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As the first week of classes begins, so does the relentless grind. Syllabi in hand, many undergraduates will make their way to a beloved study spot — Lamont Library. Trudging past Wigglesworth Hall, mentally preparing for the ascent up the steep staircase, most people keep walking, eyes on the prize (or looming deadline). In their hurriedness, students often miss the hint of green in their periphery — the verdant clue that just a stone's throw away lies Dudley Garden.
Now, I get it. Lamont Library, with its allure of caffeine and the promise of productivity, often overshadows this hidden gem. Nearly a decade ago, a Flyby article beckoned students to this green haven. But years have passed, and the garden remains an enigma. These days, speaking of “Dudley Garden” is more likely to elicit an image of the Dudley House kitchen. Though famed for its vegetarian delights, the co-op eatery is not quite the oasis I am referring to.
In 1949, Harvard decided to tip its hat to Thomas Dudley, one of the College’s founders, by establishing the space. However, before this serene spot became the garden we know today, it was home to the Dudley Gate. That gate, erected in 1902, was bulldozed in 1947 to make room for — wait for it —Lamont Library. Dudley’s spirit, resilient as ever, bloomed back in the form of an ornamental terrace and sundial.
Today, the garden’s inscribed walls serve as a nostalgic nod to the past. Still, Dudley Garden wasn’t always the hushed hideaway it is today. About a decade after the garden’s inception, the Bacon Gate — which looks into the garden from Mass. Ave. — was shut tight. But, as they say, when one gate closes, another... becomes a work of natural art?
With the Bacon Gate’s closure, nature took over. English ivy ran wild, wrapping around the brickwork and offering a vibrant green contrast to the gate’s deep red. This once functional gate transformed into a work of leafy beauty, sealing off Dudley Garden from the hustle and bustle of Mass. Ave.
Now, when you step into the garden, you're greeted by walls etched with history and a bench that's just begging you to take a load off. But here’s a pro-tip: skip the bench. Plop down on the grass. It’s there, amidst the greenery, that the world seems to fade away. Even though you're smack in the middle of Harvard Square, it is as if you've stumbled into a secret realm, where time slows, and the weight of deadlines and assignments just fades.
Surrounding Dudley Garden are the formidable walls of Harvard Yard. Clamber up those walls and voilà, you're perched up high, with a bird’s-eye view of Mass. Ave. From this vantage point, the world unfolds in a whirl of color and motion. Students sprinting to classes, kids chasing after their runaway tennis balls, and of course, that one audacious BlueBike causing a mini traffic jam. Oh, and let's not forget the occasional squirrel, plotting its next acorn heist. This elevated perspective, more than anything, is what makes Dudley Garden truly special.
For many of us Lamonsters, the daily grind can be a relentless cycle: class, eat, study, sleep, study, repeat. But amidst this chaos, Dudley Garden is one of my sanctuaries, a site of clarity. Right in our backyard, there is a pocket of serenity waiting to be discovered.
Dudley Garden isn't just a place; it's a reminder. No matter how towering the pile of problem sets, how crucial that upcoming interview, or how intense those club comps, there's always a moment to be found for pure, unadulterated joy. And sometimes, that joy is as simple as sitting in a quiet garden, letting the world fade away.
The next time you're drowning in problem sets or papers, take a detour, and venture into Dudley Garden. It's not just a garden; it's a slice of Harvard's history, a quiet sanctuary, and perhaps, the perfect antidote to the Lamonster life.
Aneesh C. Muppidi ’25 is a Computer Science and Neuroscience concentrator in Lowell House. His column, “Leafing By,” runs biweekly on Thursdays.
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