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Seeing Pure, Traditional New England in Harvard, Massachusetts

Foliage at the Harvard Town Green, Harvard, Massachusetts


Article and photos by Eric Hurwitz. Article updated on 10/25/2017

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Finding pure, traditional New England is getting harder to find as commercial, industrial and residential development increasingly impedes the innately beautiful landscape.

Harvard, Mass., however, has remained a classic small New England town by sticking with the basics: a beautiful town green surrounded by old homes and buildings, classic church with tall white steeple, old-time general store, apple orchards on the outskirts like Doe Orchards and Carlson Orchards, and a large, scenic pond with little development on the inland shores. Harvard's main tourist attraction: the Fruitlands Museum that features art, nature and historical exhibitions. It is also the site where Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane experimented with forming a Utopian community.

That Utopian community is gone, but the idyllic nature of a beautiful New England town remains strong in this north central Massachusetts town. Harvard is uncharacteristically quiet for the 21st century and that peaceful nature allows residents and visitors to enjoy the town with few modern day obstructions. When the town infrequently becomes noisier, however, it's a good thing as in the case of a Fourth of July Parade, the Apple Blossom festival in the fall, and a tree lighting ceremony the second weekend in December.

The residents sure have it good here. The 330-acre Bare Hill Pond looks like something out of the Adirondack Mountains of New York, and offers swimming, sailing and canoing for residents. The fall season brings a new personality to the pond with some gorgeous foliage juxtaposing with the clean waters.

Bare Hill Pond in Harvard, Massachusetts

The town green (pictured at the top of the page) provides an oasis in the middle of an already placid downtown district with its wide expanse of rolling and flat lands. Town greens, you see, have reflected cultural, religious, economic and political factors typically found at central locations in New England towns and cities going back to the 17th century. Harvard is a shining example with its town green serving as the central meeting point dating back to the town's incorporation in 1732. Many town greens in New England became more park-like since the separation of church and state in the 1830s with Harvard's evolving into one of the most attractive town greens. Walk the land, sit on a bench, enjoy the pastoral setting, and know that you are officially in New England. And the homes around the green are everything you'd expect in a small New England town: warm, inviting-looking, and wrapped in Colonial and Federalist architectural charm.

Harvard, Massachusetts Town Green in Harvard, Massachusetts

The Harvard General Store -- right across from the town green -- is one of those places you could only find in New England. This historical building houses, under one roof, a convenience, grocery and gift store, a cafe with delicious sandwiches, salads, soups and baked goods, a place to buy wine and beer, an indoor farmers market, a bike shop, and a private and public events venue. It is the retail equivalent of the town green -- that is, a meeting place that residents and visitors have come to love.

Harvard General Store, Harvard, Massachusetts.

I have known Harvard well since the 1970s and see very little change in its appearance, thank goodness. It's a small town New England treasure in every sense, and stringent zoning, conservation and historic preservation commitments will likely keep that glorious, scenic, historic template intact for many years to come.

Harvard is also centrally located right off Route 495 and only 30 miles west of Boston, 21 miles northwest of Worcester, and 35 southwest of Nashua, N.H. Everyone who loves small town New England should definitely check out Harvard!


Read the Massachusetts Town Greens book -- Discover New England's first travel attractions: town commons. Includes a chapter on Harvard!


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Related article:
Enjoying the simple things in Peterborough, N.H.


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