Building and Structure Documentation Collection: Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory

Today, we are highlighting a building from our Building and Structure Documentation Collection. This collection documents buildings and structures in Cambridge that were either demolished or significantly altered. In this case, the materials were compiled as a condition of approval by the Cambridge Planning Board for a proposed replacement project.

Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory - Exterior

Close-up view of south facade of Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, Naito Chemistry Complex is under construction at the left of the photograph, 1999-2000.

For each building or structure, the corresponding box often includes an architectural description of the building or buildings, a narrative history, and archival photographs, negatives, photograph key(s), and/or electronic copies of the files and photographs. Today we are featuring the documentation of the Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory.

Wolcott Gibbs circa 1895 (copy)

Copy photograph of Wolcott Gibbs circa 1895. Original in Harvard University Archives.

The Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, named to honor Harvard University Rumford professor Oliver Wolcott Gibbs, was originally constructed in 1913 to address issues of limited laboratory space at Harvard.

Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory - 1913 Exterior (copy)

View northwest, perspective view of Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory in 1913. Original in Harvard University Archives.

Located at the head of Frisbie Place, the building was designed by architect and 1876 Harvard graduate Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow Jr., nephew of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for research in physical and inorganic chemistry.

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View into cold storage room and laboratory, second floor, Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, 1999-2000. This room was not part of the original building plan.

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View west from east side entrance into Gibbs Memorial Laboratory basement, 1999-2000. Note autoclave in center of photograph.

 

The laboratory cost $85,000 to build. During its construction in 1912, the Harvard Crimson noted that “The Wolcott Gibbs Laboratory will be unique in this country, and in fact will be the foremost institution of its kind in the world. The proposed group of buildings, which will cost a million dollars, would give the University an unrivaled place in the field of chemical science.”

Wolcott Gibbs Memorial Laboratory - Vestibule

View of vestibule from front hall, first floor of Gibbs Memorial Laboratory, 1999-2000. Note the six light transom set above the doors. An arch at the top frames the individual lights and mullions delimit them. The frame around each light resembles a pier arch.

The building was constructed with a high degree of integrity of design including elements derived from classical, Roman, medieval, late Gothic and Corinthian architecture. In the 1960s, the laboratory was remodeled for inclusion of biochemistry laboratories, and in the early 2000s, the building was demolished.

Look for more building and structure documentation in future posts!

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Newly-Digitized Images – Lois M. Bowen Collection

We are happy to announce the addition of 28 images to our CHC Flickr account. These images come from the Lois M. Bowen Collection. Bowen was a Cambridge-based photographer and entrepreneur who owned a camera shop, Cambridge Camera and Marine, in Harvard Square from the 1940s to 1995.

Kodak film cannister owned by Lois M. Bowen

Kodak film cannister owned by Lois M. Bowen, ca 1960s

Ms. Bowen was a freelance photographer for several organizations and publications around Cambridge and Boston, including The Architects’ Collaborative and Architectural Forum Magazine, as well as advertising agencies and admissions publications for colleges and universities.

Cover: "Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building"

Cover: “Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building”, June 1964

Pages from "Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building" featu

Pages from “Architectural Forum: The Magazine of Building” featuring the work of Lois M. Bowen, June 1964

Bowen’s work was primarily focused on architecture, but her photographic subjects spanned the Northeast and included documentation of her own life and community.

View of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

View of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, 4 September 1978

Contact sheet: images of Strawberry Banke

Contact sheet: images of Strawberry Banke, October 1966

In addition to the photographic materials there are business papers and documents as well as personal correspondence and ephemera.

Cambridge Camera and Marine

Interior view of Cambridge Camera and Marine, ca. 1960s

Interior View: 14 Old Dee Road

Interior View: 14 Old Dee Road in Cambridge, ca. 1960s

Visit our Flickr page to view these images and more from this collection.

Event: Cambridgeport Walking Tour

On Saturday October 27th at 1:30pm, the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association will lead a walking tour of the 12 religious buildings nestled into the neighborhood of Cambridgeport. The tour will meet at the intersection of Magazine Street and Green Street (at the area in front of the First Baptist Church) at 1:30pm and proceed from there, lasting about 2 hours. The event is co-sponsored by the Cambridge Historical Commission and the Cambridge Peace Commission, as well as C-port’s own Gallery 263.

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The tour will end at the gallery (263 Pearl St, Cambridge MA) for some refreshments and an exhibition of architectural drawings of these buildings. During the tour, we will have the privilege of going inside some of these buildings, and we will be joined by representatives from several of the churches along the way. For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations please contact GABE@MIT.EDU

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Building and Structure Documentation Collection: 55 Wheeler Street

Today, we are highlighting a building from our recently opened Building and Structure Documentation Collection. This collection documents buildings and structures in Cambridge that were either demolished or significantly altered. In this case the materials were compiled as a condition of approval by the Cambridge Planning Board for a proposed replacement project.

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55 Wheeler Street: interior view of reception area

For each building or structure, the corresponding box often includes an architectural description of the building or buildings, a narrative history, and archival photographs, negatives, photograph key(s), and/or electronic copies of the files and photographs.

Documented structures in this collection include buildings from the former Boston Woven Hose & Rubber Company, and the Fogg Museum from the Harvard Art Museum Restoration and Expansion Project. Today we are featuring the documentation of the Abt Associates office complex at 55 Wheeler Street.

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55 Wheeler Street: exterior facade

The Abt Associates Office Complex, much of which is less than 50 years old as of 2018, is located at 55 Wheeler Street, Cambridge, Mass. Abt Associates – which relocated to other offices in Cambridge in 2017 – is “a consulting firm that specializes in combining social sciences, computer forecasting, operations analysis and systems engineering to address technological advances and social change.” (Historical Narrative, Westbrook Properties Documentation). The firm grew rapidly in the 1960s and ‘70s, and the complex was repeatedly enlarged to enclose a series of beautifully landscaped quadrangles; almost every occupant enjoyed an exterior view.

The internationally renowned architect and urban planner Imre Halasz (1925-2003) was one of the most important designers associated with the complex. Halasz came to the US from Hungary in 1957 and taught at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning for forty years. His firm, Imre & Anthony Halasz Inc., operated from 1957 to 1991. Halasz was also responsible for the master plan of the NASA Electronics Research Center (later the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center) in Kendall Square.

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55 Wheeler Street: courtyard view

Abt Associates was formed in Cambridge in 1965 by Dr. Clark C. Abt. The company’s Cambridge location is significant for its associations with an “iconic social sciences research and consulting firm that was forward-thinking for its time, providing child care, a restaurant and recreational facilities for employees.” (Memo, Liza Paden, June 28, 2017).

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55 Wheeler Street: pool, looking southwest

Look for more building and structure documentation in future posts!

Archives 101: This Wednesday 10/10

Celebrate American Archives Month with us at the Historical Commission!

This month we are offering a special tour of our archives, featuring an in-depth look at some of our many historical resources.

Join us this Wednesday, October 10 at 1 pm, OR Monday, October 22 at 6pm. Email egonzalez at cambridgema dot gov to reserve a spot. Tours will run around an hour.


Attendees of the tour will:

  • Get a behind-the-scenes look at the Commission’s archives and library space
  • Get an up-close look at a variety of historical resources, including: atlases, survey files, city directories, historic photographs, postcards, objects, and architectural drawings.
  • Learn how to research their house, building, or organization using the Commission’s files.
  • Receive helpful tips on preserving and caring for their own family papers and photographs.

 

New Collections Available!

We are happy to announce that we have recently processed and updated finding aids from several collections in our holdings. Scroll down for descriptions and sample images from the following collections: Patsy Baudoin Collection of Cambridge Prints and Photographs, Edwin Freeman Bowker Collection, Honors and Awards Collection, Alan McClennen Senior Collection, Cambridge Militia Records, City of Cambridge Veterans’ Graves Registration Cards Inventory, and William Lawrence Galvin Collection.


Patsy Baudoin Collection of Cambridge Prints and Photographs

This collection, sometimes known as an artificial collection, consists of photographs, drawings, and prints of historical houses and locations in Cambridge.  Also included are several page clippings from various books including the Historic Guide to Cambridge, Ever New England, and other area guides to historic houses.

Johnston Gate, Harvard Yard

One (1) pencil sketch: Johnston Gate, Harvard Yard by W. Harry Smith (Artist)

Most of the houses depicted in the prints were built pre-Revolutionary War, from 1660-1763, and have a long history of famous residents, including Margaret Fuller, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John White Webster.  Additionally, many of the houses are listed as National Historic Landmarks including the seven houses that make up “Tory Row” on Brattle Street.

Longfellow in his Study

Longfellow in his study ca. 1870-1880. Photographer unknown.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Edwin Freeman Bowker Collection

This collection is composed of five boxes and two flat files containing Edwin F. Bowker’s professional correspondence as a civil engineer and surveyor. Included are surveyor’s notes and records, draft sketches, manual calculations, notes on markers, drawings, plans, transcripts regarding property boundaries from deeds, and correspondence from mid-1886 through 1919.

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Documents related to property at Hasting and Monson Streets, 1920

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Honors and Awards Collection

This collection contains certificates honoring the Cambridge Historical Commission and various Cambridge businesses and organizations for their service to the built environment of this community.

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Plaque and pencil sketch for the City of Cambridge Ruth L. Barron Award for Outstanding Community Service, 2014.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Alan McClennen Senior Collection

Included in this collection are maps, development studies, town reports, and traffic studies for the City of Cambridge with the bulk of the materials dating from the 1950s to the 1970s. Alan McClennen served as the Planning Director for the City of Cambridge from 1958 until 1968. Researchers interested in viewing the Alan McClennen Senior Collection will be engaged by topics on community development in the City of Cambridge during the mid-twentieth century. We would like to give a special thanks to volunteer Steve Kaiser, for to his contribution to the spreadsheet and box list for this collection.

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Booklet for Alewife Brook Park created by AD Little/Cambridge Corporation, 1968

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Memo on Railroad Grade Separations by the Cambridge Planning Board, 5 December 1950

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

Cambridge Militia Records

This collection contains nine record books detailing militia records for the City of Cambridge for the years 1846-1886. Each book contains lists of names recording those enrolled in the Cambridge Militia. At times these lists are accompanied by marginal notes.

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Militia roll: 1877 (“Ward Two Book”)

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Cambridge Militia Ledger: 1846-1859

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

City of Cambridge Veterans’ Graves Registration Cards Inventory

This collection contains veterans’ graves registration cards, filed in alphabetical order, for graves in various cemeteries in Cambridge. A majority of the graves are registered at Mount Auburn Cemetery and Cambridge Cemetery, but also include others, such as the North Cambridge Catholic Cemetery and Belmont Town Cemetery.

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

William Lawrence Galvin Collection

The collection contains print and photographic materials of William L. Galvin’s professional records and architectural drawings. This collection consists of correspondence, writing, articles, government records, photographs and drawings that depict Galvin’s professional career. The core of the collection consists of drawings for over 1,000 architectural projects, of which about 530 projects in Cambridge have been cataloged.

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Proposed Dormitory – Social and Recreational Center, Lesley College, undated

For the first time, indexes to photographs in the Galvin collection as well as rolled items not related to Cambridge are available. Follow the links above to view PDFs of these lists.

Over a 50-year career, 1927-1979, Galvin made a significant impact on the landscape of Cambridge through his numerous projects and constant support for progressive land use to fit a modernizing Cambridge community. This collection provides valuable insight into Galvin’s personality and professional work that has left a lasting mark on the landscape of the City of Cambridge.

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Drawing of Shea Cleaning Plant and Showroom, undated

Click here to view the finding aid for this collection.

To view the above collections, please make an appointment with our archivist, Emily, at egonzalez@cambridgema.gov. Our research hours are: Monday: 4:00-7:00 pm | Tuesday: 2:00-4:00 pm | Wednesday – Thursday: 10-12 and 2-4 pm.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to process collections and make them available for research!

 

Getting to Know Your CHC Staff: Part 3

This month, we are highlighting our fabulous commission staff! We would like you all to learn more about our employees and the wonderful work they do here at the CHC. The third post in this series features Sarah Burks, Preservation Planner.


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Sarah and canine friend, Penny.

Where did you grow up?

I’m half Yankee and half Texan having grown up between Williamstown, Mass. and Wichita Falls, Texas.  Everything is bigger in Texas but I am happy to have settled in New England where I have lots of family and you can’t cook an egg on the sidewalk in summer.

Where did you go to school? What was your degree?

I got my undergraduate degree in Art History from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. My graduate studies Historic Preservation Planning were at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

What are your interests or hobbies?

I like old things. That’s what drew me to historic preservation as a career so I could work with old buildings. I enjoy collecting antiques and vintage items for the same reason. I keep a toe in the art history side of things by serving on the board of trustees of the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum in Arlington, Mass. Cyrus Dallin sculpted many famous public sculptures around Boston including Paul Revere (North End), Appeal to the Great Spirit (MFA), and Anne Hutchinson (State House).

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The Paul Revere Monument in Boston’s North End. Sculpture by Cyrus E. Dallin.

Name some fun facts about you.

I love dogs.  I play bridge.  I like Spurs basketball.

When did you start working at the CHC?

I started fresh out of grad school in the fall of 1996. I was two.

What do you like best about working at the CHC?

It’s something different every day. A different building, architect, or historical topic to investigate.

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This photo of Cambridge Street at Third Street (looking east) shows the Lechmere National Bank on the far left. This building was recently designated a Cambridge Landmark by the City Council.

Give us a glimpse into your daily work or a current project.

I type a lot of minutes and process a lot of permits. But my favorite thing is when I can dive into a research project or assist someone else in finding what they need for their own research. Recently I was documenting the diner cars of Cambridge. You can learn more about this in our blog post: New! Lunch Carts and Dining Cars of Cambridge, Mass.

diner

This picture has it all: a Cambridge diner, vintage automobiles, and eclectic old buildings.

What is your favorite photograph, artifact, or collection at CHC?

Soon after I started at CHC, I was invited to join the Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project, an informal group dedicated to documenting Cambridge women, historical events, and women’s organizations. We have a lot of biographical files on women and women’s organizations. I’m currently researching Cambridge suffragists so we can have a good idea of Cambridge’s role in the suffrage movement prior to 2020, the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.

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Florence Luscomb of Cambridge sells The Woman’s Journal newspaper and advocates for woman suffrage.

 

Thank you to Sarah for answering our questions–stay tuned for more staff bios coming soon!

Researching Your Building at the CHC

May is Preservation Month, and over the next few weeks we will be posting about a couple of preservation-related archival projects that we are working on over here at the Commission.


Here at the Cambridge Historical Commission, our holdings are centered on the built environment of the city, with strong collections on the social, business, and industrial history of Cambridge. Formats include photographs, manuscripts, architectural plans, and books, among other mediums. The most valuable intellectual asset of the Commission is our collection of architectural survey files, documenting the history of every building (over 13,000) in Cambridge.

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An example of an architectural survey form from CHC’s files. Between 1964 and 1977, the commission surveyed and photographed every building in Cambridge.

As our largest collection, the architectural survey files contain architectural survey forms, photographs, news clippings, and like materials for buildings in Cambridge.

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The Executive Director of the CHC, Charles M. Sullivan, documented interior and exterior conditions before this home underwent renovations in the early 1980s.

Each file holds documents on every current building in Cambridge as well as records of many demolished buildings. An address may contain one sheet or boast an entire file folder depending on its history in the community.

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Many files contain a history of the address from its original purchase. These documents contain valuable information including dates and prices of sale or taxes, and a description of the building.

These files are used quite frequently by architects, building managers, or homeowners, and are open for research.

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Included in some files are newspaper clippings regarding the building’s history or current projects. This clipping from 1983 details a renovation project at this home on Otis Street.

As these files currently exist only in physical format, a patron must perform any research with our survey files in-person. The Commission is currently embarking on a pilot digitization project to improve access. This project will facilitate the creation of a searchable and browsable database, which will allow us to upload and share our survey files online.

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Taken by Alex Beatty in 1988, this image depicts the finished renovation of 67-69 Otis Street. Image courtesy of the Cambridge Historical Commission.

Please feel free to contact the Cambridge Historical Commission to explore the history of your property. Our research hours are Mondays 4:00-7:00pm, and Tuesday through Thursday 9:30-11:30am and 2:00-4:00pm. Check our blog often for updates on our other projects, and for news on when our digital files will be accessible!

William Lawrence Galvin Collection Architectural Drawings

In today’s post, our archives assistant Emily shares some of her favorite drawings from an enormous architectural collection in our archives. While this collection is still undergoing conservation work, much of it is available for research.


William Lawrence Galvin was an architect prominent in Cambridge during the mid-twentieth century. A native of Roxbury, his family moved to Cambridge so Galvin could prepare for Harvard. He graduated with a BA in Fine Arts in 1925 and a master’s degree in architecture in 1931. Galvin’s interest in architecture began during his undergraduate education. He opened a real estate office while still at Harvard and launched his own architecture firm following his graduation from the Harvard School of Architecture. Over his 50 year career, Galvin deeply impacted the landscape of Cambridge, contributing several well-known buildings to the city, including the Cambridge Federal Savings and Loan building which is no longer standing.

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Cambridge Federal Savings and Loan Ass’n front elevation, n.d. Negative photostat. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Over the last 6 months, I have worked extensively with this collection, reprocessing and cataloging Galvin’s architectural drawings. Many of the buildings he designed were never built, including his proposal for a high-density apartment building at 680 Huron Avenue overlooking the Fresh Pond golf course.

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Apartments Overlooking Fresh Pond… Proposed apartment building at 680 Huron Ave, n.d. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

My favorite drawings, however, are student work. As part of his degree program, Galvin created several large scale drawings of buildings, like this “Bank for a Small City” which includes a cross section, front elevation, and floor plan.

 

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Bank for a Small City, n.d. Ink and watercolor on heavy paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

This front elevation was submitted to the Boston Society Competition.

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Boston Society Competition, n.d. Ink and watercolor on heavy paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Another front elevation is labeled “Municipal Employment Bureau” as part of the design of the building.

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Municipal Employment Bureau, n.d. Ink and watercolor on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Galvin’s thesis project was a design for a Cambridge Memorial Auditorium to be built in Cambridge Common. Several drawings exist of his design, which he later revised to submit to the mayor Cambridge.

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Cambridge Memorial Theatre, ca. 1931. Ink on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

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Cambridge Memorial Theatre, ca. 1931. Photostat. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

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Cambridge Memorial Theatre, ca. 1931. Photostat. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

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Cambridge Memorial Auditorium, Expanded for Mayor Russell, n.d. Original drawing. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

This unlabeled front elevation, probably of an apartment building, is a beautiful example of Galvin’s student work.

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Unlabeled front elevation, n.d. Watercolor on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

My favorite of Galvin’s student works is this “Byzantine Church.” The detail is exquisite, especially the inclusion of frescoes in the dome of the church.

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A Byzantine Church of the First Golden Age, n.d. Watercolor on paper. William Lawrence Galvin Collection, CHC.

Many of the drawings in this collection show evidence of damage due to the poor conditions they were found in. Galvin stored his drawings in rolls, and after his death in 1983 they were left untouched. The collection was donated by property developers Martin Hill and Lauren Harder who acquired the building from Galvin’s daughters in 2011. Several of the damaged drawings were in such poor condition that they couldn’t be restored, however efforts were made to restore many other drawings.

Processing and cataloging the collection has been a long process, and there is still more to be done. For more information, see the finding aid for this collection.