Category Archives: “If This House Could Talk”

Cambridgeport History Day, Saturday October 5th

Flier-final oct 5 2013

Fifth Annual Cambridgeport History Day
Saturday, October 5 (rain or shine)

Join us to learn, explore, exhibit, and re-enact Cambridgeport History. Bring people together, create a sense of place, and share history and common stories. Dana Park, on Magazine Street, between Lawrence and McTernan streets, is the event’s hub.

“If This House Could Talk…” booth opens in Dana Park, with sign lists, and historical maps.
11:00-12:30    Industry Tour led by Charles Sullivan of the Cambridge Historic Commission (starts in Dana Park)
12:00-5:00      Activities and music in Dana Park
1:00-4:00        Demonstrations of hand-operated letterpress
1:00-1:30        Marcia Deihl performance
1:00-4:00        Civil War encampment:  talks & demonstrations
2:00-4:00        Accordians
2:30-4:00        Neighborhood tour led by Kit Rawlins of the Cambridge Historic Commission (starts in Dana Park)
5:00                 Neighborhood potluck, hosted by the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association

Activities in Dana Park provided by:

Cambridge Historical Society
Cambridge Historical Commission
Cambridge Public Library
Riverside Boat Club
Cambridge Arts Council
Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association

Cambridgeport History Day is sponsored by the Cambridgeport History Project, co-chaired by Mayor Henrietta Davis and Michael Kenney. Partners include the Cambridge Historical Society, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge Arts Council, Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, Riverside Boat Club, and Central Square Business Association.

This neighborhood event was sponsored by Cambridge Trust Company, Cambridge Savings Bank, and Forest City.

Information on past Cambridgeport History Days


If This Library Could Talk…

Construction of the Central Square Library , circa 1973.

“If This Library Could Talk…”
Central Square Branch Library
45 Pearl Street

Owner Joseph A. Stubbs receives a permit from the City to build a carriage house.  W. H. Leach is the builder.

31 March 1900
The Stubbs family advertises their 7 room, harbor view cottage in South Wellfleet for rent for the season.  Inquiries to be made at 45 Pearl Street with Mrs. M. J. Aitner.

27 October 1900
The Stubs have lost their black and white cat.  For a reward, bring cat to 45 Pearl Street.

31 December 1913
The funeral is held for Mary Stubs, 72, and widow of Joseph A. Stubs at 3 p.m. at 45 Pearl Street.

28 October 1922
Miss Carolyn Stubbs (Radcliffe class of 1924) of 45 Pearl Street makes the Dean’s list.

Ground is broken on this site for the Central Square Branch Library.

April 1976
The Library opens as part of the complex that included the municipal parking garage and the Manning Apartments.  The Library cost $851,000 and boasted 15,000 square feet of fire proof and air conditioned library and community meeting space.

The Central Square Branch offered the most programs to the greatest number of people, including its annual Martin Luther King Day celebration.

The Literacy Center opens to provide tutoring and combat illiteracy among children and adults.

Governor Michael Dukakis launches the Commonwealth Literacy Campaign, an effort to help functionally illiterate adults to read, from the Library.

The Rotary Technology Center opens to keep up with the demand of personal computer use.

Please stop by the Central Square Branch to pick up supplies to make your own sign for “If This House Could Talk…”

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:

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:

Greasy Village – Corner of Putnum Avenue and Waverly Street

Reardon Soap  Works, 1896

Longtime residents of Cambridgeport remember when various smells would waft through the neighborhood– some good like the piccalilli relish made by the Heinz factory on Memorial Drive between Vassar and Applebee (which no longer exists) and some bad like the manufacturing of soap by John Reardon & Sons located next to Fort Washington.

John Reardon founded his soap and candle manufacturing business in 1856.  In addition, the company exported tallow to Europe for soap making, and for a time, made oleomargarine oil and butter.  The Reardon Soap Works factory was built in 1878 at the corner of Putnum Avenue and Waverly Street and during its height, employed over 100 workers.

Pearl Street resident Bill Davis’s father, Richard Harding Davis, would tell his son how this area of Cambridgeport came to be known as “Greasy Village” because “the bones and cook fat being transported for rendering at Reardon’s would slip off the horse-drawn trucks and lie in the streets.”  When Reardon’s was making soap, “the stink would fill the entire neighborhood.”

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

Captain George Thomas Southward owner of Southward Leather Goods – 346 Pearl Street

Map by Jackson, from the My Cambridgeport:  Personal Maps of the Neighborhood project.

In 1870 after spending years at sea as a merchant ship captain, George Thomas Southward settled in Cambridge, built his home at 346 Pearl Street, and started his business, Southward Leather Goods.  The store, located on Massachusetts Avenue between Pearl and Brookline Streets, sold boots and shoes.

Captain Southward’s daughter, Laura (Lottie) married Gilford Hatfield Davis, a Canadian school teacher who owned an Arlington “truck farm” that sold vegetables each week at Haymarket in Boston.  After Lottie and Gilford lost two young daughters to diphtheria, they left the quarantined Arlington farm and opened a flower shop, Davis’s Florists, in the recently vacated Southward Leather Goods – Captain Southward had by that time retired.  Lottie and Gilford lived above the store for several years until they moved to 346 Pearl Street.

At one point in the early part of the twentieth century, Gilford was offered a deal to purchase half the block on Massachusetts Avenue where his store was located for $2,000.  He declined as $2,000 was a fortune he didn’t have.

-Compiled by Bill Davis, George Thomas Southward’s great grandson, and Alyssa Pacy for “If This House Could Talk…” 2011

The Boston Elevated Railway – Corner of Brookline and Granite Streets

Map by Sam Christy, from the My Cambridgeport:  Personal Maps of the Neighborhood project.

The Boston Elevated Railway, the horse-drawn trolley precursor to the MBTA, had a route that went from Massachusetts Avenue straight down Brookline Street to Granite Street, where the horses would enter a turnaround loop and head right back up Brookline Street, transporting residents into the hub of Central Square.

Pearl Street resident Bill Davis remembers his father, Richard Harding Davis, telling him when the horse-drawn trolleys stopped using the turnaround loop sometime in the early part of the twentieth century in favor of a route that went down Pearl Street, cut over to Putnam Avenue, and back to Central Square via Brookline Street.  Bill Davis also remembers, a few years ago, when construction workers discovered the beautiful and intricate brick trolley track bed several feet below Brookline Street.

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

The Southward/Davis Barn – 350 Pearl Street

Map by Nicholas Read, from the My Cambridgeport:  Personal Maps of the Neighborhood project.

In 1870, Sea Captain George Thomas Southward settled in Cambridge and built his home at 346 Pearl Street, which was the last house on the street before the cow pasture began where the present-day Morse Elementary School is located.  Constructed at the same time as the house and set far back from the road, the barn kept the family’s horses, used for transportation.

According to Captain Southward’s great grandson and Pearl Street resident Bill Davis, most of the neighborhood had barns to keep animals like horses and chicken.  Bill’s grandfather, Gilford Hatfield Davis, used to buy his horses from the Boston Elevated Railway, the horse-drawn trolley precursor to the MBTA.  The retired trolley horses, stabled in the barn, were the Davis family’s primary mode of transportation.  The barn was demolished after the family sold the plot of land that would eventually become 350 Pearl Street.

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

RH Davis Moving Company – 7 Tufts Street

Anonymous painting, from the My Cambridgeport:  Personal Maps of the Neighborhood project.

Between 1920 and 1932, George Davis and Harold Davis, Pearl Street resident Bill Davis’s uncles, owned a moving company.  At the time, the Davis brothers used horse and mule-drawn trucks for their moving operation and 7 Tufts Street is the barn where the horses and mules were stabled.  The grey building is the original barn and has since been turned into apartments.

By 1933, Bill Davis’s father, Richard Harding Davis, took over ownership his brothers’ moving company, and renamed it RH Davis Moving Company.  When Richard Davis replaced the horses with gasoline powered trucks, he garaged the vehicles in warehouses on Erie and Decatur Streets.

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