The Boston Globe, Posted: October 5, 2014
By: James Sullivan, Goble Correspondent
Louisa May Alcott, the author of “Little Women ,” is somewhat less well known for another of her works, the satirical piece “Transcendental Wild Oats.” It told the thinly disguised story of her eccentric father, Amos Bronson Alcott , and his dream of a utopian, self-sustaining retreat he called Fruitlands. Alcott’s commune in the rural town of Harvard, roughly 30 miles northwest of Boston, lasted a mere seven months, but the town that hosted it has grown on plenty of high-minded ideals, which have been applied with a bit more practicality than Louisa May’s father ever achieved.
Today, this picturesque bedroom community, dotted with rolling hills and orchards, boasts one of the best public school systems in the state, with The Bromfield School Grades 6-12 achieving consistent national recognition for excellence. The Harvard Historical Society is a repository of information about Harvard Shaker Village Historic District, where several privately held 18th- and 19th-century homes and buildings date back to the second Shaker settlement in the United States.
Harvard residents are also committed to conservation. In 1974, the federal government established Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, pristine forest and wetlands spanning the towns of Harvard, Lancaster, Ayer, and Shirley. Land transfers from the repurposed Fort Devens military base, as well as a private purchase completed in 2001, account for some of the refuge’s nearly 1,700 acres today.