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Cambridge, Massachusetts

Pooh's House

This tiny, painted door at the base of a tree stump has been a fixture of the Harvard University campus for decades. 

Pooh’s house is a tiny, painted door at the base of a tree stump that has been a fixture of the Harvard University campus for decades, though it has a complicated history that’s not always sunny. It’s a little piece of Harvard that’s worth the visit—if you can bend down far enough to see it properly. 

Pooh’s house wasn’t always the only local residence for citizens of the hundred-acre wood. A decade ago, Rabbit and Piglet both lived within a half-mile, in squirrel-sized homes nestled in the bases of other trees. Adults would generally only notice the houses if they happened to drop something, or pause to tie their shoes, at precisely the right place. It was most often children who spotted the painted doors—who creaked them open to reveal the damp, spidery foyers within.

Neither Rabbit nor Piglet themselves ever made an appearance; their foyers always seemed to be empty. Perhaps they were visiting Pooh, drinking tea generously blobbed with honey. Or simply sitting in a back room, just beyond the spongy space where the wood curved into darkness.

But those trees were long ago felled to make room for crayon-colored chairs and sunbathing freshmen. Only Pooh’s house remains—though his tree, too, was cut during the 2012 renovation that tore up the cement outside the Harvard Science Center. For a while his stump sat bare, cordoned off by construction fencing. Pooh’s door disappeared, and along with it his home. It became, for a time, just a vacant hollow, a space between knobby roots.

But after a few months a wooden roof appeared to cap the exposed stump. Soon a new door was installed, and a freshly painted sign that read “Pooh.” One can only assume that Pooh himself moved back in, pots of honey in hand.

For a few years his house thrived. A tiny piece of Christopher Robin’s woods, right outside the Science Center. Every day students passed, backpacks heavy with physics notebooks. Tourists paused for pictures. Pooh was there —he must have been—just out of sight behind his painted door. Eating a snack, perhaps, or taking a nap. 

But paint will chip and wood, too, will soften. Pooh’s house seemed to fall apart all at once. The sign fell, first. A rainstorm, perhaps—or maybe the work of an industrious squirrel. Soon after the door disappeared, pried off its tiny hinges by vandals. The living room behind it became, again, just an empty hollow, a spongy dip in wood. 

The skeleton of Pooh’s house sits, still, outside the Science Center. The roof is mostly intact. Every day students lock their bikes beside it, jogging to make it to chemistry class. But Pooh himself is nowhere to be found. He might be gone for good. Maybe he’s moved in with Owl, or into Eeyore’s shack. Or perhaps he’s just waiting, hidden in some unobtrusive, spidery hollow. On the lookout for a new door, and a fresh coat of paint.

Know Before You Go

Take the Red Line to Harvard Square station. From there it is a quick walk to Pooh's House, located outside the Harvard Science Center (to the left of the building).