Now Open: Xonnabel Clark Collection

This post was authored by our Simmons 438 Archives intern, Jacky Martin.

You may have heard of the Clarks before. Emory J. Clark Square sits at Fern Street and Concord Avenue.  Emory’s Pharmacy was the first Black-owned and operated pharmacy in Cambridge.

But this collection is about Xonnabel.

Xonnabel Clark was a teacher and counselor for various area schools over the years.  She received a Masters of Education from Harvard University.  She raised five children.  She was a very active member of her church, Grace Vision United Methodist.  And I think  – because I’ve not met her – that she is curious and passionate about learning and likes piecing puzzles together.

It’s the last two sentences that are important for this collection.

Clark became the unofficial historian for her church back in the 2000s, when the congregation needed to find the official deed for the church building.  She traveled to the Cambridge Registry of Deeds and successfully located the document.  That adventure sparked an interest in records and the history of her church that led to her working with the CHC to make the church into a historical landmark, and writing a report called The History of Grace Vision United Methodist 1871-2009: 138 Years of Christian Service (yes, we have a copy and yes, I’ve read it).

After spending two weeks with this collection, I understand her interest.

Grace M.E. Church Postcard

A colored postcard of the church

The Grace Vision United Methodist Church was built in 1887.  Its original congregation was an outgrowth of a Sunday School-type program called the Sabbath School, which was run by Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist churches including the Harvard Street Church.  The original congregation was called the Cottage Street Methodist Episcopal Church, due to its location on Cottage Street, before it moved to the Magazine Street building and renamed itself Grace Methodist Episcopal Church.  Since then it’s gone through four name changes (from Grace M.E. to Grace Methodist to Grace United to finally Grace Vision United).  That’s five different names for one enduring congregation.

And by all accounts, the congregation’s focus on community and outreach that started with the Sabbath School didn’t change.  The church sponsored Scout Troops, ran arts programs, and remained an active part of the community.  From the original Sabbath School to Grace Academy, the Grace Vision UMC strove to always contribute to the local community.

Grace U.M.C. Scout Troop 17

One of the many Boy Scout Troops the church sponsored

The collection itself is an interesting mix of official documents and informal photographs.

Grace Church Herald, October 1903

An old church newsletter; note the baseball statistics

The largest part of the collection (aside from the History) are the church programs that Clark kept over the years.  From Martin Luther King Day celebrations to joint Easter Sunday services with other churches to Anniversary services and banquets, these programs run the gamut of the various events that are a constant part of a church’s life.


One of the multiple programs for Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations

More interesting – to me at least –  are the newsletters and correspondence in the collection.  Much of the collection consists of formal minutes from the multiple inter-church organizations that Grace United Methodist was a part of, but the rest includes church newsletters and messages to the congregation.  My favorite is the “Cakeless Cake Sale” letter, which is written almost entirely in rhyme.

Grace U.M.C. Cakeless Cake Sale

A Cakeless Cake Sale, a novel new way to do bake sales

The collection is a unique snapshot of the life of a church, taken by someone who clearly cares greatly for this church and its history.

Grace U.M.C. Service

A photograph of Sunday service

View the finding aid for this collection here. If you would like to learn more about this collection, please call us at 617.349.4683 or e-mail our archivist, Emily, at to make a research appointment.


“Douglass Day” Transcribe-a-Thon at Northeastern

If you are in the Boston-Cambridge Metro area, consider attending this “Transcribe-a-thon” on February 14 at Northeastern University, in celebration of Frederick Douglass’s 200th birthday. Archives staff members at the CHC will be participating online, which you can do, too. Click here for more information on participating online.

Details on the Northeastern event below:


Please join us this Valentine’s Day for a transcribe-a-thon in celebration of Frederick Douglass! In partnership with the library’s Open Access programming, the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks and the Women Writers Project, Northeastern University’s Digital Scholarship Group will be hosting a local event at Northeastern’s Snell Library, as part of a much larger celebration organized by the Colored Conventions Project, the Smithsonian Transcription Center and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Although Douglass was born into bondage, and never knew his birthdate, he chose to celebrate every year on February 14. We will commemorate his birthday by creating Black history together, transcribing at our library while streaming online with the national event. Pizza and snacks will be served!

Participants should bring their own laptops, if possible, but no previous experience is required. This event is free and open to the public. RSVP here: 

New Finding Aids Available

We are happy to announce the availability of three new finding aids and the addition of a subject inventory for one of our collections! Scroll down for descriptions and samples of images from the following collections: Traffic Proposals and Plans – A Supplement to the Cambridge Traffic Department Collection, Daniel White Charity Fund Cash Book, Hugh Russell Collection, and the Boston Globe Cambridge Clippings Collection Inventory.

Traffic Proposals and Plans – A Supplement to the Cambridge Traffic Department Collection

This collection contains report plans, transit reports, and studies prepared by agencies for improvement projects in Cambridge from 1962 to 1990. Subjects in this collection include Relocation/Construction of the Lechmere Station Project, Alewife Boulevard Alignment Study, and the North Point Roadway and Infrastructure Project.





Click here to view the finding aid.

Daniel White Charity Fund Cash Book

This collection consists of one ledger detailing the income, cash account, interest, and other financial aspects of the Daniel White Charity Fund in Cambridge from its inception in 1863 to early 1959. An introduction to the ledger is written by former Cambridge mayor J. Warren Merrill. White gave $5000 to the Mayor and certain Trustees of Cambridge to be held in trust with the following instructions:

Go hold and invest the sum safely and to apply the income thereof from time to time according to the discretion of the Trustees to the purchasing and gratuitous distribution of fuel among the worth and deserving poor of my (his) native City of Cambridge.


Click here to view the finding aid.

Hugh Russell Cambridge Urban Planning Collection

This collection covers the years 1972 – 2011 and is divided into two series. Click here to view the finding aid.

Series One consists of six boxes of Planning Board documents concerning special permit applications. The folder list is a spread sheet, which is arranged alphabetically by street address. The information for each address includes proponent, significant dates, PB number, project name and description, and a list of folder contents. Box 6 contains for the most part information concerning University Park. Click here to view the spreadsheet for Series 1.

Series Two consists of two boxes of reports, meeting minutes, newsletters, proposals, petitions, surveys from a variety of neighborhood committees and organizations as well city departments, all of which concern various urban planning and development issues in Cambridge. The folder list for this series is a word document. Click here to view the spreadsheet for Series 2.

As these materials are housed offsite, please contact our archivist, Emily at or at 617.349.6112 to make an appointment and view the collection.

Boston Globe Cambridge Clippings Collection Inventory

In relation to our previous post, the subject list inventory for the collection of newspaper clipping files from The Boston Globe clipping library is now available online. Click here to access the inventory.