Harvard, Illinois
People gathered for the Harvard, Illinois Milk Days Parade. June 2, 2007
Success Comes Naturally Here
Location of Harvard in McHenry County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 42°25′36″N 88°37′22″W / 42.42667°N 88.62278°W / 42.42667; -88.62278Coordinates: 42°25′36″N 88°37′22″W / 42.42667°N 88.62278°W / 42.42667; -88.62278
CountryUnited States
TownshipsChemung, Dunham, Alden
FoundedFebruary 28, 1867
 • MayorMichael Kelly
 • Total8.16 sq mi (21.13 km2)
 • Land8.16 sq mi (21.13 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
922 ft (281 m)
 • Total9,447
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,110.84/sq mi (428.87/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s)815, 779
FIPS code17-33331
Wikimedia CommonsHarvard, Illinois

Harvard is a city located in McHenry County, Illinois. The population was 9,447 at the 2010 census, and was 9,060 as of July 1, 2019. The city is 63 miles from the Chicago Loop and it is the last stop on the Union Pacific/Northwest Line.


Looking southwest on Ayer Street. Downtown Harvard, Illinois
Looking southwest on Ayer Street. Downtown Harvard, Illinois
Statue of Harmilda the cow, commemorating Milk Days
Statue of Harmilda the cow, commemorating Milk Days

The original owners of the land which came to be Harvard, Illinois, were Abram Carmack and Jacob Davis, who obtained it from the government in 1845 and sold it to Gilbert Brainard shortly afterward. Upon Gilbert Brainard's death, the land was purchased by Amos Page, Otis Eastman, and Elbridge Gerry Ayer. These three men planned the layout of the town and named it "Harvard" in honor of Harvard, Massachusetts. The plat was signed by Judge J. M. Strode in Woodstock, Illinois, on November 25, 1856. Shortly afterward Amos Page and Otis Eastman sold their shares of the property to Elbridge Gerry Ayer. Mr.Ayer's involvement came out of his business interest in the extension of the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company railroad west from Cary, toward Janesville, Wisconsin. The newly platted town of Harvard was located directly on the route of the extension, and in April 1856 the railroad accepted Ayer's offer of land to build a station in the town.[4]

In 1856 Mr. Wesley Diggins built a hotel for Mr. H. C. Blackman, who sold it to Mr. Elbridge Gerry Ayer in 1859. Mr. Ayer built additional floors to raise it to a height of three stories and added a wing and a veranda. During the Civil War, sick and wounded soldiers passing through Harvard were lodged at the hotel with no charge for their meals. In 1925 the Ayer Hotel was purchased by Mr. S. J. Noble and renamed the Noble Hotel. When he could not maintain mortgage payments it was purchased in 1937 by Mr. P. G. Allen and renamed the Hub Hotel. The building was destroyed in a fire on December 22, 1960.

As railroad employment expanded, Harvard's population grew. On April 18, 1869, voters incorporated the community and elected Elbridge Gerry Ayer as the first village president.[5] The first ordinance adopted required every able-bodied citizen between the ages of 18 and 60 to perform one day of labor for the town.

Harvard was turned from a town into a city when citizens voted to do so (with a vote of 550 to 5) on April 6, 1891. With this change, Harvard was no longer a town administered by a village president. It became a city administered by a mayor.

Motorola opened a 1,500,000 square feet (140,000 m2) mobile telephone manufacturing and distribution facility on Harvard's north side in 1997. The plant employed more than 5,000 at its peak. However, a combination of factors, including a significant decline in Motorola's business in the early 2000s, compelled the company to shutter the facility in 2003.[6] In 2012, the 1.5 million square foot facility was sold to Optima Ventures,[7][8] a Miami-based real estate investment firm led by Chaim Schochet and 2/3rd owned by the Privat Group, one of Ukraine's largest business and banking groups.[9]

In 2006, Harvard held a year-long Sesquicentennial Celebration.[10] The Greater Harvard Area Historical Society is located on Hart Street. The society identifies and marks historical sites in the area. It also works to obtain histories of Harvard families, businesses, and farms that have been in operation for more than 100 years.

Harvard is the self-proclaimed Milk Capital of the World and hosts one of the longest-running festivals in Illinois, Harvard Milk Days, the first weekend of June to commemorate their contributions to milk production during WWII.

A symbol of the Milk Days Festival, the statue of a cow, Harmilda, "stands 5 feet tall, 8 feet long, and weighs about 125 pounds."[11]


According to the 2010 census, Harvard has a total area of 8.58 square miles (22.22 km2), all land.[12]

Major streets


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)9,060[2]−4.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[13]

As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 7,996 people, 2,610 households, and 1,853 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,498.2 people per square mile (578.1/km2). There were 2,723 housing units at an average density of 510.2 per square mile (196.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 76.25% White, 0.85% African American, 0.38% Native American, 1.43% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 18.76% from other races, and 2.33% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 37.81% of the population.

There were 2,610 households, out of which 39.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them; 53.8% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families; 24.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.05 and the average family size was 3.56.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 30.1% under the age of 18, 12.7% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 16.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females, there were 107.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $44,363, and the median income for a family was $48,087. Males had a median income of $30,578 versus $23,750 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,253. About 6.9% of families and 9.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.2% of those under age 18 and 1.2% of those age 65 or over.


Active congregations are listed in the table.


Historic Central School, Harvard, Illinois
Historic Central School, Harvard, Illinois

Harvard School District No. 50 operates five schools within the city:

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford operated one school in Harvard, St. Joseph's School: pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades 1–8. The school was closed at the end of the 2015–16 school year, due to financial issues.[15]

Harvard Diggins Library

Harvard Diggins Library began serving the Harvard community in 1909. Delos F. Diggins, who spent his childhood in Harvard, provided a generous bequest to the City of Harvard for the purpose of building a library. That building, named the Delos F. Diggins Library, became the first free-standing public library in McHenry County. The library served the community successfully from that building until a new library was built in 2001. In deference to the lasting legacy of Delos Diggins, the library was renamed the Harvard Diggins Library. Currently, Harvard Diggins Library is a member of the Northern Illinois Cooperative consortium and the Reaching Across Illinois Library System.

The Harvard Diggins Library building encompasses 19,000 square feet of space. The core of the facility houses the collection, but designated space is available for children, teens, quiet study, and meeting space. Public events are hosted at the library on a regular basis, including lectures, performers, crafts, storytimes, and more. As a municipal library, library cards are free to city residents, and it allows borrowing of materials from most public libraries in Illinois. Non-residents may purchase a card for an annual fee.[16]

Post office

Harvard, Illinois Post Office.
Harvard, Illinois Post Office.

The U.S. Post Office is located on Harvard's North Eastman Street. The current building was constructed during the Kennedy Administration in 1962 when J. Edward Day was the Postmaster General.

Law enforcement

The Harvard Police Department is located in the lower level of the old City Hall building at 201 W. Front Street. It consists of 17 full-time police officers, a full-time record clerk and one full-time community services officer (CSO). Dispatch services are provided by the North East Regional Communications Center, also known as NERCOM, of which the department is a founding and partner member and is located in McHenry Illinois. The department has a full-time detective, a school resource officer, bicycles for officers to patrol the city streets, parks and downtown area.[17]

Fire protection

Harvard's Fire Protection District consists of 47 trained firefighters, of which 22 are Emergency medical technicians and 14 are paramedics. The district traces its history to 1865 when five men got together to purchase a fire engine for the village of Harvard. In 1871, the engine was sent to Chicago via the railroad to assist in the Great Chicago Fire. In 1892, it was again placed on a train to assist with a fire in the community of Kenosha, Wisconsin. In 1899, the first constitution and by-laws were drawn up for the Harvard Fire Department. The Harvard Rescue Squad was founded in 1956 with a $7000 donation from the Harvard Jaycees. In 1971, the City and Rural Fire Department merged to form the Harvard Fire Protection District.[18]

Currently, the Harvard Fire Protection District is governed by a five-member board of trustees appointed by the McHenry County Board. While the Fire District works very closely with the city of Harvard, it is a separate government agency. The district provides fire and emergency medical service for 108 square miles (280 km2) and is funded by ambulance user fees and property taxes. It is part of the Mercy Health EMS System, which operates out of Mercy Health Javon Bea Hospital in Rockford, IL, a Level I trauma hospital. The district also has a SCUBA dive team, trained for water rescue. This team is part of the McHenry County MABAS 5 Dive Team.


U.S. Route 14, locally known as the Northwest Highway and Division Street, runs north–south through Harvard. Illinois Route 23 begins in southern Harvard and connects the city with other locations to the south. Illinois Route 173 also runs east–west through Harvard, and it connects many other towns along the Wisconsin border to Harvard. The nearest Interstate Highway to Harvard is Interstate 90 in Belvidere; Interstate 39 in Machesney Park is also nearby, as is Interstate 43 in Wisconsin.

Harvard is also served by multiple forms of public transportation. Pace operates Route 808 in Harvard. This route links the city to the communities of Woodstock and Crystal Lake. Metra's Union Pacific/Northwest Line has a station in Harvard and operates daily service to Chicago's Ogilvie Transportation Center. The Harvard station is the most remote point in the Metra system at 63.16 miles (101.65 km) from downtown Chicago.[19]


Harvard is served by WHIW-LP 101.3 FM, Harvard Community Radio. A low-power FM station, WHIW-LP began broadcasting on the FM frequency on May 18, 2015. Prior to May 2015, the station was heard at AM 1610. WHIW-LP also streams online.

WHIW-LP provides local programming including news, sports, school, music, arts and more. WHIW is an all-volunteer community radio station that depends on the support of it listeners and station underwriters. The station received its 501(c)(3) exempt status in 2013.

Harvard once had a daily newspaper, the Harvard Herald, which was published from 1887 until 1986. In September 2009, a new monthly publication, the Harvard Main Line, was launched.[20] The city is also served by the Northwest Herald, which covers all of McHenry County.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: City of Harvard
  4. ^ Harvard - 150 Years, 1856-2006, Harvard Sesquicentennial Committee May 2006
  5. ^ http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/567.html Retrieved September 23, 2006
  6. ^ Happy end for Harvard? | Northwest Herald[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Chicago Tribune: " Motorola campus in Harvard has a buyer - Miami-based real estate investment firm looking at plans to lease shuttered facility" By Carolyn Starks and Jeff Long August 15, 2008
  8. ^ Daily Herald: "Miami firm buys former Motorola plant in Harvard" By Lenore T. Adkins August 14, 2008
  9. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer: "The most important guy you've never heard of: Chaim Schochet, 25, builds downtown Cleveland empire" By Michelle Jarboe McFee February 04, 2012
  10. ^ "harvard150.com". Archived from the original on 2006-10-04. Retrieved 2006-09-23.
  11. ^ report, Carolyn Starks, Tribune staff reporter Freelance reporter Tim Kane contributed to this. "No one messes with Harmilda". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  12. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  13. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  14. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  15. ^ Prokop, Hannah (March 4, 2016). "St. Joseph School in Harvard to Close by End of Year, Rockford Diocese Says". Northwest Herald. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  16. ^ Harvard Diggins Library
  17. ^ "CITY OF HARVARD | Police Department". Archived from the original on 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2006-02-01.
  18. ^ Harvard Fire Protection District
  19. ^ Metra Railfan Tips - Union Pacific/Northwest Line
  20. ^ "Harvard Main Line".
  21. ^ 'Jonathan J. Smith-obituary,' Barron County Shield, January 4, 1917
Wikisource has the text of the 1920 Encyclopedia Americana article Harvard.