Thursday, February 11, 2010


33 Elmwood Avenue
Cambridge, Mass.

Currently owned by Harvard University, Elmwood, this Georgian mansion in Cambridge, has had ties to Harvard College throughout its almost 250 year history. Elmwood was built in 1767 by Thomas Oliver, a wealthy merchant born in Antigua who graduated from Harvard College in 1753. Appointed by King George III to the position of Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, he left Cambridge in 1774 for Boston as revolutionary fervor swept the colony. His home was confiscated by Revolutionary authorities. Oliver died in Brighton, England in 1815.

In 1787 Elbridge Gerry bought the estate, which included some 34 acres attached to the "homestead". Elbridge Gerry, born in Marblehead, Mass. , was also a graduate of Harvard College. He was an important member of the First and Second Continental Congress during the Revolution, signed the Declaration of Independence, was a diplomat and served as Governor of Massachusetts. In March 1813 he took the oath of office for Vice-President of the United States here at Elmwood. He died in 1814.

James Russell Lowell was born at Elmwood on 22 February 1819. Lowell, a famous poet and diplomat, lived most of his life at Elmwood. A graduate of both Harvard University and Harvard Law School, he was also a Professor of Languages at Harvard. Like his fellow Cantabrigian and friend, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Lowell often wrote about Cambridge and its environs in his poetry. Elmwood was also a frequent topic. Unfortunately, much as he loved his home and property, over time he was forced to sell off a good portion of the estate to meet his financial needs. Lowell died in 1891.

Elmwood is currently occupied by the President of Harvard and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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