Smoot legacy continues on Harvard Bridge
An anonymous donor has given the Charles River Conservancy 2.5 million dollars to install new lighting along the Harvard Bridge, with one condition: that the new lights be installed every 30 Smoots.
According to the Boston Globe, the design for the new lighting “utilizes energy-efficient bulbs on both the roadway and pedestrian path, adding lighting at a lower level to make the bridge both more attractive and safer.”
The request pays tribute to the 1958 prank by the MIT Lambda Chi Alpha (LCA) fraternity. Overnight, a group of LCA members measured and marked the length of the Harvard Bridge using Oliver R. Smoot ’62, then 5 foot 7, as a unit of measurement. They found the bridge to be 364.4 Smoots — plus or minus an ear.
Since then, the markers — repainted regularly by MIT students — have become a well-known landmark.
The Smoot markers were recently repainted by MIT LCA alumni. On Monday, “twelve alums of the Lambda Zeta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha gathered at the chapter house to launch the Smoot painting task,” according to a LCA press release.
MIT’s LCA chapter was recently suspended by its national organization, closing the building for at least five years. Steven Pettinato ’80, president of the fraternity’s alumni corporation, referred to the markers as “an important tradition that transcends the issues facing the current local chapter.”
—Jennifer F. Switzer