburn CemeteryFast-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.

Christi at the top of Washington Tower in Cambridge's Mt. Auburn CemeteryWith 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.

Wild turkey at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in CambridgeIn 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!

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3 thoughts on “Higher Learning and Headstones in Cambridge

  1. Maxine

    Harvard looks impressive. I think that’s where Love Story was filmed or incorporated into the film, very preppy. That’s how a traditional college should be with big old buildings filled with years and years of learning. Loved the downtown Boston view from atop the hill.

    Onward!

  2. Marcie

    Hi Christi
    You are in my part of the world! Sorry it was so cold in Boston but the view from the tower of downtown Boston was fantastic. You sure have a variety of scarves, looks like they’ve come in handy with the chilly weather. I go back to New England on Aug. 2 so I hope the sun will greet me and stay with me in both Maine and MA. I’m eager to hear about your times in Vermont and NH and maybe Maine. It’s really an historic part of the country.

    Smart to stay in Lexington and take public transportation to places. You must be on your way to Niagara Falls and then Delaware and points west. Soon to be in St. Louis. I bet you’ll want to keep traveling!!

    1. Christi Post author

      We hope you enjoy your time in New England next month. We really loved it despite some chilly weather back before summer started. We’re now in Chicago, where a cool snap yesterday meant we needed jackets once again. Not cold enough for scarves, though!

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