The unnamed walkway between Brattle Street and Mount Auburn Street is an unlikely place to find both world-famous architecture and a restaurant with connections to one of America’s most famous chefs, though it is one of the hidden gems of Harvard Square.
The walkway was first created in 1969 when architects Benjamin Thompson and Josep Lluís Sert each designed buildings that connected one story above the ground. The archway above allowed for the walkway below, which for more than 40 years has continued to change and evolve. Sert is credited with 44 Brattle Street and Thompson’s Design Research was headquartered at number 48. Behind these two is a third building of great importance, designed by Walter Gropius, which served as the headquarters for The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC), until the group sold the building in 1988.
Within Sert’s structure at 44 Brattle Street, though known to be simply, “on the walkway,” is Harvest, a restaurant designed and originally owned by Thompson and his wife, Jane. Opened in 1975, the original neon-lighted Harvest sign and the bright Marimekko prints adorning the front room drew people, including Julia Child, into walkway.
Harvest was rumored to be Julia Child’s favorite place to dine. Child often frequented “The Architects’ Corner,” shopping at D/R, enjoying the store’s European flare, and dining at Harvest. Her colleagues and students have served not only in Harvest’s kitchen, but have also moved on to open some of the best restaurants in the city. Harvest has been home to many celebrated chefs including Lydia Shire, Chris Schlesinger, Barbara Lynch, Frank McClelland, Sara Moulton, Bob Kinkead, Scott Bryan, Jasper White, and Jimmy Burke.
Although Harvest has an impressive list of alumni and fans, it became a victim of its own success. The “Culinary Revolution” inspired by Julia Child’s TV show and the success of innovative restaurants like Harvest led to an expansion of the American pallet nationwide. New cooking shows drew on Child’s format, former chef’s from Harvest went off and started their own restaurants, and, across the country and in Harvard Square, new restaurants were opening of a much higher caliber and with much greater sense of international designs and flavors.
In 1997, growing competition and poor management forced the restaurant to close. It was reopened under new ownership and, after six months of extensive renovations by interior designer Elkus Manfredi of Copley Place and Bay Tower Room fame, reopened and attempted to recapture its former preeminence.
Since its reopening, Harvest has once again become an icon of Harvard Square dining, receiving several awards and rave reviews. Lauded as a Harvard Square classic by Travel & Leisure magazine, Harvest has also received acclaim for Best Brunch in Boston, Best Guaranteed Great Meal in Cambridge and Best Outdoor Dining. Awards have come both locally and nationally from Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and the Zagat Survey.
Today, Harvest’s executive chef Mary Dumont is an emerging star in her own right. Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Dumont trained in restaurants around the country from San Francisco to Chicago, before returning to Portsmouth to open The Dunaway Restaurant at Strawbery Banke. There she received critical acclaim from The Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit, and was named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2006. The following year she appeared on NBC’s The Today Show and the Food Network’s Iron Chef America. Under her guidance, Harvest is again a worthwhile stopping point along the unnamed walkway between Brattle and Mt. Auburn streets and an important landmark in Harvard Square.
As prepared by:
Gavin W. Kleespies, Executive Director Cambridge Historical Society.
Katie MacDonald, Intern Cambridge Historical Society.