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.


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: 

Ring in the New Year with Genealogy Workshops (CPL/CCTV)

Happy New Year! We here at the CHC hope everyone had a lovely and restful holiday season. To kick off the new year, we’d like to share a fun event series hosted by our friends over at the Cambridge Public Library (original post at the Cambridge Room’s blog):

Are you looking for something fun to do in the new year?  Join the Cambridge Public Library for our popular 4-week beginner’s genealogy workshop series. Classes will be held at CCTV, located at 438 Massachusetts Avenue.

Wednesdays, 6-8 PM
January 10, 17, 24, & 31
Instructors:  Alyssa Pacy, Archivist, and Drew Griffin, Senior Librarian
Location:  CCTV computer classroom, 438 Massachusetts Avenue

Join us for a 4-week, beginner’s genealogy workshop. For two hours each week, we will demystify the overwhelming process of sorting through online records as well as give tips for how best to make use of research visits to local repositories. We will help you find ancestors, organize your research, and start a family tree. Come with a new question every week and leave with an answer and something tangible to bring home, such as a copy of a birth certificate. By taking this class, you will be automatically eligible to enroll in a FREE, two-part course on digital storytelling taught by CCTV. Learn how to make a digital film about your family’s history based on your genealogical research. Create a treasured digital keepsake to pass on to family members. Registration is mandatory for the series.  To register, please contact Keaton Fox at

Recap: American Archives Month

Yesterday marked the last official day of American Archives Month (October), and we wanted to thank everyone who participated in some of our own celebratory archives events here at the CHC.

In case you missed it (ICYMI):

  • On October 4, the CHC archivist – with the help of the City of Cambridge’s Director of Communications – took over the City of Cambridge Twitter account for Ask An Archivist Day. Anyone with questions about any and all aspects of archives – not just in Cambridge – could tweet to @CambMA and use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist to get a response. Check out some of the great questions and other interesting Cambridge history tidbits here!
  • We featured a couple of “behind the scenes” looks at some interesting collections in our archives via our Instagram.
  • Our new research series, “Researching the History of Your House in Cambridge”, took place from October 16 to today, November 1. This was a collaborative three-week event highlighting house history resources at the Cambridge Room (Cambridge Public Library), the Historical Commission, and the Department of Public Works.


    Research series attendees browsing and learning at the CHC

If you missed this year’s research series, stay tuned, as we’ll be offering it again in a couple of months. And don’t forget, you can always make an appointment with us to research your building or house: or 617-349-4683.

Celebrating Women’s History: Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project

On this day in October 1915, 15,000 enthusiastic supporters of women’s suffrage marched the streets of Boston. The parade began at the corner of Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue and concluded with a rally at Mechanics Hall. This massive event was held to encourage voters to support an amendment striking the word “male” from the Massachusetts State Constitution, thus garnering the women of this state the right to vote. Although the push for women’s suffrage failed in 1915, the 19th Amendment was ratified by Massachusetts in 1919, and women’s right to vote was secured in 1920 when the amendment became federal law.



Clippings featuring suffragettes c. 1918 from the Cambridge Chronicle, published September 24, 1970

The Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project continues this tradition of acknowledging women’s contributions to our community and history.


Initiated in 1996, this ongoing project aims “to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Cambridge women and women’s organizations to the life of the city, commonwealth, and nation from the foundation of Cambridge (Newtowne) in 1630 to the present.”


Quote of Charlotte Saunders Cushman, renowned stage actress.

The committee is focused on compiling a database of biographical, organizational, and subject entries to honor the accomplishments of Cambridge women. Each entry is ordered alphabetically, and those interested in groups or organizations can browse via occupation (scientists, dentists, factory workers) or subject (women’s clubs, feminist organizations). The Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project accepts nominations via their website, and welcomes volunteers for research, editing, and web design.


One of many Women’s History Walks available in the Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project files

The project’s physical files are housed at the Cambridge Historical Commission. Here, entries to be added can be studied, revised, and transcribed to ready these most deserving subjects for web presence. To date, the online database boasts nearly 150 entries with over 400 nominations queued for vetting. As stated on the project website, “This is our attempt to write women into history and honor their lives and recognize their many accomplishments.”


“Woman at Work” published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1983

The online Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project database is available at

The Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project would love your help! For those interested in volunteering or simply learning more, please contact:

Sarah Burks
Cambridge Historical Commission
831 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd Fl.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Or fill out the form below:

Continue reading

Free Workshop Series: Researching the History of Your House with the City of Cambridge


Close-up of architectural inventory form for an address on Hampshire Street, CHC

Join staff members from the Cambridge Historical Commission, the City of Cambridge Department of Public Works and the Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library for a three-week series on researching the history of your house or building.

Registration is mandatory, though you do not have to attend all three sessions (though we highly recommend it!). For your convenience, each department will offer two days of the same session – one in the evening and one in the afternoon.

To register, please check out the schedule below and contact the person listed. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Session 1: The Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library
This hour-long, hands-on workshop will guide you through a variety of online resources that will help you research your home from the comfort of your home. Discover when your building was built and by who.  Find out who lived in your house and how your neighborhood has changed.  We will provide laptops. Registration is mandatory.

Monday, October 16
6:00 – 7:00 PM
Location: Community Room, Cambridge Public Library

Max. 16 participants


Wednesday, October 18
3:00 – 4:00 PM
Location: Beech Room, Cambridge Public Library

Max. 13 participants

Led by Alyssa Pacy, Archivist at the Cambridge Public Library.  To register, email: or call 617-349-7757

Session 2: Cambridge Historical Commission
The Commission’s research collection is founded on an architectural inventory that contains survey forms, photographs, and documentation on all 13,000+ buildings in the City. Participants will learn how individual homes can be researched using these inventory files, as well as the Commission’s collection of city directories, atlases, maps, photographs, books on the City’s different neighborhoods, and some deed, tax, and building permit records.

Monday, October 23

6:00 – 7:00 PM

Location: Cambridge Historical Commission, 831 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor

Max. 12 participants


Wednesday, October 25

2:00 – 3:00 PM

Location: Cambridge Historical Commission, 831 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor

Max. 12 participants

Led by Cambridge Historical Commission staff.  To register, email: or call: 617-349-4070

Session 3: Cambridge Department of Public Works
The public works collection is primarily focused on sewer & drain utility drawings and plans showing the boundaries of the public rights of way. But many of these and other records, which go as far back as 1840, also include interesting historical facts such as previous building, street, and water body configurations as well as ancient industries, property owner names and assessment values. Participants will learn how individual locations can be researched with geographic, database, and online indexes and they’ll see how those indexes have evolved.

Monday, October 30
6:00 – 7:00  PM

Location: Department of Public Works, 147 Hampshire Street

Max. 12 participants


Wednesday, November 1
2:00 – 3:00 PM

Location: Department of Public Works, 147 Hampshire Street

Max. 12 participants

Led by George Stylianopoulos, City of Cambridge Department of Public Works.  To register, email:

General questions about the series? Call 617-349-4683.

Time Travel Tuesday: Stereographs

Welcome to the inaugural episode of Time Travel Tuesday! This series will focus on aspects of history illustrated by objects in our collections. In today’s post, we’ll be talking about stereographs.

Have you ever watched a movie in 3D or spent hours staring at a Magic Eye image hoping to see whatever was hidden in all the abstract colors? 3D imaging is somewhat of a novelty, even today, but the impulse to create two dimensional images that look 3D has been around a lot longer than you might think. In the early decades of the 19th century, inventors began devising ways to create the illusion of a three dimensional view, even before advances in photographic technology made it possible to quickly and inexpensively create direct representations of the world.

Early 3D photographs (and drawings) were called stereographs or stereograms. Stereoscopy, the technique used to create stereographs, works because our eyes see at slightly different angles from each other. When your eyes work together, in stereo, you perceive a three dimensional view of your surroundings. Close one eye and the world flattens. By placing a slightly different image to be viewed by each eye independent of the other, your mind is tricked into seeing a three dimensional scene.

The first stereoscope was invented by a man called Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. Wheatstone’s original apparatus employed a system of mirrors to reflect two slightly different images to the eyes. Six years later, David Brewster improved on Wheatstone’s design, doing away with the mirrors and instead using prisms in a closed case. Stereoscopy became all the rage in Victorian England. Even Queen Victoria was bitten by the stereo bug. The Great Exhibition of 1851 brought the stereoscope to an international audience and around 1860 Cambridge native Oliver Wendell Holmes invented his own version of the stereoscope.

The Holmes Stereopticon, also known as the American stereoscope, was incredibly popular. In the years following its invention, which Holmes declined to patent, thousands upon thousands of stereoscopic images, also known as stereographs, were produced for viewing through a stereoscope. They were cheap and readily available, making them a truly democratic amusement.

The CHC has a number of stereographs as part of the Postcards and Stereographs Collection, depicting historical monuments, notable residences, churches, Harvard University, and landscape views.


Washington’s Headquarters (Prof. Longfellow’s Residence), Cambridge. Not dated. Produced by American Stereoscopic Views.


The Washington Elm. “Under this tree Washington first took command of the American Army. July 3rd 1775.” Not dated. Produced by A.E. Alden, Boston.



Vicinity of Boston. Park and Garden Series. Not Dated. Produced by C. Seaver, Jr. Photographer. Labeled on reverse “Residence near Mt. Auburn.” This is the only color stereograph in our collection. See below for more information.

Updated: It was recently pointed out to us by an eagle-eyed commenter that the above image is, in fact, a house formerly in Roxbury. This house appears in a painting of Roxbury in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, below: 

Stereographs were mass produced as souvenirs. People visiting Cambridge could purchase these cards and bring them home with them to relive their trip. This is evidenced by the frequent inclusion of historical information on the back of the cards.


Elmwood, Birthplace of James Russell Lowell, Cambridge Mass. Not dated. Produced by Underwood & Underwood Publishers.


[Reverse] Elmwood, Birthplace of James Russell Lowell, Cambridge Mass. Not dated. Produced by Underwood & Underwood Publishers.

Especially interesting in this example is the inclusion of multiple languages at the bottom of the card. Visitors who spoke French, German, Spanish, Swedish, or Russian could read for themselves what was depicted in the stereograph.


Reverse of a stereograph card of Hollis Hall dormitories. Several cards with this historical description pasted to the back are present in our collection, and indication of just how common these types of cards were.

Other cards included a list of other available stereograph images. This card depicting a scene in Mount Auburn Cemetery is an example.


While difficult to make out, the design to either side included the description “Rural Cemeteries, United States.”  Based on information on the reverse, we know this is Mount Auburn Cemetery. Not dated. Publisher not specified.


Reverse of above. Someone, perhaps the original owner of this card, underlined “12. Lawn and Chapel” under Mount Auburn, Cambridge, indicating the subject of the photograph.

Unfortunately, many cards do not include any information at all to identify them. However, occasionally the original purchaser chose to identify the subject themselves, perhaps to help them remember their visit.


Memorial Hall, Harvard University. No identifying information is present on the front of this card.


Reverse of above. “Memorial Hall” “Harvard” Cambridge Mass. June 1874. A. F. F.

Interest in stereoscopy has continued to the present day. Tutorials on creating your own stereoscopic images are available online. So if you live in Cambridge and want to experience a little bit of time travel for yourself, give it a try and show us what you come up with!


Victoria and Albert Museum

American Antiquarian Society



The new Cambridge Archives site is live!

Cambridge is a city rich with so much history, so many museums, libraries, and schools, that it can be hard to know where exactly to go for specific historical materials. The new Cambridge Archives website aims to help researchers, history lovers and curious citizens figure out which Cambridge archive holds what kinds of materials.

The new Cambridge Archives site was created with the generosity of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati (Anderson House), and through a collaboration with the Cambridge Historical Society, the Cambridge Historical Commission and the Cambridge Room of the Cambridge Public Library.   Check it out, and watch for more updates over the next couple of months as we add more archives and collecting institutions to the site (add yours, too!).

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.