This photograph, a favorite of mine in the collection, may be a familiar sight for those who frequent the second floor of the Cambridge Public Library. It has been enlarged and used as the sign for the Cambridge Room. Unfortunately, I don’t know the names of those pictured or the history and location of the Dana Hill Market.
Nevertheless, this fantastic photo prompted me to do a little research into the history of Dana Hill, which is the area around Dana Street between Mass Ave and Cambridge Street. For those of you who walk or bike in Mid Cambridge, it is the slight incline on both Harvard Street and Broadway.
In 1640, Dana Hill originally consisted of the Old Planting Fields, which was slightly to the east of the original location of Harvard on the Common, and Small Lot Hill, several two to three acre plots along the small rise. Around 1645, Edward Goffe, one of Cambridge’s wealthiest citizens, acquired the Old Planting Fields to construct his home. Goffe’s estate passed through his family to Richard Dana, the husband of Goffe’s great-grand niece, and was eventually purchased by Francis Dana in 1772. At the same time, Dana acquired the consolidated plots of Small Lot Hill and joined them to his recent purchase of the Goffe Estate to create Dana Hill.
Francis Dana was a prominent political figure during the Revolution and early days of the United States. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and signed the Articles of Confederation. After the war, Dana was the American minister to Russia from 1780 to 1783. When he returned, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, eventually becoming Chief Justice.
Antoinette F. Downing, Elisabeth Mac Dougall, and Eleanor Pearson, Cambridge Historical Commission Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge. Report Two: Mid Cambridge, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967), 11-13.