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HARVARD SQUARE LITERARY MAP: A Walk-in-Progress


The Woodberry Poetry Room is teaming up with the Harvard Map Collection and our colleague Lynn Sayers to explore the possibility of creating a digital version of a popular Lamont Library map exhibit—produced several years ago by Chris Lenney and Lynn Sayers. But first, we need your help!

Please assist us in expanding the literary map of Harvard Square by suggesting names and past addresses of writers (and historic literary venues) that could be added to the list below. You can share your ideas via the Comments section at the base of this Blog, or by emailing poetryrm@fas.harvard.edu. If all goes well, we will aim to complete the more in-depth map (using StoryMaps technology) during this upcoming academic year. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy using the preliminary info below to explore Cambridge (socially-distantly) this summer and what Lyn Hejinian has called “the presence of a plurality of times….”

In creating this map, we wish to acknowledge the  Massachusett, Pequot, Wampanoag, and other Indigenous peoples, who have long inhabited this land—with their profound histories, cultures, and voices.

Note: This Blog post features a sample of the sites we hope to include in the larger project. The somewhat limited Google map below isn’t indicative of the detailed, user-friendly StoryMaps interface we’ll be using. But hey, it’s a start!


Note: This WordPress map is very limited and only lets us indicate one person per street. We recommend using the more detailed address list below, until we have finished creating the more navigable, user-friendly StoryMaps version.


James Agee (1909-1955)

George Smith Hall (95 Dunster Street), Thayer Hall (in Harvard Yard), and Eliot House, Entry G, Fifth Floor (101 Dunster Street): the future author (with Walker Evans) of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) lived at various locations during his undergraduate years (graduating in 1932).

William Alfred (1922-1999)

31 Athens Street: Poet, playwright, and English professor “Bill” Alfred lived here during his long teaching career at Harvard. His Athens St. home played host to such poet-friends as Elizabeth Bishop, Seamus Heaney, Joseph Brodsky, and Robert Lowell (who once showed up at Alfred’s house claiming he was the Virgin Mary). Alfred is buried on “Harvard Hill” at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Horatio Alger, Jr. (1834-1899)

Holworthy Hall (Old East Entry): The author of the Ragged Dick, the Luck and Pluck, and Tattered Tom series, Alger became famous for his rags-to-riches formula, selling over 20 million copies in his lifetime. In his first year at Harvard, he served as the “President’s Freshman” to Edward Everett and resided in Holworthy Hall. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College in 1852 and from the Divinity School in 1860.

John Ashbery (1927-2017)

Winthrop House, G-45 and G-14:  During Ashbery’s first summer at Harvard, World War II ended, and he walked from his Cambridge dorm to Boston to witness crowds celebrating in the streets. Of his undergraduate years, Ashbery recalled: “Cambridge then seemed to me a place where anything adventurous in poetry or the arts was subtly discouraged.” At Harvard, he befriended fellow writers Kenneth KochBarbara EpsteinV. R. Lang,  and Edward Gorey, and was a classmate of Robert Creeley and Robert Bly. In his Senior year, he met Frank O’Hara (at the Mandrake Book Store): “Nobody but ourselves, and a handful of adepts knew or cared about our poetry, or seemed likely to in the future.” Ashbery’s papers are housed at Houghton Library, and his reading library was recently donated to the Woodberry Poetry Room.

Bay Psalm Book (1640)

1 Dunster Street (approx. location): The Bay Psalm Book, the first book written and published in British North America, was printed by Stephen Day and his son Matthew at a press located near the corner of Dunster Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

Fast-forwarding to 1956, the poet Jack Spicer was fired from his job at Boston Public Library for apparently breaking the spine of the library’s cherished copy of the Bay Psalm Book. With his departure for San Francisco, some say the so-called “Boston Renaissance” came to a close.

John Berryman (1914-1972)

10 ½ Appian Way: The newlywed John Berryman lived at this address, while lecturing at Harvard in 1942 (the same year that his first book was published by New Directions). The apartment had “no light fixtures” and was “dark as a cave.”

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

60 Brattle Street: Bishop lived here in the early 1970s and moved to 437 Lewis Wharf in Boston, Mass. (from 1974-1979). According to her friend Lloyd Schwartz, “her second-floor apartment overlooked the Loeb Drama Center. She famously had a ping-pong table in her front hallway. Bishop wrote most of Geography III while living there.”

Blacksmith House (a.k.a. Dexter-Pratt House, est. 1808)

54 Brattle Street: the location of the village smithy and spreading chestnut tree of Longfellow’s 1839 poem “The Village Blacksmith,” the house was later owned by Mary Walker (an enslaved woman who had fled north, and her descendants, from 1870-1912). In the 1930s, the house became a popular tea house run by a group of Cambridge women, who gave work to refugees from Nazi Germany. In 1973, Gail Mazur founded the Blacksmith House Reading Series, which continues at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (at 56 Brattle Street) to this day.

Robin Blaser (1925-2009)

Widener Library, Harvard Yard: Poet Robin Blaser (author of The Holy Forest) worked at Widener Library for four years (1954-58), during a brief period of time sometimes referred to as the “Boston Renaissance.” He wrote of Harvard: “The place is loaded with tradition: some of it noble, some idiotic.” While at the library, he befriended Poetry Room curator Jack Sweeney and also “dug up Melville manuscripts” for Charles Olson. Blaser commuted to Cambridge by subway from Boston, where he lived at 142 Chestnut Hill, Apt. 2. His life in Beacon Hill was imbued with such friends as Jack Spicer (who worked for a year at the Boston Public Library), John Wieners, and Joe Dunn. 

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

22 Concord Avenue: The Argentinian writer resided here, while the Norton Lecturer at Harvard in 1967–1968. The excitement that his presence produced in Cambridge and “the kind of cheering I got” was (according to Borges) unlike anything he had ever experienced “in Europe and South America” and “to have a new experience at seventy is quite a thing.”

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

JFK and Brattle Streets: the author of The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America (1650), lived in a house that was located near the site where CVS Pharmacy is currently situated (from 1631-33)

Lucie Brock-Broido (1956-2018)

15 Sargent Street: the poet (author of The Master Letters) and Columbia University professor also led a long-standing writing workshop at her apartment. According to Askold Melnyczuk: “In Lucie’s company, time disappeared. The spaces she inhabited she dreamed into existence. Gothic arches, gargoyles, even thrones began materializing in multiples on Sargeant Street in Cambridge.” She is buried on Vernonia Path at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)

Adams House: the future author of Naked Lunch lived at this 26 Plympton Street address until he graduated in 1936

Cafe Pamplona (1959-2020)

12 Bow Street: when it opened, Cafe Pamplona was the first cafe in Harvard Square, and grew into a beloved literary hangout, frequently cited in novels and films (including Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake).

Club 47 (1958, later became Passim)

47 Mount Auburn Street: The Cambridge coffeehouse became a pivotal blues and folk venue in the late 1950s and 60s, hosting performances by Pete Seeger, Eric Von Schmidt, John Hurt, Judy Collins, Taj Mahal, and the young Bob Dylan. In 1958, the 17-year-old Joan Baez gave her first performance here. The Club contributed to Cambridge and Boston becoming what Ryan H. Walsh has called “ground zero for … the folk music revival.”

Countee Cullen (1903-1946)

413 Broadway Street: lived here while pursuing his Masters’ (1925-1926), arriving the same year that his first book Color was published. After graduating, he declined several collegiate offers and chose to teach French, English, and creative writing at a Harlem junior high school (among his students was James Baldwin, for whom he was a significant mentor).

Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

61 Sparks Street: Creeley lived in Adams House while studying at Harvard (circa 1943-46). He left the university to serve in the American Field Service, returning to live with his mother Genevieve (at her Sparks St. home) after the War. He went on to teach at Black Mountain College in the 1950s and taught Summer School at Harvard in the early 1970s. Creeley is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)

104 Irving Street: Of his childhood home, Cummings wrote “to our right, on Irving Street, occurred professors James and Royce and Warren; to our left, on Scott Street, transpired professor of economics Taussig.” His upbringing in Cambridge was well-chronicled and critiqued in his “six non-lectures.”
Thayer Hall: Cummings lived in this Harvard Yard residence as an undergrad in 1915

The Darkroom Collective
(1988 thru the late 1990s)

31 Inman Street, Third Floor: founded in 1988 by Thomas Sayers Ellis and Sharan Strange. Members included Major Jackson, John Keene, Danielle Legros Georges, Janice A. Lowe, Carl PhillipsTracy K. SmithNatasha Trethewey and Kevin Young. The reading series later moved to the ICA and the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.

Elsa Dorfman (1937-2020)

607 Franklin Street: The renowned portrait photographer, who documented such poets and musicians as Robert Creeley, Bob Dylan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Denise Levertov, Anne Sexton, and Allen Ginsberg, lived here with her husband, the civil rights lawyer Harold Silvergate, until her death in 2020. Her studio was located at 955 Mass. Avenue. Creeley, Ginsberg, and other poets often visited Dorfman’s home.

John Dos Passos (1896-1970)

Matthews Hall, 22 (Freshman year) and Thayer Hall (Senior year): While living in Thayer, Dos Passos befriended E. E. Cummings. The two writers volunteered to serve in the ambulance corps in WWI shortly after graduating in 1916. Dos Passos later novelized his Harvard years in Streets of the Night (1923) and in The 42nd Parallel (part of his experimental U.S.A. trilogy, published in 1930).

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963)

20 Flagg Street: Du Bois rented a corner room at this address, until his graduation in 1890. The author of Souls of Black Folk (1903) and co-founder of the NAACP went on to become the first African-American to receive a doctorate from Harvard in 1895.

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

52 Mount Auburn Street: Eliot rented a room here in his Freshman year
Adams House, 22 Russell Hall: he lived here as a Sophomore
14 Ash Street: rented a room during grad school (graduated in 1910)

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Wadsworth House: Emerson lived at this 1341 Massachusetts Ave. residence hall in his Freshman year, at the young age of 14
Hollis Hall, 5 and 9: He resided in numerous locations as an upperclassman, including Hollis Hall in Harvard Yard (graduating in 1821)
Divinity Hall: In 1838, Emerson returned to Harvard to deliver what is now known as the “Divinity School Address”—the room where he delivered his remarks is still the site of readings and lectures at the Divinity School.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

16 Rutland Street, Ellery Street, and 61 Oxford Street: Frost had multiple dwelling-places during his undergraduate years
35 Brewster Street: Frost maintained a home here from 1941-1963. There are many tales of undergrads trying to see the elder poet safely home, only to have him escort them back to campus because he hadn’t finished the story he was telling yet.

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850)

71 Cherry Street, Cambridgeport: childhood home. A memorial to the writer and social reformer is situated at Mount Auburn Cemetery, near her great-nephew Buckminster Fuller’s grave.

Grolier Poetry Book Shop (1927–)

6 Plympton Street: the oldest poetry bookstore in the United States. John AshberyRobert BlyRobert CreeleyDonald Hall, and Frank O’Hara were regulars during their undergrad years, and the poet Conrad Aiken and short story writer James Alan McPherson lived upstairs at various times during its long and vibrant history.

Harvard Advocate (est. 1866)

21 South Street: the oldest continuously published collegiate literary magazine in the country, the Advocate has included such editors and contributors as John Keene, Jack Kerouac, Kenneth Koch, Terrence Malick, Frank O’Hara, Francine Prose, Adrienne Rich and Wallace Stevens.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson
(1823-1911)

29 Buckingham Street: the home of the abolitionist colonel (and member of the Secret Six), Atlantic Monthly contributor, women’s rights advocate, and famous acquaintance of Emily Dickinson is on the Register of National Historic Places

Mary Manning Howe (1905-1999)

5 Craigie Circle, 25 Appleton Street & 58 Highland Street: the actress (who performed at Yeats’ Abbey Theatre), novelist, and Poets’ Theatre founder lived at these locations (with her husband Mark DeWolfe Howe and children Susan Howe, Fanny Howe and Helen Howe Braider) in the 1940s-1960s. The Poets’ Theatre cast frequently rehearsed at the Highland Street house, which later became the home of anthropologist and documentary filmmaker Robert Gardner.

Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)

127 Mount Auburn Street: the author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) ran a boardinghouse on Trowbridge Street (1870-72) and lived on Mount Auburn St. from 1873-76. She is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Henry James (1843-1916)

Winthrop Square: while at Harvard Law School, he lodged near what is now Grendel’s Den. In 1867, he met Charles Dickens at Shady Hill (now the site of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences). James is buried in Cambridge Cemetery.

Helen Keller (1880-1968)

73 Dana Street: lived here with teacher Annie Sullivan, while studying at Radcliffe College (she graduated in 1904). Keller wrote her autobiography Story of My Life (1903) at this address. She also found time to enjoy herself, and was described as “an expert wheelwoman,” frequently to be found on the Cambridge Streets riding her tandem.

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

4 Glover Circle: Levertov (and her then husband Mitch Goodman) moved here in 1973 and she resided here until 1988. During this fruitful period, she traveled to Vietnam, published such books as the Poet in the World (1974), and taught at Tufts. (Yes, we cheated a wee bit by adding Somerville to the Harvard Sq. map, but we aren’t cartographers, we’re poets!)

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)

140 Mount Auburn Street: a Yale graduate, Lewis briefly worked in the dining room of Randall Hall in the summer of 1904. The Nobel Prizewinner later advised a student that Harvard was a better place than Yale for “becoming a writer.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807-1882)

105 Brattle Street: this home also served as Washington’s headquarters for nine months in 1775-1776. Phillis Wheatley met George Washington here in March 1776. Longfellow is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Robert Lowell (1917-1977)

Lowell House, A-41: Born and raised on Beacon Hill, Lowell lived in Lowell House, A-41, at 10 Holyoke Place, in his undergraduate years (1935-37).10 Holyoke Place (until he left Harvard for Kenyon College in 1937). Lowell taught in the Harvard Summer School 1958-59 and joined the regular faculty in 1963. He moved to England in 1970, but grew homesick and resolved on a permanent return in 1977. “America and teaching at Harvard are my life’s water. I don’t want to divide what’s left of my life between two continents and two cultures.”

Norman Mailer (1923-2007)

11-12 Grays Hall: Mailer lived here in his freshman year
24 Claverly and Dunster House: upperclass years (graduated in 1943)

John P. Marquand (1893-1960)

5-7 Linden Street: the future Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (author of The Late George Apley) lodged at “Mrs. Moody’s Pleasure Palace,” a student boardinghouse at 5-7 Linden Street, while studying chemistry at Harvard

James Alan McPherson (1943-2016)

6 Plympton Street: McPherson lived above the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, while studying at the Harvard Law School (in the late 1960s). He went on to become the first African-American to receive the Pulitzer Prize (1978).

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)

8 Craigie Street, Apt. 35: lived here from 1942 to 1948, while a research fellow at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology and a lecturer at Wellesley College. His son Dmitri befriended the neighboring Howe family.

Frank O’Hara (1926-1966)

Mower Hall, B-21: O’Hara met Edward Gorey here in his Freshman year, and they later became roommates in Eliot House, F-13 (in 1946-47). Donald Hall recalls that Gorey and O’Hara “threw the best parties at Harvard.” O’Hara’s friendship with John Ashbery began in 1949, when they encountered one another at Gorey’s art exhibit at the Mandrake Book Store (located on Boylston Street, which later moved to 8 Story Street).  Though the bulk of his later years were spent in New York City, he did return to Cambridge for the Spring 1956 semester through a fellowship with the Poets’ Theatre (at one performance, he premiered the poem “Fresh Air”). During his stay, he also met Jack Spicer and John Wieners: one of their last meetings took place at Harvard Gardens in Boston.

Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953)

1105 Massachusetts Avenue: in 1914-15, while studying playwriting in the now-renowned English 47 workshop, he lodged with a psalm-singing Mennonite family on the first floor of this house

Charles Olson (1910-1970)

Winthrop House: Olson entered Harvard as a doctoral student in English in 1936, and eventually joined the Ph.D. program in American Civilization as one of its first three candidates. Throughout his studies (which focused on Herman Melville), he lived and worked at Winthrop House as a tutor. It’s said that he even taught the young JFK. Although he completed his coursework in 1939, he failed to finish his dissertation. A monograph derived from his Master’s thesis and subsequent research, Call Me Ishmael, was published in 1947.

Milman Parry (1902-1935)

14 Shepard Street: The pioneering scholar of epic poetry lived here with his wife and children, from 1929 until his accidental death at the age of 33. Parry’s research transformed our understanding of the Iliad and Odyssey, detailing how the patterns, devices, and rhythmic contours of those epics proved that they were composed and transmitted orally and as improvised works. The collection of sound recordings that he made in conjunction with his research are housed at the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature. Following Parry’s death, his assistant Albert Lord continued his work, publishing it as the influential book The Singer of Tales (1960).

The Plough and Stars (est. 1969)

912 Massachusetts Avenue: Originally called “The Plough and the Stars,” after the play by Seán O’Casey, this popular Irish bar and music venue was founded in 1969 by brothers Peter and Padraig O’Malley. In 1971, the literary journal Ploughshares was launched here by DeWitt Henry and Peter O’Malley. Some of the writers whose early works appeared in Ploughshares are: Sherman Alexie, Russell Banks, Raymond Carver, David Foster Wallace, and Robert Pinsky. It has gone on to publish the works of John Ashbery, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, and Grace Paley.

Poets’ Theatre (est. 1950)

24 Palmer Street: while the Poets’ Theatre first premiered at the Christ Church Parish House in 1951 (with plays by John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Richard Eberhart, among others) and held performances at a range of venues, including the Fogg Museum (Dylan Thomas premiered his play Under Milkwood there), over the years, the Palmer St. location was longest-standing venue, until it burnt down in the 1960s.

Radcliffe College (est. 1894)

10 Garden Street: Formerly known as the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women (founded by a group of visionaries, led by Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, in 1879), writers who attended Radcliffe include Margaret Atwood, Marieta Bonner, Helen Keller, Maxine Kumin, Ursula K. Leguin, Alison Lurie, Adrienne Rich, Gertrude Stein and Jean Valentine.

John Reed (1887-1920)

Mount Auburn Street: the future author of Ten Days that Shook the World lived on the so-called “Gold Coast” of Mount Auburn in 1914-15.

Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

17 Brewster Street: After graduating from Radcliffe (in 1951) and winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize in that same year, Adrienne Rich stayed on in Cambridge, marrying Harvard professor Alfred Haskell Conrad in 1953. They lived with their three children on Brewster Street (a few doors down from Robert Frost), until moving to New York in 1966. The earliest known recording of Rich was made by the Woodberry Poetry Room in 1951.

Edwin Arlington Robinson
(1869-1935)

1716 Cambridge Street: Robinson lived here for the second year of his undergrad years, before dropping out in 1893.

May Sarton (1912-1995)

5 Channing Place: childhood home (her father George Sarton was a professor at Harvard) and she attended Shady Hill School

Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966)

9 Story Street and 94 Prescott Street: lived here while pursuing his Masters’ in philosophy under Prof. Alfred North Whitehead (1935-37)
20 Ellery Street: Schwartz resided here from 1940-47

Alan Seeger (1888-1916)

Memorial Church: A plaque dedicated to poet and Harvard alum Alan Seeger, who fell at the Battle of the Somme, can be found on the south porch of the church. His great-nephew Pete Seeger also attended Harvard, dropping out in 1938 to pursue his musical career.

Charles Shively (1937-2017)

365 Broadway Terrace: The Fag Rag founder, theorist, and activist bought a house on this site in 1976 (the house no longer exists).

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

123 Irving Street: after enrolling in the Harvard Annex (soon renamed Radcliffe) as a special student in 1893, Stein resided in this three-story boardinghouse (graduating in 1898)

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

54 Garden Street: while enrolled as a special student, Stevens lived at the Misses Parsons’ boardinghouse (he withdrew in 1899 due to lack of funds)

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Hollis Hall, 20: Thoreau lived in this Harvard Yard house the year he began his undergraduate studies in 1834 (he graduated in 1837)

John Updike (1932-2009)

Lowell House: Updike lived here (and served as editor for the nearby Harvard Lampoon) until he graduated in 1954

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938)

48 Buckingham Street, 42 Kirkland Street, 27 Hammond Street
& 61 Trowbridge Street:
Wolfe lived in many places while studying playwriting in the English 47 workshop (he graduated in 1922)

Zoland Books (1987-2002)

384 Huron Avenue: The independent Cambridge-based press was founded by Roland and Lori Pease (named after Emile Zola) in 1987. Publishing over 125 books, Zoland’s authors included Ange Mlinko, Kevin Young, Ha Jin, Lisa Jarnot, William Corbett, Kevin Young, James Laughlin, Patricia Smith, and John Yau. “A standout memory,” according to Roland Pease, “was an impromptu reading by Kevin Young and his friend the novelist Colson Whitehead on the back porch on a hot summer evening with a large gathering of friends and family enjoying a BBQ in the parking lot below.”


Further afield…

For a map of the late 1960s Boston counterculture scene (assembled by Ryan H. Walsh), click here. To explore Cambridge’s historic performance and film spaces and to tour the Boston Literary District, click here.

A word of thanks

Special thanks to Brandy Barents, David Blair, Daniel Bouchard, Pablo Conrad, Jim Dunn, Ben Friedlander, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Dr. Allan Gee, Jeanne Heifetz, Fanny Howe, Christopher Johnson, Ruth Lepson, Kevin McGrath, Suzanne Mercury, Leslie Morris, John Mulrooney, Ryan Napier, Michael Nardone, Lloyd Schwartz, and Ryan H. Walsh for contributing their ideas and knowledge to the list (and links) above. This project is a part of a larger initiative by the Poetry Room, called the “Boston Renaissance,” which aims to expand connections (and collaborations) between local writers and to activate our communal knowledge.

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