THE OLD MILL POND... At the center of photo, the site of the John Prescott Mill (1668)

THE OLD MILL POND… At the center of photo, the site of the John Prescott Mill (1668)



Harvard is generously endowed with a large number of historic buildings and sites like our Old Mill Pond shown above. Here on this pond at the very center of the photo, John Prescott built a dam and the first mill in present-day Harvard which at that time was southern Groton. It was no doubt the first permanent building of any kind to be built in present-day Harvard. The year was 1668, the starting point for Harvard’s historical timeline.

Built in 1800. 15 Old Littleton Road, Jonathan Symonds House. Later, the Walter Harris House.

In Massachusetts, historic assets (or historic resources) include buildings, structures, objects, bridges, areas, parks and landscape features, burial grounds, streetscapes, historic archaeological sites, and prehistoric archaeological sites. In Harvard, we probably have examples of each but much of our time is spent focusing on historic buildings and areas.

Currently, our best information shows that we have 507 historic assets in Harvard including Devens. We feel sure that we have more than these 507 historic assets but these are the ones that we have so far identified and inventoried. The Commission’s work is to seek out those that have not yet been identified.

Until they are identified, they cannot be preserved. Nevertheless, here is a summary:

  • Of the 507 assets, 302 are in Harvard (excluding Devens)
  • Of the 302 in Harvard, 245 are Buildings; 57 are areas, objects or structures
  • Of the 245 buildings, 226 are dated; 19 are not dated
  • Of the 226 that are dated, 175 are 100 years old or older
  • Of the 175 that are historic, most with few exceptions are inventoried

If we focus exclusively on the buildings in Harvard (outside of Devens), we have 245 buildings of which 175 are 100 years old or older and almost all 175 historic buildings have been inventoried. All of that information is available to you in what we think will be called our “LOCAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES“, or simply REGISTER.

The Shadrach Hapgood house and farm photographed as it was in circa 1894. 150 Ayer Road. Built in 1730. From "History of Harvard", Henry S. Nourse.

Built in 1730. 150 Ayer Road. The Shadrach Hapgood house and farm (HRV166) photographed as it was in circa 1894. From “History of Harvard”, Henry S. Nourse.

TAKE A LOOK AT OUR TREASURES…  You may browse the ‘REGISTER’ which currently identifies more than 500 Harvard and Devens historic assets. This database is sorted by street address.

As you browse through the Register, please note that the Inventory Record for an asset can be viewed if the Inventory column indicates that it is ‘Download‘-able. If the inventory is shown as ‘On-File’, the Inventory Record is available in hard copy.

THE IMPORTANT WORK OF INVENTORY…  Twenty years ago, the Harvard Historical Commission (HHC) and the Harvard Historical Society (HHS) set in motion some projects which focused on our historic buildings especially our houses. First, a research project was organized by the HHC to continue the work of former researchers to inventory the building assets. Claire D. Dempsey was assigned to conduct the research for the HHC and to document the inventory in a report titled “Comprehensive Historic Survey of Harvard, 1993-1994”. The report is on file at the Harvard Public Library, Sears Room. Second, the Harvard Historical Society (HHS) planned a series of monthly programs at the Still River Meetinghouse which focused on the historic homes of Harvard. These two supported a third initiative to publish a book which catalogued some of the key historic homes in Harvard. “The Harvard Album” was published by the HHS in 1997. The work of these 3-4 years by the HHC and the HHS will continue to serve as a huge resource to our effort of preserving our historic buildings.

Aside from Claire Dempsey’s work for the Historical Commission, the work and signatures of Harvard’s past volunteer giants such as Miss Elvira Scorgie (HHS), Doris Bigelow (HHS), Rodney Eaton (HHC), Ida Harris (HHS) and others, are well-represented in these inventories.

As you will see in our Register, the MHC Inventory record (See MHC Survey and Inventory Forms) for an historic asset includes all of the description information about the asset including the identity of the building or owner, photographs, location on map, an architectural description, narrative history and references to supporting documentation.

We expect that all of the results of the Historical Commission inventory were included in MHC’s MACRIS database. To confirm this expectation, the HHC will compare the two main bodies of inventory data. Finally, the data for the two databases will be compiled in the proposed Register. Once this work is done and the HHC approves its content, the Register will be used as our foundation for further research to identify additional historic assets and to help the HHC focus on those historic assets that are important and which may need attention. In its future work, the HHC will refine the inventories to digitize the records including scanning the original photographs and other work to improve the descriptions, photographs and histories.

OUR MOST HISTORIC GEMS…   The table below lists the twenty-five (25) oldest historic assets of the more than 500 assets currently registered in our Local Register of Historic Places. The list is sorted by year. The list spans Harvard’s first century of history. It is important to note that there probably are other historic assets that have not yet been identified and registered.

HOW ARE WE DOING?   We would appreciate your comments (ANY OBSERVATION?) on whether this information is useful to you. If not that, click our ‘LIKE’ button or share this page with your FaceBook friends. And, of course, let us know of any question. This is your Historical Commission at work for you.


    • It certainly should. However, our volunteer staff is limited and we currently are involved in surveying the properties in the ‘Building’ class. The Underground Cave is certainly on our list of ‘things to do’, Sue. We appreciate your patience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s