Campus & Community

The gates that frame Harvard Yard

4 min read

Entryways, becoming and majestic, provide security and artistry both

The 25 gates in Harvard Yard manage a rare feat: They are pragmatic and artistic at the same time.

When locked, the gates provide security and intimacy. But then there is the beauty: a bold H nestled into the iron; metal leaves entangled in iron flowers; black highlighted with gold; long-ago dates molded into bars. Sinuous vines and ivies often cling to the gates, moving with the wind.

The dates in each gate reflect their history, as recounted by Blair Kamin N.F. ’13 in his recent book “Gates of Harvard Yard” (Princeton Architectural Press). In 1889, Samuel Johnston gave the funds to build the first gate to open into the Yard, but members of other classes soon followed his example to build the entryways, many of them illustrated here, that now preserve their memory.

Bradstreet Gate, North, honors the presence of women on campus. It was dedicated to Anne Dudley Bradstreet, the first published poet of the American colonies, in 1997, the 25th anniversary of women living in the Yard’s dormitories. The picture shows a detail on one of the wrought-iron side columns.
The Class of 1875 Gate, Southwest, faces the hustle and bustle of Harvard Square. It welcomes passersby to find relief in the Yard’s quiet atmosphere.
The Class of 1889 Gate, South, is crowned by the arched tunnel that crosses Wigglesworth Hall. This gate was planned as a twin to the Dexter Gate, but the latter’s slight differences gave it more fame.
McKean Gate (Porcellian Club), South, takes its nickname from one of Harvard’s oldest final clubs. The club won its name when Joseph McKean brought a roast pig to a meeting.
Dexter Gate (Class of 1890), South. Reflected in the windows of the Harvard Book Store, Dexter Gate is widely known for the inscription on its crest: “Enter to grow in wisdom.” On the reverse side, another inscription reads “Depart to Serve Better Thy Country and Thy Kind.”
The Class of 1887 Gate, North. The 87 of the wrought-iron gate frames students walking by Annenberg Hall.
Morgan Gate (Class of 1877), South. Architects McKim, Mead & White planned this gate to serve as a portal at the end of a grand axis connecting the Yard to the Charles River. The project was never developed, and the majestic gate now serves as an entrance to Widener Library.
The Class of 1888 Gate, North. Framing the rose windows on Memorial Hall, this gate stands next to the Class of 1887 gate. Together, they comprise the only double gate of the Yard.
Fire Station Gate, North. Partly covered by rust, the gate’s details testify to its main use as a service entrance for fire trucks and garbage collection. The Fire Station at 491 Broadway stands across it.
Bacon Gate (Class of 1880), South. Vines cling to the limestone of Bacon Gate, giving it a mysterious, decadent aspect. This gate conceals one of Harvard’s hidden secrets: the beauty of Dudley Garden, accessible from inside the Yard.
Johnston Gate, Northwest. Silhouetted against the sky, the gate’s elegant decorations create the illusion of brushes of black tempera. The oldest gate in the Yard, Johnston serves as the main entrance, and leads directly to the John Harvard Statue. The wrought-iron gate was erected in 1889 when alumnus Samuel Johnston donated funds to replace the wooden fence that had stood on the spot.
The Class of 1874 Gate, Northwest, casts a shadow on the brick wall of Lionel Hall. The ironwork masterfully joins C- and S-shaped scrollwork.
The Class of 1870 Gate, Northwest. The gate’s ornaments embrace the design of the back door of Holden Hall. The gate, always locked, keeps preserved and inaccessible the beauty of the “secret garden” behind the hall.
North Gates fence. Sunset turns the wrought iron into gold.
The Class of 1881 Gate, North. In front of Phillips Brooks House, the portal invites students to “come within its gates, in order that in whole-hearted service to the truth, they may enter into life and so be free.”
The Class of 1885 Gate, East, frames the entrance to the Harvard Art Museums on Quincy Street. Its original name is now almost forgotten, and it is widely referred to as “Sever Gate.”
The Class of 1889 Gate, South. Locked for the night, lights shine in the arched tunnel that crosses Wigglesworth.
Loeb House Gate, East, opens onto the path to the residence and site that for many years housed Harvard presidents. Today, it is the home of Harvard’s Governing Boards and their administrative offices.