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A House With History

A House With HistoryA centuries-old home at Tufts – currently inhabited by University Provost Jamshed Bharucha – has ties to both a famous poem and an important historic figure. Medford, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.01.01] The childhood poem "Over the river and through the woods" is familiar to many, but the home that inspired it remains a hidden gem just a few blocks from Tufts' Medford/Somerville campus. But the Tufts-owned home, which currently houses the University's provost and his wife, is tied to more than just the famous poem - it is also a lasting link to an important historic figure.

"The classic children's poem [that begins ‘over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house we go'] first came to life here," WBZ-TV 4 news reporter Robin Hamilton told viewers, while standing outside the Greek-revival house located at 114 South Street in Medford. "Tufts Senior Vice President and Provost Jamshed Bharucha lives in the Medford home, which inspired the poem's author Lydia Maria Child."

Tufts purchased the home in 1976, when developers announced plans to tear it down in order to build an apartment building on the property. In 1995, with the help of an architect and the home's tenants - former Fletcher School Dean and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Jack Galvin and his wife Ginny - Tufts renovated and restored the interior of the house.

Though the area has changed a lot over the last two centuries, many of the landmarks that are famously preserved in Child's poem - including the river and the woods - remain.

"She talks about the snow, and the horses knowing the way, and they would come across the river," Bharucha told WBZ.

The river is Medford's Mystic River. The woods, thinner these days, still separate Bharucha's house from the Mystic's banks.

"According to history, the home was where Child would visit her grandparents during the holidays," reported the news station. Today, the house - listed on the national historic register -- still gets quite a few visitors.

"It's a popular stop on a historical tour," reported Channel 4. Over the years, visitors have included everyone from foreign dignitaries to elementary school children and residents from surrounding communities.

But many visitors don't realize that the house is a lasting link to another important piece of American history.

Child - who wrote the poem (originally titled ‘Boy's Thanksgiving') - played an important role in New England's abolitionist movement.

"The poem is nice, but the more I looked into it, the more it was clear that this house is associated with a woman of great accomplishment," Bharucha said.

The Tufts administrator did some research and learned that Child's other writings - while less famous than her poem - were extremely important.

"She wrote treatises on rights for African-Americans, rights for Native Americans, women's rights," Bharucha said. "She really defined these issues way before other people were doing that."

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