A History of Cambridge

A History of Cambridge

A view of Cambridge

Cambridge—originally Newtowne—was founded as the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by its first governor John Winthrop and a group of his advisors. Initially established as the center of a Puritan state, Cambridge has become a renowned educational and cultural location not only of New England but also of the whole United States. In almost 400 years of history, the city has been home to many meaningful and interesting characters as well as acclaimed institutions that have left a lasting impact.

A History of Cambridge: Notable People

Amongst the notable people who have helped to develop and spread the relevance of Cambridge are:

John Winthrop | A History of Cambridge

A portrait of John Winthrop by Anthony Van Dyck

John Winthrop: The first elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He is the writer of one of the most impactful pieces of early American Literature, A Model of Christian Charity, which established the principles off of which he hoped to create the new more purified community. Re-elected as governor 12 times over a period of 17 years, he did not go without creating a few enemies and controversies spreading around his administration and personal life.

Elizabeth Glover: Elizabeth founded America’s first printing press, The Cambridge Press, in 1638. Undoubtedly a symbol of feminist empowerment, she employed more than 25 American women, giving a number of them ownership over their own printers. The Cambridge Press printed the English colonies’ first book, Bay Psalm Book, and issued over 1700 copies. After her and her husband’s death in 1654, Harvard College took over Glover’s business.

Maria Louise Baldwin |A History of Cambridge

Maria Louise Baldwin

Maria Baldwin: Born in Cambridge in 1856, she made history by becoming the first African American woman principal of a public school in Massachusetts. After working for many years as a teacher at the Agassiz School she was made principal, and in 1916, she rebuilt the school at a cost of $60,000. All of the teaching staff and students at the school were white, making her accomplishment not only notable on a personal level but also on gender and racial levels.

E.E. Cummings: E.E. was an American poet and painter famous for his unconventional style and nonconventional use of capitalization, punctuation, and syntax. He received a B.A. from Cambridge’s own Harvard University in 1915 and an M.A. in 1916. Aside from his literary fame, he served in France during World War I and experimented with painting in New York City.

A History of Cambridge: Notable Places

A History of Cambridge

Blue Oval Historic Marker. Photo by Daderot

Due to Cambridge’s extensive and well-preserved history, a lot of the city’s important moments in time can be studied at their original locations. In order to show off and restore the historic quality of some of these places, the Cambridge Historical Commission has set up historic markers across the city, highlighting the important areas with short explanations for each of the selected locations.

The historic markers are divided into six categories: Blue Oval, African-American Heritage Trail, North Cambridge, Granite Tombstone, Cast Iron, and Cambridge History Stations.

Blue Oval Historic Markers: These mark important sites in relation to specific events and people. There are nearly 100 of these historic markers across the city and it is important to note that the structures present at the site of the markers are not necessarily architecturally significant or the even the original structure from a historically relevant time.

Some of the sites designated by these markers are:

Cambridge Public Library| A History of Cambridge

Cambridge Public Library. Photo by Daderot

  • The Oldest Church in East Cambridge at 99 Third Street.
  • First Cambridge Newspaper at 636 Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Margaret Fuller House at 71 Cherry Street.
  • Cambridge Public Library at 449 Broadway
  • Old Courthouse at 1400 Massachusetts Avenue.

African-American Heritage Trail: These markers were installed in collaboration with the African American History Committee and Cambridge Discovery.

Sites designated by these markers commemorate people such as:

  • Maria Baldwin at 32 Sacramento Street.
  • Lewis and Milton Clarke at 2 Florence Place.
  • Harriet Jacobs at 17 Story Street.
  • Clement G. Morgan at 265 Prospect Street.
  • P. Thomas Stanford at 117 Dudley Street.

North Cambridge Historic Markers: Put in place between 2003-3004, these are the latest markers to have been installed.

Some of the locations pointed out by these markers include:

  • Camp Cameron at 3 Cameron Avenue.
  • Cambridge Cattle Market at 52 Walden Street.
  • Fish Weir opposite 20 Alewife Brook Parkway.
  • Trotting Park at 35 Cedar Street.

Granite Tombstone Markers: These markers are actually made of granite in the shape of a tombstone and they are the oldest group to have been installed.

These markers highlight the following sites, among others:

  • Spreading Chestnut Tree at 52 Brattle Street.
  • Hastings-Holmes House at Broadway at Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Thomas Dudley House at 71 Dunster Street.
  • Christ Church at 0 Garden Street.
  • Inman House at 15 Inman Street.
  • Fourth Meeting House at 1399 Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Fort #2 at 62 Putnam Avenue.

Cast-Iron Markers: the Massachusetts Tercentennial Committee installed these in 1930.

The only four sites designated by these markers are:

  • A History of Cambridge

    Cambridge Common. Photo by InsapphoWeTrust

    Cambridge Common

  • Old Cambridge at 1 Dunster Street.
  • Sir Richard’s Landing at 6 Gerry’s Landing Road.
  • Cooper-Frost-Austin House at 1750 Massachusetts Avenue.

Cambridge History Stations: These stations are made up of groups of markers in order to provide a more in-depth commentary about a historical subject.

These stations examine subjects such as: