Built in 1726 for the president of Harvard, Benjamin Wadsworth, the house that shares his name is the second oldest building at Harvard (the first being Massachusetts Hall), and has a long and illustrious history. General George Washington, with the assistance of retired British General Charles Lee, set up his first Massachusetts headquarters in the house. From there, on July 3, 1775, Washington rode out to the Cambridge Common to take command of the Revolutionary troops. There is documentation that many notable figures from the time visited General Washington while he resided at Wadsworth House, including Abigail Adams and future speaker of the Massachusetts House James Warren. It is also said that the plans to oust King George from Boston took form in Wadsworth Parlor. The General eventually took up more permanent residence at Vassall House, on what is now Brattle Street, and later the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (now a National Historic Site; for more information about Washington’s time in Cambridge, click here).
In 1849, when Jared Sparks decided to stay in his nearby home, presidents ceased to live in Wadsworth House. After that time, Wadsworth House took in student boarders (including Ralph Waldo Emerson '21) and visiting preachers, among others. Today, the building houses the offices of the University Marshal, Commencement, and several professors.
On April 6, 2016, Harvard President Drew Faust unveiled a plaque on the side of Wadsworth House to memorialize the four enslaved persons who lived and worked in the building during the eighteenth century, and whose lives and stories had long been overlooked. President Faust was joined by civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis to mark the occasion. For full story and video, visit: