Address Highlight: 9 Forest Street

Among the oversize materials in our flat files, the CHC holds architectural drawings and specifications of a house to be built for Lyman A. Belknap in Cambridge.


Front elevation of a home to be built at 9 Forest Street. The house was never constructed.

Mr. Belknap purchased a lot at 9 Forest Street in North Cambridge on March 31, 1871 but despite the elegant mansard design by architect G. F. Meacham, Belknap sold the property later that same year to William Frost, Jr. At this time, the land was still undeveloped. In 1872, Frost built a large, three-story mansard house on the lot for James M. Hilton, who rented the home to tenants.


Architectural survey form for 9 Forest Street.

Residents of 9 Forest Street

In early 1983, a descendant of Edwin Davis Mellen gifted the CHC with several family photographs taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many are interior and exterior shots of homes, with a number known to be located in Cambridge. Among the photographs are two taken at 9 Forest Street.

Mellen (1861-1918), an 1884 M.I.T. graduate, was a talented amateur photographer. By profession a chemist, he became a partner in the Cambridge soap manufacturer Curtis, Davis & Co. He and his wife, Adele Jeanne, nee Lods, initially lived on Essex Street, not far from the factory, but in 1892-98 they rented the house at 9 Forest Street. In 1897 the British firm of Lever Brothers purchased an interest in Mellen’s firm, and he built a new home at 1590 Massachusetts Avenue (now demolished). With him were his wife, and a daughter, Lucile Christina.


The Mellen family at 9 Forest Street: Lucile Mellen and an unknown boy sit on tricycles. Adele can be seen sitting on the front steps. The photograph was taken by Edwin, ca. 1893-1898.


An unknown boy, Lucile Mellen, and an unknown girl on the steps of 9 Forest Street, ca. 1893-1898.

This house was also once the home of Dr. Lucy A. “Sleeping Lucy” Cooke. Lucy’s foresight and restorative powers appeared when she was a young girl in Vermont. Lucy honed her talents and was known in her time as a psychic healer. Although she had no formal medical training, patients called her Dr. Cooke, and she was said to invent prescriptions and even heal broken bones, all while under a trance or hypnosis. Lucy also ran a mail-order prescription business. In addition to her medical talents, Lucy aided police with unsolved cases and helped discover missing items while in state of trance.


Portrait of Lucy Cooke (b. 1819 – d. 1895) by an unknown artist. Oil on canvas, c. 1850. Vermont Historical Society. In 1916 Lucy’s husband bequeathed $1,000 and the portrait to Mount Auburn Hospital on the condition that it be hung in a public area. The hospital declined the bequest, and it went to the Montpelier Public Library instead.

Lucy moved to Boston in 1876 with her secretary and soon-to-be second husband, Everett W. Raddin. In June of 1887, she purchased the three-story mansard home at 9 Forest Street. In 1891 Mr. Raddin converted the carriage house to a residence (at left in the photo above), and it is likely that the couple moved there so they could rent out the main house. Lucy ran her practice at this address, and continued to live there until she died in 1895 at age 76.


Article on “Sleeping Lucy” from 1966.

Lucy’s talents were said to be known worldwide, and many clients would line up outside her door for consultation and cures. One of Lucy’s most famous clients was Mary Baker Eddy, known as the founder of Christian Science. Lucy treated Mrs. Eddy and her children while living in Cavendish, Vermont. Both women are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Forest St 9 DSC_1027

9 Forest Street in 2009.

Today, the large house sits on the corner of Forest Street and Newport Road, and looks much as it did in the late nineteenth century. Many more photographs exist in the collection donated by the Mellens, with detailed home interiors and the family engaged in activities of the day. This collection is open for research on-site at the Cambridge Historical Commission.



9 Forest Street. Architectural survey files, Cambridge Historical Commission.

Curtis Mellen Photograph Collection, Cambridge Historical Commission.

“Funeral of Dr. Lucy Cooke.” The Cambridge Chronicle, June 1, 1895.——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——-.

“Lucy Ainsworth Cooke.” Vermont Historical Society. Accessed August 08, 2017.

Milmine, Georgine. The Life of Mary Baker Eddy and the History of Christian Science. New York: Doubleday, 1909.



Cambridge Open Archives 2017

This post is well overdue, but before the summer officially winds down (!), we wanted to share some photographs from this year’s Cambridge Open Archives event, which took place June 19-22.

This year, seven archives, special collections, and collecting institutions in Cambridge opened their doors to the public to showcase some of their most interesting materials.  The theme this year was “Living and Dying in Cambridge.”

Check out a brief slideshow below of some highlights from this year’s archives tours. Photos courtesy of attendees and archivists.


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A huge thanks to this year’s participants and their fabulous archivists, curators, librarians and staff:

Mount Auburn Cemetery, The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University, the Harvard Semitic Museum, Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters, The Cambridge Historical Society, the Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library, and the Harvard Art Museums Archives.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Cambridge Open Archives, so stay tuned for updates on what we’ll be planning!

CHC Research Library Catalog Progress

In addition to our archival collections, the CHC is home to a research library containing over 1000 volumes pertaining to Cambridge history, architecture, and residents. While plenty of these books are widely held in other libraries, many are rare volumes not found elsewhere. To increase the usability and accessibility of our collection, both for CHC staff and outside researchers, archives assistant Emily has spent the last several months creating a library catalog. This catalog will eventually be available online through an open source online catalog platform called TinyCat, so stay tuned for the announcement and read on to learn about Emily’s progress.


Part of the CHC Research Library collection.

This project started with a spreadsheet.

Several years ago, a previous CHC archivist started adding books to this spreadsheet. She included fields for the basic bibliographic data needed to identify a book: title, author, publisher, date of publication, etc. However, she left the CHC before this spreadsheet was complete. I took over the project in February, checking the list against the volumes on the shelves of the library, correcting or adding information as necessary, and adding volumes that had been added to the shelves in the period after the previous archivist left and before I started.

The spreadsheet has evolved since then. I added and removed fields, changed classification systems, added call numbers, removed call numbers, added subject headings, removed subject headings, changed collection headings, and color coded EVERYTHING. It’s a work in progress.

Currently, I am almost finished assigning call numbers to every volume on our shelves. (Many more will be added later, but one step at a time.) When this step is finished, it will be time for the Great Reorganization, an all-hands-on-deck event when we will be removing everything from the stacks and reordering the collection by call number. We will be making flags to place in each volume (all 1,000+!) so users can find what they’re looking for. And every volume will be added to our online catalog, available for anyone to use, from anywhere in the world. As an archivist committed to making all information as freely accessible as possible, I am really excited for this thing to go live.


Our front-facing online catalog. I’ve added a few volumes already to test it out. The book covers scroll by as a sort of slide show of the collection. It’s pretty neat.

*An Ode to Online Catalogs and the Library of Congress Classification System PDFs*

Many of the call numbers I’ve assigned to each volume were found in other online catalogs. The Library of Congress holds millions of volumes and must employ hordes of catalogers, so they are the definitive source for LC classification standards. WorldCat is a “global catalog of library collections” through which one can search the online catalogs of universities, public libraries, and archival collections all around the world. These sources were invaluable to me in this process. However, some of our materials are so rare they can’t be found in any other catalog. Many others were arranged in a way that didn’t make sense for our collection. For these items, I created call numbers from scratch using the Library of Congress classification schedules, basically guides to the LC Classification System, available as PDFs, that include almost any possible classification.


In the search results page, you can see the call numbers for the volumes I’ve already added. F74.C1 is the basic classification for anything about the history of Cambridge.

Are you as excited about all of this as I am? Do you want to know more about the Library of Congress Classification System and why it is vastly superior to the Dewey Decimal System? Let us know in the comments!