Memorial Hall and Loker Commons
At the heart of Harvard’s campus sits Memorial Hall, dedicated in 1878 as a monument to Harvard’s dutiful and courageous role in the preservation of the American Union. The building’s Gothic form links back to the ideological roots of the University as Harvard itself was founded in the British academic tradition, an American revision of the medieval universities of the Old Country. Throughout its life the building has taken on attributes that render it a timeless expression of the Harvard spirit, modeled in brick, as the events that take place within its halls contribute to its growing legacy.
The creation of the Cambridge Queen’s Head in the bowels of the monument is the latest chapter in the building’s history. From the time of Memorial Hall’s completion in 1876, and for more than six decades after, the lower level’s use was limited to storage and mechanical space. Completed in 1996 and funded generously by Katherine Bogdanovich Loker, the most recent incarnation of the space was Loker Commons, a flexible, multi-use area that included various food services and a large, open “commons” space.
Harvard Pub Nights
In the spring of 2005 Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross was eager to explore the potential of the Commons to serve as an undergraduate social space. The Dean tapped a young graduate of Harvard College, Zac Corker ’04 and then serving as the special assistant to the Dean, to spearhead the effort.
As a first step in the planning, a team of student planners developed a concept for a series of “Harvard Pub Nights” to feature live music, cheap food, and beer and wine for those of age. The first Pub Night was held in Loker Commons in February 2005, and over the course of the night nearly 1,200 students passed through Loker Commons. As Pub Nights quickly became a popular campus tradition, plans to create a permanent pub within the space were put in motion.
A Campus Pub: For Students, By Students
From the outset, student involvement defined the planning process, as undergraduates. advised everything from interior design to drafting a business plan for the pub. The meticulous planning extended to the future menu, evident in the “Pub Grub Taste Test” series, at which undergraduates sampled competing products and rated their favorites.
An excursion to a Boston area brewery founded by Harvard alumni was also organized, and students (all of-age seniors of the Class of 2006) sampled beers and choose the recipe for a unique brew to be served only at the Harvard pub. Students choose a well-balanced medium bodied beer with a moderately bitter hop finish dubbing it, fittingly, “1636.”
The “Queen’s Head” name itself was discovered one evening in Kirkland House a group of students playing a Harvard-trivia board game drew a card with the question, “What piece of property did John Harvard leave to the College upon his death?” The correct answer, “the Queen’s Head Inn & Tavern in Southwark, England.”
From the success of the first Pub Night to the naming of the Cambridge Queen’s Head, undergraduates have played a key role in the creation of an on-campus pub in Loker Commons. The project reinforces that Memorial Hall is, now more than ever, a living monument to the Harvard spirit, a character perhaps best expressed by the words spoken at the laying of the cornerstone in 1870:
"Memorial Hall will exert a large influence in the future history of the College. Within its ample halls will meet the successive generations who are to shape and mould in a large degree the future of our country. They will read here the records of the past; and they will inscribe with them their own history."
From “The Laying of the Corner-stone of Memorial Hall,”
-Boston Daily Advertiser, October 7, 1870
Now complete and open for business, the activity that takes place within the Cambridge Queen’s Head will contribute to the growing legacy of Memorial Hall.