Harvard Square is just a short walk over the bridge from HBS campus and has countless restaurants, shops, and plenty to do. On a recent Harvard Square burrito run, one of my section mates remarked that he wished he knew more about the history of the Cambridge side of Harvard’s campus and its environs. I played impromptu tour guide and pointed out four of my favorite historic sites around the Square – many of which HBS students pass by each day:  

Anderson Memorial Bridge 

Hundreds of HBS students cross daily over the Anderson Memorial Bridge that spans the Charles River and connects Boston to Cambridge, but most of us aren’t thinking about the footsteps we’re following as we go: Anderson is the most recent incarnation of the Great Bridge, the first bridge to connect Boston and Cambridge in 1662. Colonial revolutionaries dismantled the Great Bridge in advance of the British movement to Lexington and Concord in April 1775, but the king’s troops quickly reassembled it.   

Winthrop Park: Site of Newtowne Market 

Tiny Winthrop Park sits a quarter-mile up John F. Kennedy Street from Anderson bridge; near its southeast corner, a granite slab marks the spot of the public market that served Newtowne (Cambridge’s name at founding). It was the primary center of commerce for the towns surrounding present-day Harvard Square, including much of the agricultural activity that took place on and near what is now HBS’s campus.   

Harvard’s First Dorms: Goffe House Foundations in Massachusetts Ave. 

Two metal plates embedded in the section of Massachusetts Avenue between Dunster and Holyoke Streets mark the foundation of Goffe House, a building unearthed during the construction of the Red Line MBTA subway in 1910. Harvard’s president Henry Dunster acquired the former farmhouse for his fledgling college in 1640 and converted it to dormitory chambers. Nearby, he established the college’s printing works after marrying the widow of the man who brought the first printing press to Massachusetts.  

Cambridge Common: Where Washington Took Command of the Continental Army  

On Cambridge Common, across Garden Street from the Old Burying Ground, a tombstone-like granite plaque commemorates the site on which George Washington stood beneath an elm tree and drew his sword, signaling his acceptance of the command of the Continental Army. The towering rooftop letters of the nearby Sheraton Commander attest to the site’s significance.  

Bonus: Harvard Square Theater and Bruce Springsteen’s Big Break 

As a lifelong Springsteen fan, I would be remiss if I failed to mention a piece of the Boss’s history two blocks from where Washington became the boss of the American revolutionary forces. In 1974, Rolling Stone music critic Jon Landau walked into a show at the now-defunct Harvard Square Theater on Church Street and saw a young Bruce Springsteen play an opening set for Bonnie Raitt. Struck by the performance, Landau wrote in his review: “I saw my rock 'n' roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” The review became the cornerstone of Springsteen’s marketing campaign for his album Born to Run and catalyzed Springsteen’s rise to national renown.