By the late 1860s the Town of Harvard’s first Town Hall building, constructed in 1828, was too small and in need of repair. After much debate, a location for a new Town Hall was selected (13 Ayer Road) and the building was dedicated in 1872. A rear polygonal addition dates to 1899.
The first Congregational meeting house in Harvard was erected in 1733. This was replaced by a newer and larger structure completed in 1774. A steeple was added in 1786 and a bell was acquired in 1806. The congregation split in 1821, with the more conservative Trinitarians leaving to form the Evangelical Congregational Church. The large old meeting house, which had fallen into disrepair, was replaced with a smaller building in 1840. This was destroyed by fire in 1875 and a fourth meeting house, designed in the Queen Anne style, was soon built. This church was also destroyed by a fire, on December 13th, 1964, after a Sunday service. The current Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church, at 9 Ayer Road, was dedicated on June 18th, 1967.
The origin of the Town of Harvard’s first Town Hall, or Townhouse, is described by Henry S. Nourse in his 1894 History of Harvard:
The earliest movement looking to the building of a hall especially adapted for the transaction of the town’s business was on April 7, 1807, when a committee was appointed to consider the proposition. The report of the committee was probably adverse, as no further action in the matter is recorded, and the town-meetings continued to be held in the meeting-house as they had been from the first. In 1827 the subject was again agitated, perhaps stirred by some natural objections on the part of the first parish to submit their place of worship to the defilement and injury incident to its frequent use by mixed and sometimes disorderly assemblies. A town-meeting debated the question of the town’s right to use the meeting-house, and finally referred it to a special committee for investigation. Samuel Hoar, Esq., was consulted, and advised the town that the edifice was the property of the first parish exclusively, and that a precisely similar case had already been decided by the supreme court in favor of the church in Medford. A for a new building for the town’s use, forty-four by thirty-four feet, estimated to cost seven hundred dollars, but the whole subject was dismissed at that time.
May 5, 1828, a town-meeting was called at the Baptist meeting-house in Still River, and then it was voted to proceed with the erection of a town house at once. The building was placed on the north-eastern portion of the common, across the highway from the present town hall, where E. W. Houghton’s barn now stands. It faced to the south, and had four Tuscan columns supporting the front gable. There was no provision for warming it until 1832, when a chimney was built and a stove purchased.
After a new Town Hall was built in 1871, the old Townhouse was moved slightly to the north (current address 14 Ayer Road) and converted into a residence by George L . Sawyer, who sold it to his father Arad Sawyer. Later in the nineteenth century it was owned by Sawyer’s daughter Sarah and her husband, Charles P. Atherton.
According to local tradition, the house at 5 Elm Street in Harvard was built c. 1740 by Benjamin Nourse at the time of his marriage to his second wife, the widow Hannah Atherton. It may also have been built c. 1755 or c. 1800 by John Nourse. In 1833 the house was bought by John Farwell, who owned a large meat and farm produce business and was also a teamster, a lumber dealer, and dealt in real estate. He served as town selectman in 1854 and as assessor from 1860 to 1863.
The Young House, at 1 Fairbank Street in Harvard, was built in the early nineteenth century, although the exact date is unknown. In 1825, the property was sold by John P. Whitcomb to cordwainer William Lewis, who sold it to James Young in 1836. Young then transferred it to Dr. Samuel Young , who was probably his uncle. As described in the History of the Town of Harvard (1894), Vol. 2, by Henry Stedman Nourse, Dr. Young was
born in Athol August 12, 1782, son of Lt. Samuel and Lois (Sanderson) Young. Dr. Young was a graduate of Williams College, 1804, and practiced in Athol and Lowell before coming to Harvard. He lived for about thirty years in a house yet standing upon the east side of the common, where he died March 30, 1845. One of his legs being much shorter than the other, he walked with a cane. He was the last of the old-style doctors, paying his visits on horseback, his stock of medicines borne in saddlebags before him.
In the mid-nineteenth century the house was owned by his daughter Seraphina and her husband Hiram Joy and was called Joy Cottage. The house passed among female descendents until 1985.
The Baptist Church in the community of Still River in the town of Harvard was organized in 1776 by fourteen members of Harvard’s First Church. In 1782, the Baptist Society acquired the first meeting house building used in nearby Leominster. It was dismantled and reassembled as the Still River Baptist Church on land donated by the congregation’s first pastor, Dr. Isaiah Parker. The old meeting house was moved again to serve as a parsonage when the current church was built in 1832. Various alterations were made to the 1832 church over the years, including an addition in 1902. In 1967, the building, which is located at 213 Still River Road, was acquired by the Harvard Historical Society with the stipulation that they preserve the sanctuary, organ (added in 1870), and various furnishings. The Society converted the vestry into exhibit space
In 1821, part of the membership of Harvard’s First Church who objected to the town’s granting use of the meeting house to the Unitarian Society split off to form their own separate congregation, the Calvinistic Congregational Society. As related in History of the Town of Harvard, Massachusetts, 1732-1893 (1894) by Henry S. Nourse:
This formal withdrawal left the meeting-house and church furniture in legal possession of those refusing Calvinistic doctrines, and the records, though detained for a time by the clerk, Reuben Whitcomb, a leader in the new society, were soon surrendered to them. April 16, 1821, it was voted to apply to the town tor a piece of the common whereupon to build a meeting-house, and a committee was instructed to present a plan.
April 29 the town gave the ground now in possession of the society, agreeing to remove the pound and hearse-house, then standing upon it. A building forty-four feet by fifty was agreed upon, its cost being divided into one hundred shares of twenty-five dollars each.
In August, 1827, a subscription, headed by Seth Nason with a gift of one hundred dollars, was raised to add a cupola to the front of the meeting-house and provide a bell. The sum of $903.50 was obtained, and the addition was made, including an increase in the number of pews. In 1836 a new pulpit was built by a few individuals of the society.
[. . .] March 12, 1855, the society changed its name to “The Evangelical Congregational Society.” In 1858 the gallery pews in the meeting-house were fitted for more convenient use, and two years later the building of a “piazza” brought the church into temporary debt.