Harvard Illinois June 14, 2024
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Harvard, Illinois

Harvard is a city situated in McHenry County, Illinois. Its population was recorded as 9,469 in the 2020 census. Located 63 miles from the Chicago Loop, Harvard serves as the final stop on the Union Pacific Northwest Line.


Harvard's origins trace back to the ownership of Abram Carmack and Jacob Davis, who acquired the land from the government in 1845 and later sold it to Gilbert Brainard. Following Brainard's passing, Amos Page, Otis Eastman, and Elbridge Gerry Ayer purchased the land and laid out the town's layout. They named it "Harvard" in homage to Harvard, Massachusetts. The town's plat was signed by Judge J. M. Strode in Woodstock, Illinois, on November 25, 1856. Harvard was strategically located along the route of the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company railroad extension west from Cary towards Janesville, Wisconsin, leading to the establishment of a station in April 1856.

The development of Harvard continued with Wesley Diggins constructing a hotel for H. C. Blackman in 1856, later acquired by Elbridge Gerry Ayer. The hotel served as a refuge for sick and wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Over the years, it underwent several ownership changes and was eventually destroyed by fire on December 22, 1960.

As the railroad industry flourished, Harvard's population expanded, leading to its incorporation as a village on April 18, 1869, with Elbridge Gerry Ayer serving as its first village president. In 1891, Harvard transitioned from a town to a city through a citizen vote.

In 2006, Harvard celebrated its Sesquicentennial with a year-long celebration. The Greater Harvard Area Historical Society, located on Hart Street, works to preserve the area's history and heritage.

Harvard is renowned as the Milk Capital of the World and hosts the Harvard Milk Days festival annually, commemorating the city's significant contributions to milk production during World War II. A prominent symbol of the festival is Harmilda, a statue of a cow standing 5 feet tall, 8 feet long, and weighing about 125 pounds.