Harvard is a city in McHenry County, Illinois, United States. The population was 7,996 at the 2000 census, and estimated to be 9,104 as of 2005. Sixty-three miles from the "Loop" of downtown Chicago, it is the last stop on the Metra Union Pacific/Northwest line.
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.
In 1855 the Chicago & Northwestern Railway built toward Janesville, Wisconsin, from Cary. Projecting where trains from Chicago would have to stop for servicing in the days of wood fuel, Elbridge Gerry Ayer and two other North Western stockholders platted a community in southeastern Chemung Township. They purchased the land without mentioning their railroad affiliation. In April 1856, the railroad accepted Ayer's town plat as a station named Harvard. When the North Western's Kenosha-Rockford line entered Harvard in 1859, the railroad built engine-handling facilities there.
As railroad employment expanded, Harvard's population ballooned. In 1868 voters incorporated the community, and elected Ayer as president.
In 1942, Harvard instituted an annual celebration called Harvard Milk Days. A lavish parade down whitewashed streets presided over by a large fiberglass Holstein cow named (since 1970) Harmilda attracted thousands.
Dairy farming declined as farmers found it easier and equally profitable to supply metropolitan Chicago's supermarkets with produce. Many Mexican immigrants who came to work as temporary pickers and processors have remained in Harvard as landscape laborers. Hispanics comprise the largest and most recent immigrant group in an area which had not received new populations in some time.
Motorola opened a 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.
In 2006, Harvard held a year-long Sesquicentennial Celebration.
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, and businesses and farms which have been in operation for more than 100 years.
Harvard is served by Harvard School District #50, which operates five schools within Harvard:
Harvard High School: grades 9-12;
Harvard Junior High School: grades 5-8;
Jefferson School: grades 1, 3 and 4;
Washington School: pre-kindergarten and kindergarten;
Central School: grade 2.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford operates one school in Harvard:
St. Joseph's School: pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, grades 1-8
Currently the Harvard Fire Protection District is governed by a 3 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 , and is funded by ambulance user fees and property taxes. It is part of the Rock River Region EMS System, which is affiliated with Rockford Memorial Hospital, 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.
When the library moved to its new facilities in 2001, the name was changed to Harvard Diggins Library. The library is a municipal library and receives its financial support from city taxes and endowment funds. It is governed by a nine-member City Library Board appointed by the mayor. The original Diggins Trustee Board assists with special funding. As an online member of the Prairie Area Library System's automation project, the library shares a database with other libraries in the system. Patrons may access these materials as well as local materials. Patrons are also able to use their card at the PALS libraries.