Elmwood, also known as the Oliver-Gerry-Lowell House, is a registered historic house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, known for its several prominent former residents, including: Andrew Oliver (1706–74), royal Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts; Elbridge Gerry (1744–1814), signer of the US Declaration of Independence and whose political tactics earned the term gerrymandering, and Vice President of the United States; and James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), noted American writer, poet, and foreign diplomat. It is now the residence of the President of Harvard University.


Early history
The house was built in 1767 by Thomas Oliver, Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts for a short period until he was forced to resign in September 1774. He fled the colony, initially to Nova Scotia, and then to Bristol, England, where he died in 1815. The house was confiscated at some point during the American Revolution. In 1787 Elbridge Gerry purchased the estate, and in March 1813 took the oath of office as Vice President in the house, where he lived until his death in 1814.

Lowell family
Not long after the death of Elbridge Gerry, Elmwood was purchased by the Lowell family. It was in this home that James Russell Lowell was born on February 22, 1819, the son of Charles Russell Lowell, Sr. and Harriett Brackett Spence Lowell. James Russell Lowell was the youngest of six children; his older siblings were Charles, Rebecca, Mary, William, and Robert. In the 1850s, Lowell dealt with many personal tragedies, including the sudden death of his mother and his third daughter, Rose. His personal troubles as well as the Compromise of 1850 convinced him to spend a winter in Italy after coaxing from William Wetmore Story. The trip was financed by the sale of land around Elmwood, and Lowell intended to sell off even further. Ultimately, 25 of the original 30 acres were sold to supplement Lowell's income. His personal troubles continued: his son Walter died while overseas, his wife Maria White Lowell died in October 1853, his father became deaf, and his sister Rebecca was deteriorating mentally, such that she often went without speaking for weeks. He had difficulty coping and became a recluse at Elmwood for a time until an invitation to speak at the Lowell Institute resulted in a job offer at Harvard College. He accepted the job, with the request he be allowed to study abroad for a year first. Lowell returned to the United States and began his duties at Harvard in the summer of 1856. Still grieving the loss of his wife, however, he avoided Elmwood. Instead, he lodged in an area known as Professors' Row on Kirkland Street in Cambridge along with his daughter Mabel and her governess Frances Dunlap. Lowell and Dunlap married in 1857. After the death of Lowell's father in January 1861 due to a heart attack, he moved back to Elmwood with his family. Despite avoiding the home for so long, he was pleased to be back. He wrote to his friend Charles Frederick Briggs: "I am back again to the place I love best. I am sitting in my old garret, at my old desk, smoking my old pipe... I begin to feel more like my old self than I have these ten years". Lowell remained at Elmwood for the remainder of his life, except during the period between 1877 and 1885, when he served as Minister to Spain and Great Britain. At Elmwood, he wrote some of his best-known works, including The Vision of Sir Launfal, The Biglow Papers, and A Fable for Critics , all published in 1848. It was Lowell who named the house "Elmwood". He mentions the home in some of his poetry: Lowell's friend and fellow poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote a poem about the house called " The Herons of Elmwood". In the summer of 1872, when Lowell traveled to Europe, he rented the house to Thomas Bailey Aldrich. Years later, in 1877, when Lowell was appointed Ambassador to Spain, he rented the home to the violinist Ole Bull. Upon his return to the United States in 1885, Lowell stayed at Elmwood until his death. He died in the home on August 12, 1891.

Recent history
Elmwood has been owned by Harvard University since 1962 and served as residence for the university's presidents since 1971 when acting Harvard President Derek Bok (1971–1991 & 2006–2007) moved his young family to these bucolic grounds to escape the din of student activity on Quincy Street. Elmwood has continued to serve as the residence of University Presidents since.

Although parts of Elmwood's interior have been altered, its exterior has not changed greatly over the years. It is a large, square, clapboarded structure in Georgian style with brick-lined walls and two interior chimneys. All three floors in the main section are bisected into two rooms on either side by a central hall. Its first- and second-story windows are topped by cornices, and a balustrade encloses the low-pitched hip roof. The most striking exterior feature is the entranceway, which is flanked by Tuscan pilasters supporting a classic entablature decorated with a frieze. A large window sits above the entablature and is flanked by Ionic pilasters and topped by a triangular pediment. A one-story porch with balustraded roof deck on the north side of the house, as well as a terrace on the south side, are later additions.

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