Causing much confusion with visitors, the bridge that crosses the Charles River at MIT is called the Harvard Bridge. It was named after John Harvard for whom the small red brick college in Cambridge had earlier been named. When the bridge was opened in 1891, MIT was located in Boston. The controversy over the bridge's name began in 1916 when MIT opened its Cambridge campus.
When the Harvard Bridge was closed for renovations in 1924, 1949, and 1986, proposals were submitted to rename the bridge for MIT. Each time, however, the proposed name change did not make it through the long political process required. Many at MIT, feeling that the bridge was poorly designed, did not want it name for MIT.
While the Harvard Bridge was closed in 1949 for renovations, the "Harvard Bridge Closed" sign was replaced by Tech students with a sign saying, "Technology Bridge Closed." At the opening ceremony later that year, Massachusetts Governor Paul A. Dever led a motorcade toward the bridge. Just before he reached it, a convertible containing ten members of The Tech staff, a brass band, and two clowns pulled in front of the governor's limousine and started across the bridge. The police stopped the convertible, but the pranksters' car was the second to cross the newly rebuilt bridge.
The official length of the Harvard Bridge is 364.4 Smoots plus one ear. Distances on the bridge are indicated with a colored paint mark every Smoot and a number every ten Smoots. Biannually, the pledge class of Lambda Chi Alpha repaints the markings with a new color. The police have come to accept the Smoot marks. In fact, they use the markers to indicate locations when filing accident reports. After the bridge was rebuilt in the late 1980s, the Smoot markings reappeared and the tradition continued.
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