Modern Monday and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Joyce Chen’s Restaurant, 390 Rindge Avenue

Joyce Chen (1917-1994) was born on September 12, 1917 in Beijing, China. Born into a wealthy family, she discovered her passion for cooking at a very early age. Her father, a railroad administrator and city executive, hired a family chef that cooked all of their meals. Chen learned about Chinese cuisine simply by watching their chef and other family members cook in their home kitchen. During the Chinese Communist Revolution, Chen and her family moved to the United States. Along with her husband Thomas Chen and their two children Henry and Helen, the family left Shanghai, China in 1949 and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Joyce Chen, image courtesy of

While living near Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she frequently met Chinese students that missed the food they’d grown up with. Chen’s children attended Buckingham School and she would often cook food to be served at school events. Her meals quickly became popular among college students and the families at the Buckingham School. This inspired Chen to open her first restaurant in 1958, called “Joyce Chen Restaurant.” At this restaurant, she served both Chinese and American dishes to encourage customers to try new foods. She often served “buffet-style” meals, to allow customers to try samples of everything. She created a menu with both Chinese and English translations of her food and numbered the menu items for easier communication in her restaurants. This made it easier for customers who spoke different languages to order at her restaurant.

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Joyce Chen, image courtesy of

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Joyce Chen’s first restaurant at 617 Concord Avenue in Cambridge. Courtesy of

In 1967, Chen opened her second restaurant called “The Joyce Chen Small Eating Place.” That same year, Chen starred in Joyce Chen Cooks, her own cooking show on PBS that aired worldwide. This twenty-six-episode broadcast was filmed in the same studio as famous chef Julia Child’s show, and the two became good friends. Her business empire expanded, and two larger restaurants were built in the Boston area with an architecturally unique restaurant at 390 Rindge Avenue.

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Circa 1974 image of Joyce Chen’s Restaurant. Photo from CHC Collections.

The restaurant, believed to have been designed by Allan Ahaknian, was built in 1974 and employed architecture not typical for Cambridge. Partially hidden behind a tall wooden fence to screen noise from the heavily trafficked Rindge Avenue, the structure featured minimal fenestration on the sides but employed large skylights to flood the interior with natural light. The Contemporary/Shed style restaurant was a common stomping ground for residents of Cambridge and beyond. The restaurant was purchased by Just-A-Start and was converted to a child-care facility in 1999. The remainder of the lot was filled with townhomes for moderate-income, first-time homebuyers. In 2005, the structure was demolished for eight additional units of affordable condominium units. As it was not yet 50+ years old, it did not qualify for protection under the Demolition Delay Ordinance.

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Circa 1984 image of Joyce Chen’s Restaurant at 390 Rindge Avenue. Image from CHC Collections.

While her restaurants are all now closed, the impressions of Joyce Chen’s legacy can be seen in almost every Chinese-American restaurant in the country today and in the enduring popularity of “Peking ravioli.” Also, her cookbooks and branded cooking utensils can be found in kitchens all over the world.

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Images and some information on Joyce Chen courtesy of



Save The Date: Cambridge Open Archives 2019


Dive into the tangled history of Cambridge politics and social activism at 7 local archives from June 24-28, 2019.

Archivists at each site will share treasures from their collections – photographs, art, posters, letters – that tell complex and unique stories about dynamic politicians and dedicated activists; fights over highways and development schemes; a strong mayor vs. Plan E.

See what an archive is, find out what archivists do all day, and see how you can use these resources to learn more about your family and community.

This year’s participating archives:

MIT Museum

The Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library

Harvard Semitic Museum

Harvard Art Museums Archives

Cambridge Historical Commission

Cambridge Historical Society

Mount Auburn Cemetery


Info here:

This event is free but registration is required.

Questions? 617-349-4070 or


Preservation at CHC

April 21-27 is Preservation Week, seven days in which libraries, archives, and other institutions are encouraged to “highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections,” through events, activities, and resources on preservation.

To celebrate, we are reblogging this post from 2017 on preservation methods in the Cambridge Historical Commission archives and library.

We also recommend checking out the official Preservation Week website, especially the “Dear Donia” column from preservation expert Donia Conn. The CHC archivists often use some of these tips and tricks.

Do you have personal collections, like old photographs, documents, scrapbooks, videos, flash drives? What would you like to see about preservation on this blog?

The Cambridge Historical Commission

Recently, the staff here at the Commission performed some summer cleaning in our archives and library storage. After relocating a few boxes, our archives assistants assessed the physical states of some of the materials. Among the collections were a collection of Civil War memorabilia, photographs, an oversize atlas, documents, and an oversize volume of architectural plans.

Many of the items had already been stabilized and were properly housed. Others were in need of repairs or other types of preservation. Two items were in need of immediate preservation work: a volume of architectural plans and a photograph.

The architectural plans are bound in a volume measuring around 24 x 20 inches. This volume represents personal collection of plans of an engineer at the Cambridge Water Board, and the plans date ca. 1860s-1870s.

Our digitization assistant, Meta, dry-cleaned the area, and repaired the tear using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.


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Maud Morgan: Artist, Teacher, Friend

Much of the text from this post was provided by the Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project


“Maude Morgan” photographed by Jamie Cope (1993). Gift of Jamie Cope to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in honor of Maud Morgan

Born in New York City, Maud Cabot graduated from Barnard College in 1926 and traveled to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. She did not begin to paint until she was twenty-four, when she met her future husband, the artist Pat Morgan, in the late 1920s in Paris. In 1929, the couple moved back to New York, where she studied at the Arts Student League.

Following her studies, Morgan worked with Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann and began to exhibit at galleries in New York. In 1938, Morgan had a successful show at the Julian Levy Gallery, known as a haven for Surrealist art as well as experimental film and photography. During the show’s run, paintings by Morgan were sold to the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).


“The Old Mill” by Maud Morgan, ca. 1930-1940. Whitney Museum of American Art, 42.33

In 1940 she and her husband moved to Andover, Mass, where he taught art at Phillips Academy, and she began to teach at the nearby girls’ boarding school, Abbot Academy. The couple had two children. In 1957, Morgan separated from her husband and moved to Boston. A few years later she moved to Cambridge, where she lived and painted for the rest of her life.


Clipping from the Cambridge Chronicle, 2 April 1964, depicting Maud Morgan and her winning painting “Candelabra” from the 20th Annual Spring Exhibition of the Cambridge Arts Association

Morgan continued to exhibit in New York, primarily at the Betty Parsons Gallery, where she was included in joint exhibitions with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and other notable contemporary artists. Morgan had two retrospective exhibitions, 1967-1968 at the Fitchburg (Massachusetts) Art Museum, and 1977 at the Addison Gallery of American Art.


“Nautique SSX” by Maud Cabot Morgan, 1974. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA, gift of Victoria M. Benedict, 1977.168. This screenprint was exhibited in Maud Morgan: A Retrospective Exhibition, 1927-1977, Addison Gallery of American Art

The addition of an artist’s studio at her 3 Howland Street residence was designed by Yugoslav-American architect Alexander Cvijanovic in 1962.

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Proposed Addition to the Residence of Mrs. Patrick Morgan, 3 Howland Str Cambridge, Mass. Alexander Cvijanovic, Designer. June 12, 1962

Cvijanovic was a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and later became a partner in The Architects Collaborative (TAC) as well as a close associate of Walter Gropius. The studio addition was demolished in 2004.

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The artist’s studio at 3 Howland Street in 1965

Howland St 3 Maud Morgan's studio (demolished by new owner) Fred Meyer photo

The artist’s studio at 3 Howland Street ca. 2004

Cvijanovic’s wife, Maria, remembers that her husband very much enjoyed working on the project, after which the couple and Morgan became life-long friends. Following the commission of her studio, Morgan gifted the couple one of her paintings–a piece that still hangs in their home today.


Alexander Cvijanovic in his apartment in front of the two pictures of the Amberg “glass cathedral.” This building was the last planned together by Walter Gropius and Cvijanovic, his partner. Photo: Peter Geiger (Mittelbayerische, 2016)

In 1970, after her divorce was final, Morgan spent six months in Africa. She returned to Cambridge and lectured on art at Harvard and MIT and taught at Lesley College’s Institute for the Arts and Human Development.


“Green Hazard” by Maud Morgan (ca. late twentieth century). Lawrence University Wriston Art Center Galleries Collections

According to Morgan’s Getty record, the artist was known as “Boston’s modernist doyenne,” leaving a legacy spanning 80 years worth of skilled and complex works “from abstracts to still lifes and self-portraits as well as collages.”‘


Still from “Light Coming Through” (1980).

In 1980 a film about Morgan’s art, “Light Coming Through,” by Nancy V. Raine (Producer/Co-Director) and Richard Leacock (Co-Director/Cinematographer) was released. The film premiered on October 21 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and was later shown at MoMA in New York and the Place Pompidou in Paris.


Maud Cabot Morgan, ca. 1950 / unidentified photographer. Robert G. McIntyre papers, 1903-1957. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

In her eighties and nineties, she continued painting, displaying continuing creativity. She received an Honor Award in 1987 from the Women’s Caucus for Art. Since 1993 the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which holds a number of her significant paintings, has awarded the Maud Morgan prize yearly to a mid-career woman artist from Massachusetts.


Maud Morgan with self portrait, ca. 1990 / unidentified photographer. Robert and Jonatha Ceely papers regarding Maud Morgan, 1976-2000. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

In 1995, at the age of ninety-two, she published an autobiography, Maud’s Journey: A Life From Art. She died four years later in Cambridge and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery. An art museum and gallery, Maud Morgan Arts, has been constructed in her honor.


Maud Morgan Visual Arts Center, located behind the Agassiz Baldwin Community Center at 20 Sacramento Street. Photograph © 2010, John Horner.


Maud (Cabot) Morgan – Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project
Die Spurensuche führte bis nach Boston
Union List of Artist’s Names – Maud Morgan

Tanner Fountain


On a warm day, the Tanner fountain offers a shady and cool place to pause

Located between Harvard Yard, the Science Center, and Memorial Hall is the Tanner Fountain, designed by Peter Walker in 1984. At the request of then Harvard University President Derek Bok, Walker was commissioned to design a fountain that didn’t require the extensive maintenance usually associated with a water feature. Walker rose to the challenge and created a basinless fountain, in collaboration with sculptor Joan Brigham, featuring 159 granite boulders arranged in a 60-foot diameter circle with 32 nozzles that emit a fine mist. During the spring, summer, and fall, the mist hovers above the stones, with rainbows refracted through the mist on sunny days. During the winter the boulders are cloaked with steam from the university heating plant. The configuration sits within asphalt paving surrounding two existing trees. Inscribed in a plaque set on grade is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The soft sheen all enchants a gleam of sun, a summer rain.”


Site plan of the fountain showing the arrangement of boulders in front of the Science Center

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View of fountain with the Science Center in the background

The boulders reflect the history of New England when settlers worked to clear land of boulders to make way for farming. Roughly 2 by 4 feet in size, the stones were buried so that only 16 to 18 inches of their surface is exposed. In contrast to the stones and trees, the asphalt speaks to the urban environment in which the fountain sits. As Walker noted,

“The fountain is a minimal piece full of contradictions, …the materials, their perception and their various meanings are brought into conflict and into question. This artistic statement may be apropos to the questioning stance of students and the intellectual inquiry of the university.”

The fountain was envisioned as a source of active and passive recreation. Instead of an object in the landscape, the fountain is a part of the landscape that people engage with. The stones encourage pedestrians to pause and sit, while the spacing of elements prevents through passage for skateboarders. Children gravitate to the fountain to climb, roam around, or play in the mist, and other people carry on conversations while watching the world go by.

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View of fountain on an early spring afternoon with food trucks on the plaza beyond

The Tanner Fountain was the first institutional project of the “Landscape as Art” movement which grew out of the Expression Studio offered by the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Design School. In 1987, the fountain received a design award from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). In 2008, the fountain was awarded the ASLA Landmark Award. Jury comments included the following:

“One of the first examples of a landscape architect creating public sculpture. It set a precedent for the profession and has stood the test of time remarkably well, retaining the full power of the original idea. The landscape architect designed it to be accessible and recognize the four seasons and to celebrate water without a traditional body of water. Transformational. It lives in your memory.”


View of fountain and inscription, and Memorial Hall beyond

Based in Berkeley, California, Peter Walker has designed a wide range of projects types and scales, including Sea Pines Plantation, Hilton Head; South Carolina Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California; Upjohn Corporation World Headquarters, Kalamazoo, Michigan; the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas; and the National 9/11 Memorial, New York City.
American Society of Landscape Architects,

Cambridge Chronicle, August 27, 1992

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Modern Monday: Harvard Science Center

The Harvard Undergraduate Science Center at 1 Oxford Street, is a pre-cast concrete behemoth designed by Josep Lluís Sert (1902-1983) the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design at the time.

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Staff photo of Harvard Science Center (1 Oxford Street) April 2019.


Designed in 1970 and completed just two years later, the Brutalist structure integrates its siting along the three major streets in which it is framed: Kirkland, Oxford and Cambridge Streets and is a visual link between Harvard Yard and the North Yard. The design terraces upward from the pedestrian mall overpass at Cambridge Street to limit the massing and shifts the bulk of the structure back (north) with just a more pedestrian-scaled section fronting the mall. A central spine runs down the building which visually serves as an upwards staircase and terminates at a nine-story tower.Science Center Model_Radcliffe Archives_1970Science Center Model aerial_Radcliffe Archives_1970

Science Center under construction_Harvard Archives 1971
Approximately two-fifths of the cost of the $25 Million building centered around the two un-adorned concrete towers on the western and eastern walls of the Science Center. The non-descript boxes are water-cooling towers intended to service not only the Center itself, but all buildings in the North Yard. The towers are connected by a massive pump room in the basement. The tarantula-like steel girders seemingly creep over the lecture hall area and serve to support the roof of the auditorium.




It is believed that Sert took inspiration for the design from his former mentor, Le Corbusier, who designed the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard just ten years prior. The Science Center was influenced by an unbuilt project, The Palace of the Soviets, designed for Russia by Le Corbusier in 1931 and worked on by Sert as a young architect. The current Science Center borrows the steel girder and cable vocabulary from the unbuilt Palace of the Soviets along with the use of pre-cast concrete panels to somewhat pay homage to his mentor. Sert loved the use of concrete as an “honest and muscular material that could be molded into any shape” and liked to set splashes of bright color against its textured grey – “like a parade of elephants and parrots”.


Harvard later outgrew the Science Center and hired firm Leers-Weinzapfel Associates Architects in 2004 to expand the science village. Three vertical additions of minimal steel-framed glass volumes contrast in materiality from the concrete panel main structure yet echo elements of the initial design. The verticality of the glass panes creates a visual rhythm with the vertical grooves in the older precast concrete panels. At the interior, splashes of color and light flood the spaces and the newly dedicated museum space is visually connected to a light-filled terrace.


Longfellow Park


View of lower garden and memorial with Longfellow’s house in the background

Across the street from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s House on Brattle Street is a 2-acre park extending down to the Charles River, established in memory of the great poet. The park includes an open lawn area off of Brattle Street bounded by several residences as well as the Friends Meeting of Cambridge and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and descends to a lower garden and memorial on Mt. Auburn Street.

Soon after Longfellow’s passing in 1882, a group of his colleagues organized an association to create a memorial in his honor and formed the Longfellow Memorial Association. The Association sought to erect a monument and create a public park to be given to the City of Cambridge. Longfellow’s children donated two acres, consisting of the central portion of a meadow, in 1883. This donation of land came with a plan illustrating their desire for an open grass area to preserve the view of the river from the house, and a monument located in the northern section of the park. A horseshoe-shaped road was proposed to provide access to subdivided lots planned by the Longfellows.

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Proposed plan by Longfellow’s heirs with the monument located on the upper green space.

Maintaining the open meadow was a concern by all involved in the park. As Longfellow’s son, Ernest, wrote:

Such a breathing space on the river in connection with the playing fields of
the College, which my father was so instrumental in securing, will one day
be a great boon to Cambridge when it becomes crowded, and would be a
better monument to my father and more in harmony than any graven image
that could be erected.”

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Plan by Charles Eliot, 1887  (National Park Service)

In 1887, Charles Eliot, a landscape architect who apprenticed with Frederick Law Olmsted, was commissioned to design the park. He envisioned a park with two distinct areas, an expanse of lawn surrounded by the horseshoe-shaped road and walks, and a garden in the lowland with paths and a playground. To mitigate poor drainage, Eliot recommended the upland be used to fill the area and create a brook. He also included shrubs to screen traffic on Mt. Auburn Street, and trees along the edges of the garden. Between the garden and the green, Eliot proposed an exedra, a semi-circular recessed seating area, facing south and on axis with the front door of Longfellow’s house. A proposed walk would lead to the highest point on the site, ending in a terrace and a set of stairs. Only a few elements of Eliot’s design were actually executed. Changes included a large stone stair case instead of the exedra, and fewer shrubs were installed. In addition, trees were not planted on the edges, and the brook was not created.

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View from Longfellow’s house to the river, ca. 1889 (Ellis Gray Loring Papers, Harvard University)

The design of the monument was given to the sculptor Daniel French. The siting of the statue was debated between the heirs who wanted it closer to Brattle Street, and the Association who agreed with Eliot’s original recommendation. The dispute was settled by Frederick Olmsted, Jr. who concurred with Eliot’s idea. Olmsted Jr. also recommended that the design of the monument integrate and redesign the existing steps. The staircase was replaced by a stone retaining wall, designed by the architect Henry Bacon, which forms the base of the sculpture. Two sets of stairs flank the wall, and at the base of the sculpture was a sunken memorial garden designed by Paul Frost.

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View of stone steps connecting the upper and lower levels of the park, ca. 1910 (Library of Congress)

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View of lower level of the park looking back to Longfellow’s house, ca. 1915 (Boston Public Library, Leon Abdalian photo)


View of portrait bust of Longfellow with 6 characters from his poems depicted in bas-relief behind the sculpture

After 1914, pathways were repaved in concrete and narrowed. Houses and institutions were built around the park. In the 1930s and 1940s, several WPA projects repaired the drive and walkways, and planted shrubs and trees in the garden. Lighting was also installed during this time. By the 1970s, a mature canopy of trees had grown in the garden. In 1989, Carol R. Johnson and Associates was hired to address the deterioration of the lower park. Some trees were removed and re-planted, and others were pruned. The lawn was restored, and the area was regraded for erosion control. Granite cobbles were installed at the south gate, and stone dust paving was placed at the base of the monument.

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Evans, Catherine, Cultural Landscape Report for Longfellow National Historic Site, Volume I: Site History and Existing Conditions, National Park Service, 1993.

Osterby-Benson, Krisan, “Longfellow Park, A Room With A View,” May, 1983.

Maycock, Susan, and Charles Sullivan, Building Old Cambridge, MIT Press, 2016.


Sarah Wyman Whitman


Portrait of Sarah Wyman Whitman by Helen Bigelow Merriman,

Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842-1904) was a painter, stained glass artist, and book cover designer based in Boston. Whitman was also a doyenne of Boston society, along with Isabella Stewart Gardner for whom she designed a sign over the entrance to her house, now a museum in the Fenway. Married to Henry Whitman, a wool and dry goods merchant, they entertained in their home on Beacon Hill and summered in Beverly Farms on the North Shore. In addition to her social activities, Whitman was deeply involved in philanthropy. She founded the Boston Water Color Club in response to the Boston Society of Water Color Artists who only admitted men, and co-founded the Boston Arts & Crafts Society. Whitman advocated for Radcliffe College and better educational opportunities for women and children in the public school system, and she was a benefactor of Howard University and Tuskegee Institute.


“Gloucester Harbor”, late 1880s or early 1890s,

Whitman studied painting with William Morris Hunt of the Boston Museum School from 1868 to 1871, and studied drawing with William Rimmer. In the late 1870s, she traveled to France and studied drawing with Hunt’s former master Thomas Couture. She worked in oil and pastel, painting landscapes around New England as well as floral studies. She also painted numerous portraits, preferring to paint her subjects against dark backgrounds. She exhibited widely in the 1870s through the 1890s, including the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

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“A Song,” signed S. W. Whitman, 1883,

In the early 1880s, Whitman apprenticed with John La Farge, a stained glass artist who utilized opalescent glass in his work and innovated methods of layering and welding glass. Whitman also used opalescent glass in her own work along with colored and transparent glass. Whitman later started her own firm, Lily Glass Works, and her stained glass windows can be found in churches and colleges throughout New England, including the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, Memorial Hall at Harvard University, Trinity Church in Boston, and First Parish Church in Brookline. For Harvard’s Memorial Hall she designed both the elaborate south transept window and the Honor and Peace window on the south side of what is now Annenberg Hall.


Stained glass at the Memorial Hall, Harvard University, 1900. The left side depicts “honor”, the right, “peace”.

In 1884, Whitman was asked to design book covers for the publishing company Houghton Mifflin. She designed over 200 books, working in the Art Nouveau style using organic forms and delicate line work. She also employed gold stamping and was one of the first to carry the design over the front, spine, and back of the book.

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book 01

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Whitman designed many book covers for her dear friend Sarah Orne Jewett, author of Country Of The Pointed Firs and A Marsh Island, among others. Wyman also designed a stained glass window in memory of Jewett’s father at his alma mater, Bowdoin College.

More images of her book cover designs can be seen at the Boston Public Library’s flickr site,, and at the University of Wisconsin online digital archives.


Smith, Betty S. “Sarah de St. Prix Wyman Whitman.” Old Time New England, V. 77, No. 266, Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston, 1999.



Modern Monday: Cambridge Federal Savings Bank, 38 Brattle Street

The former Cambridge Federal Savings Bank was designed in 1937 by local architect William L. Galvin as was located at 38 Brattle Street in Harvard Square.

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38 Brattle Street as it was constructed, photo taken circa 1939.

The limestone-faced bank was an excellent and rare example of Art Moderne architecture in Cambridge built at the tail-end of the Great Depression. At this time, banking institutions sought high-quality design in their facilities to provide a sense of wealth and security for existing and prospective members. The two-story bank was symmetrical in form and had a metal and glass storefront with glass blocks comprising most openings.

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Drawing of Cambridge Federal Savings Bank from William L. Galvin Collection at CHC Archives.

At the entrance, a curved metal canopy was topped by a bold glass transom with an eagle etched into the glass by Galvin. Also designed by Galvin, two porthole windows showing a beaver and an owl respectively, were etched into glass. The beaver was included, likely for its industrious qualities and the owl for its wisdom.


Drawing of eagle design used in transom from William L. Galvin Collection at CHC Archives.

As the banking industry grew after the conclusion of World War II, the bank expanded, also hiring Galvin to design a one-story addition which blended seamlessly with the main structure.

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Photo of 38 Brattle Street after merging with Watertown Federal Savings Bank, 1972. 

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Photo showing one-story addition to the left of the main building at 38 Brattle Street, 1972.

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1966 Sanborn Map showing location and detail of 38 Brattle Street.

In 1967, the Cambridge Federal Savings and Loan Association merged with Watertown Federal Savings Association and was renamed as the Northeast Federal Savings Bank. The bank building at 38 Brattle Street was named a branch office of the bank and served that use for the remainder of its life.
A demolition application was submitted in 1987 for the building and it was demolished soon after to be replaced by One Brattle Square.

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Staff photo of One Brattle Square, 2013.

Staff of the Cambridge Historical Commission was able to save the large transom with etched eagle design from the building just before it was demolished, the two porthole windows were already removed. The transom is now framed in the wall of our conference room at 831 Massachusetts Avenue.


For more information on the building or if you would like to schedule a visit to our office to review Galvin’s plans and drawings in the William L. Galvin Collection, please contact us at





Society of St. John the Evangelist, 980 Memorial Drive


View of chapel from the street with bell tower in the back

Located along Memorial Drive across from the Charles River is the Society of Saint John the Evangelist monastery and chapel  designed by Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942). Completed in 1936, the complex includes a monastery with a two-tiered bell tower, a chapel, and a guest house. A proponent of Gothic Revival and Collegiate Gothic architecture, Cram was inspired by Gothic architecture in England and furthered those ideas in his designs of numerous churches in the U.S., including St. John the Divine in New York, as well as libraries and academic buildings. Isabella Stewart Gardner, the great philanthropist and patron of the arts in Boston, helped select the site and provided financial support for the purchase of the property.


View of courtyard and brick arcade

Dedicated to St. Mary and St. John, the chapel’s exterior is constructed of seam-face granite block with buff limestone trim, and an arcaded brick cloister supporting the stucco monastery.

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Plan of the chapel published in Architectural Record, June 1941


The interior features Indiana limestone pillars and arches, marble floors in the choir and sanctuary, green slate floor in the ante-chapel, and stained glass windows designed by Charles J. Connick. The trussed roof beams were originally part of a wooden bridge over the Mystic River that was removed at the same time the chapel was being built. Cram’s meticulous attention to detail extended to the design of the crucifix and candlesticks for the high altar.

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View of Chapel interior with slate floor in foreground, photo by C. Ripman and L. Sturm

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View of limestone arches and stained glass windows, photo by C. Ripman and L. Sturm

The chapel is open to the public for prayer services, and the monastery hosts retreats.


View of stained glass windows including the rose window above which depicts heaven


Vintage postcard


Society of St. John the Evangelist,

Architectural Record, June 1941, pp 54-56.

Davis, Karen, “The Society of Saint John the Evangelist Monastery and Chapel, Architectural Tour,” May 10, 1998.

Chapel interior images courtesy of Lumen Studio Architectural Lighting Design, Lowell, Massachusetts,

Exterior images and stained glass window image,

postcard from