Category Archives: Cambridge Historic Commission

Photo Contest: “Cambridge Wouldn’t Be Cambridge without…”

4.5

Librarians at the Cambridge Public Library Delivery Desk beneath the famous Rindge Ccommandments, circa 1920.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Cambridge Historical Commission, the Cambridge Historical Society is hosting a photo contest.  Here’s what the contest is all about:

“We want to know what you think makes Cambridge, Cambridge. We are hosting a photo contest titled “50 for 50.” The fifty winners will be exhibited at our Celebration of Preservation event on November 13, 2013 and their work will hang in a month-long exhibit in the Multicultural Arts Center in East Cambridge.

We are looking for images of what makes Cambridge a special place––a picture of a building, a park, a sculpture, a store, or a street that captures a part of why you love our city. In essence, we want you to use a picture to complete the sentence ‘‘Cambridge wouldn’t be Cambridge without …’’ The First Parish Church, the First Baptist Church, Live Poultry Fresh Killed––you tell us why Cambridge is the place you want to be.”

The Cambridge Room’s entry is above – it’s one of our favorite photographs of the library.  Our caption is “Cambridge wouldn’t be Cambridge without the library!”

Click here, to submit your photo and enter the contest.

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Clara Barton Comes to Cambridge Tonight

Clara Barton Comes to Cambridge

When: Thursday, November 15, 2012 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway
Cost: Free and open to the public
More Information:  Here

In honor of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, Clara Barton (1821-1912) will be brought vividly to life by character reenactor Jessa Piaia during the original program, Meet Clara Barton: A Journey from Angel of the Battlefield to Founder of the American Red Cross. The event will be in the Lecture Hall in the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday, November 15, 2012. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a brief reception, with Miss Barton speaking at 7:00 p.m. The event, sponsored by Swissnex Boston/Consulate of Switzerland and hosted by the Cambridge Public Library, is free and open to the public.

Local organizations will display historic materials on Cambridge during the Civil War found in their collections. The library will exhibit vintage local Red Cross posters and memorabilia. The Local Chapter of the American Red Cross, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge Historical Society, and the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery will share original photographs and artifacts.

Throughout America’s Civil War, Clara Barton’s sustained efforts at support ranged from distributing supplies (often purchased with her own funds) to cooking food and assisting wounded soldiers on the battleground. After the war, Miss Barton assisted the federal government in the creation of a recordkeeping system to track missing and dead soldiers; she was instrumental in establishing the first national cemetery at Andersonville, Georgia, in 1866. While visiting Geneva, Switzerland, in the 1870s Miss Barton took part in relief efforts for civilians under the auspices of the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War. This experience inspired her to take a pivotal role in aligning the United States with the International Red Cross in organizing humanitarian aid in combat. In 1881, Congress ratified the Geneva Treaty, and Clara Barton became the first president of the American Red Cross, serving for the next 22 years.

Piaia dramatizes the accomplishments, struggles, and contributions of women to American history. She is acclaimed for “recreating history in the fullest sense” and for using “solid research, compelling writing, and the artistry to bring off a one-woman show.” She performs at educational institutions, museums, and libraries, and for social and cultural organizations throughout New England.
Ms. Piaia studied performance at London’s Oval House Theatre and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and now works in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Research for this program was conducted at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute, the National Archives, and the Clara Barton Birthplace Museum in North Oxford, Massachusetts.

Free Event This Thursday: Clara Barton Comes to Cambridge

Clara Barton Comes to Cambridge

When: Thursday, November 15, 2012 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway
Cost: Free and open to the public
More Information:  Here

In honor of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, Clara Barton (1821-1912) will be brought vividly to life by character reenactor Jessa Piaia during the original program, Meet Clara Barton: A Journey from Angel of the Battlefield to Founder of the American Red Cross. The event will be in the Lecture Hall in the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday, November 15, 2012. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a brief reception, with Miss Barton speaking at 7:00 p.m. The event, sponsored by Swissnex Boston/Consulate of Switzerland and hosted by the Cambridge Public Library, is free and open to the public.

Local organizations will display historic materials on Cambridge during the Civil War found in their collections. The library will exhibit vintage local Red Cross posters and memorabilia. The Local Chapter of the American Red Cross, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge Historical Society, and the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery will share original photographs and artifacts.

Throughout America’s Civil War, Clara Barton’s sustained efforts at support ranged from distributing supplies (often purchased with her own funds) to cooking food and assisting wounded soldiers on the battleground. After the war, Miss Barton assisted the federal government in the creation of a recordkeeping system to track missing and dead soldiers; she was instrumental in establishing the first national cemetery at Andersonville, Georgia, in 1866. While visiting Geneva, Switzerland, in the 1870s Miss Barton took part in relief efforts for civilians under the auspices of the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War. This experience inspired her to take a pivotal role in aligning the United States with the International Red Cross in organizing humanitarian aid in combat. In 1881, Congress ratified the Geneva Treaty, and Clara Barton became the first president of the American Red Cross, serving for the next 22 years.

Piaia dramatizes the accomplishments, struggles, and contributions of women to American history. She is acclaimed for “recreating history in the fullest sense” and for using “solid research, compelling writing, and the artistry to bring off a one-woman show.” She performs at educational institutions, museums, and libraries, and for social and cultural organizations throughout New England.
Ms. Piaia studied performance at London’s Oval House Theatre and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and now works in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Research for this program was conducted at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute, the National Archives, and the Clara Barton Birthplace Museum in North Oxford, Massachusetts.

Get in the Halloween Spirit and Do Some Cemetery Research

Gravestone in Cambridge’s Old Burying Ground, courtesy of Ajna Photography.

Cambridge’s spookiest cemetery is by far the Old Burying Ground in Harvard Square, nestled between First Parish and Christ Church.  Set aside from the Common, the land was marked as a cemetery before 1635.  Prior to that Cantabrigians buried their dead, “beyond the Common Pales,” or outside the fence erected between what we now refer to as the corner of Mt. Auburn and Linden Street all the way to East Cambridge.  The Old Burying Ground’s eerie charm comes from both the grisly Puritan tombstone art and its apparent neglect, which has as long a tradition as the city records go back.

Stop by the Old Burying Ground for inspiration or try these free online cemetery resources:

1. Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Cambridge (1845) by William T. Harris available on Google books.

2.  findagrave.com – Lists 34 million graves.

3. Cemetery and Tombstone Transcription – a search engine for free cemetery transcription websites.

4. interment.net – free online library of burial records from thousands of cemeteries around the world.

5. Tombstone Transcription Project – Volunteers have transcribed thousands of cemeteries’ tombstone inscriptions.  You, too, can volunteer.

Cambridgeport and Its 1812 Streets

Cambridgeport and Its 1812 Streets

A new book and related website by the Cambridge Historical Commission and Cambridge Historical Society explore the impact of the War of 1812 on Cambridgeport

The year 2012 marks the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812. This conflict, little remembered now, devastated Cambridgeport’s aspirations to become a bustling commercial port and ruined the fortunes of investing families. Yet within 45 years a ladder of seven streets around Dana Park had been named for commanders, ships, and a decisive naval battle from that very war. Who named these streets? Why commemorate a conflict with such disastrous results for the area? Cambridgeport and Its 1812 Streets solves these mysteries. The book, rich with historic maps and illustrations, examines the growth of the neighborhood and the life and relationships of the man who named the streets.

The City of Cambridge has honored the 1812 streets with the installation of new historic markers. Each sign includes a web address, www.cambridgema.gov/1812, where neighborhood explorers may learn more. The site includes an overview of the war and biographical sketches of the men (and their ships) remembered in the streets names.

Cambridgeport and Its 1812 Streets — $6.50
Purchase on line at www2.cambridgema.gov/historic/publications.html

Cambridge Historical Commission, 831 Massachusetts Avenue
617 349 4683 or histcomm@cambridgema.gov

Cambridge Historical Society, 159 Brattle Street
617 547 4252 or info@cambridgehistory.org

Mark Your Calendars: Clara Barton Comes to Cambridge, November 15

Clara Barton Comes to Cambridge

When: Thursday, November 15, 2012 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway
Cost: Free and open to the public
More Information:  Here

In honor of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, Clara Barton (1821-1912) will be brought vividly to life by character reenactor Jessa Piaia during the original program, Meet Clara Barton: A Journey from Angel of the Battlefield to Founder of the American Red Cross. The event will be in the Lecture Hall in the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday, November 15, 2012. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a brief reception, with Miss Barton speaking at 7:00 p.m. The event, sponsored by Swissnex Boston/Consulate of Switzerland and hosted by the Cambridge Public Library, is free and open to the public.

Local organizations will display historic materials on Cambridge during the Civil War found in their collections. The library will exhibit vintage local Red Cross posters and memorabilia. The Local Chapter of the American Red Cross, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge Historical Society, and the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery will share original photographs and artifacts.

Throughout America’s Civil War, Clara Barton’s sustained efforts at support ranged from distributing supplies (often purchased with her own funds) to cooking food and assisting wounded soldiers on the battleground. After the war, Miss Barton assisted the federal government in the creation of a recordkeeping system to track missing and dead soldiers; she was instrumental in establishing the first national cemetery at Andersonville, Georgia, in 1866. While visiting Geneva, Switzerland, in the 1870s Miss Barton took part in relief efforts for civilians under the auspices of the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War. This experience inspired her to take a pivotal role in aligning the United States with the International Red Cross in organizing humanitarian aid in combat. In 1881, Congress ratified the Geneva Treaty, and Clara Barton became the first president of the American Red Cross, serving for the next 22 years.

Piaia dramatizes the accomplishments, struggles, and contributions of women to American history. She is acclaimed for “recreating history in the fullest sense” and for using “solid research, compelling writing, and the artistry to bring off a one-woman show.” She performs at educational institutions, museums, and libraries, and for social and cultural organizations throughout New England.
Ms. Piaia studied performance at London’s Oval House Theatre and graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and now works in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Research for this program was conducted at the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe Institute, the National Archives, and the Clara Barton Birthplace Museum in North Oxford, Massachusetts.

Participate in “If This House Could Talk…”

What happened in your neighborhood two, twenty, two hundred years ago? For the past three years, Cambridgeport residents, businesses and non-profits have posted signs in front of their properties telling interesting tidbits from their recent or distant, personal or public past.

In October of 2009 over seventy signs cropped up for the first “If This House Could Talk…”; in 2011, over 150 signs. Signs told about whatever local residents found interesting:

  • Residents, including writers, social activists, Shakers, and “regular people”;
  • Houses extensively renovated or virtually untouched, built as wedding gifts or boarding houses;
  • A church where Martin Luther King and J.F.K. once spoke; and
  • Gardens that grow potatoes for homemade fries or colorful dahlias–and plots that grew wartime vegetables.

Last year “If This House Could Talk…” was featured on WBUR’s Radio Boston.  Listen here:  http://radioboston.wbur.org/2011/10/06/if-this-house-could-talk.

If you would like to participate in the 2012 “If This House Could Talk…” contact Jay, Gavin, or Kit at ifthishouse@cambridgehistory.org.

Cambridgeport History Day


Kit Rawlins (Cambridge Historical Society) and Cathie Zusy (Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association) at Cambridgeport History Day.

Here’s another article on Cambridgeport History Day from Mary Holbrow published by CCTV:  http://www.cctvcambridge.org/Cambridgeport_History_Day_2011.

Cambridgeport History Day got a lot of news coverage this year – congratulations!

“If This House Could Talk” on WBUR’s Radio Boston

Yesterday, WBUR’s Radio Boston did a great piece on “If This House Could Talk…”  The Cambridge Historical Commission’s Executive Director, Charlie Sullivan, made a guest appearance.  Listen to the story here:  http://radioboston.wbur.org/2011/10/06/if-this-house-could-talk.

Shell Station – 187 Magazine Street

The Shell gas station at 187 Magazine Street was built in 1930, two years before the Shell Oil Company moved its Northeast Regional Headquarters to 875 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, just over the Charles.  The famous neon Shell sign, which is now a designated Cambridge landmark, was one of two spectacular, illuminated signs, built by Donnelly Electric Manufacturing Company of Boston in 1933, that used to sit atop of Shell’s 875 Comm. Ave. building.

Pearl Street resident Bill Davis remembers when the sign was brought across the river and set up at the Shell filling station when Memorial Drive opened in 1948.  Mr. Davis also remembers that his father, Richard Harding Davis (born in 1900), used to keep his small boat docked where the gas station is now located.  During the early part of the twentieth century, long before either Shell building existed, the Charles was still controlled by the tides and Richard Davis’s boat would rise and fall at its mooring throughout the day.

-Compiled by Bill Davis and Alyssa Pacy for “If This House Could Talk…” 2011

(Color photograph of Shell Sign by Lorianne DiSabato:  http://hoardedordinaries.wordpress.com/2008/01/23/while-you-can/).