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 Joycechenfoods.com.

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 Joycechenfoods.com

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

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 joycechenfoods.com

 

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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


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“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).

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“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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”‘

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Still from “Light Coming Through” (1980). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejtD-8r94Ls

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.

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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.

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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.

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


Sources:

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

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.

 

Sarah Wyman Whitman

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Portrait of Sarah Wyman Whitman by Helen Bigelow Merriman, Wikipedia.org

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.

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“Gloucester Harbor”, late 1880s or early 1890s, Wikipedia.org

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, invaluable.com

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.

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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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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, https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157604192955355/, and at the University of Wisconsin online digital archives.

Sources

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.

https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/3350

http://www.designworklife.com/2014/04/30/sarah-wyman-whitman/

https://bwht.org/sarah-wyman-whitman/

http://bindings.lib.ua.edu/designerbios/whitman.html

 

 

Modern Monday: McCormick Hall and Katharine Dexter’s Legacy at MIT

In the year 1960, just 22 women were admitted to MIT, in comparison to 914 men. President James Killian and his Chancellor Julius Stratton made the decision not only to admit more women to the university, but to actively work to improve the environment and resources available for female students.

Women at MIT Enrollment

The shift to admit and provide better education to young women was described years later in 1970 in a report written by Professor Emily Wick, Associate Dean of Students and the first woman promoted to tenure at MIT:

“Until the Institute could commit itself to educating women in significant numbers, and could provide suitable living conditions, coeds were not overly `successful.’ … Before 1960 women entered MIT at their own risk. If they succeeded — fine! If they failed — well, no one had expected them to succeed. … The class of 1964 entered in 1960 knowing that MIT believed in women students. It was the first class in which coeds, as a group, matched the proportion of B.S. degrees earned by their male classmates!”

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Emily L. Wick talking with students circa 1963. Photo courtesy of MIT Class of 1964.

Katharine Dexter (1875-1967) graduated from MIT in 1904 in biology. She married Stanley McCormick whose mental illness emerged soon after. Throughout her life, she tried to find a biological basis and cure for schizophrenia as well as supporting women’s right to vote as a strong proponent of the suffrage movement. Later in life, she turned her full attention to the construction of the first women’s dormitory at MIT, which coincided with the Institute’s newly established goals for admitting more women. She donated her house at 120 Bay State Road for a women’s dormitory (the only such dormitory for female MIT students), and it housed approximately 19 graduate and undergraduate women students from the early 1950′s until McCormick opened. Katharine even funded a taxi service to shuttle the students to campus on poor weather days.

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Katharine Dexter McCormick in 1913. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

In 1963, the west wing of Stanley McCormick Hall was dedicated and named after her late husband. Just three years later, the second wing (a second tower) was constructed and dedicated just after her death. Both phases of the building were bankrolled by Katharine Dexter McCormick and were to house women studying at MIT. McCormick Hall was designed by Herbert Beckwith, a member of MIT’s architecture faculty and principal of the firm Anderson, Beckwith and Haible. The dorms could today be classified as “Brutalist” in design. The two concrete and glass towers front Memorial Drive and are connected by a low-rise community space. The buildings are used today as all-female dorms housing upwards of 255 students.

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Katharine McCormick speaking at McCormick Hall dedication ceremony. Photo courtesy of MIT Class of 1964.

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McCormick Hall West Wing. Photo courtesy of MIT Class of 1964.

 

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Image located in McCormick Hall Survey File at CHC. Photo circa 1966.

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Image located in McCormick Hall Survey File at CHC. Photo circa 1967.

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2017 aerial view of McCormick Hall and surrounding structures.

To learn more about McCormick Hall, feel free to make a research appointment with us by emailing histcomm@cambridgema.gov.

Susan Butcher

This post is one in a series of stories we will be sharing about Cambridge women, in honor of Women’s History Month.

Susan Howlet Butcher was born in Cambridge on December 26, 1954. As a child growing up in Avon Hill, Susan grew to relish the outdoors and often preferred the company of dogs over playing with children of her age. Susan first became interested in sled dogs around age 16. Speaking about this time in her life during an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Susan remembers:

“I really feel I had a strong sense of myself from the earliest memories that I have. I knew very much who I was, approximately what I wanted to do. I didn’t know I wanted to be a dog musher. And I feel there are many things in life I could have done and had as much satisfaction as I am having. But I knew the type of things that I wanted to do, and I also knew that I wasn’t going to let anybody come in the way of that. When I got my second dog, and I was living in my mother’s house in Cambridge, and she said, ‘You will not get a second dog. I won’t let you have two dogs in the house.’ Instead of saying, ‘Okay, I won’t get a second dog,’ I got my second dog and moved out. So it was always a matter of… (being myself) and happily, and with a good relationship with my mother. This was not a negative thing towards my mother. This was not something that she even took as… I was very lucky to have parents that supported my ability to be responsible.”

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Susan Butcher with her sled and dogs. Credit: Paul A. Souders/Corbis, 1991

At just 20 years old, Susan relocated to Alaska where she moved into a log cabin in the remote wilderness. She began teaching herself to become a professional musher, dog breeder and trainer. Susan’s family had a long tradition of self-determination and autonomy. Her great-grandfather, Charles Butcher (1846-1916) emigrated to New York from England in 1867. He and his wife, Mary, moved to Boston a few years after the birth of their son, William Laramy (1875–1952).

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Undated image of Charles Butcher. Yankee Magazine, 1955.

Charles was a carpenter by trade, but according to an account by his granddaughter, Helen Elizabeth “Betty” Butcher (1914–1994), was appalled at the typical Bostonian’s method of cleaning the wood floors he installed–scrubbing with soap and water. With this in mind, Charles set out to manufacture a wax for cleaning floors, much like the product and technique employed in Europe.

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Photograph of Butcher’s Wax. Sample provided by the MFA Objects Conservation Lab. Photo credit: Keith Lawrence, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

This led to the development of Butcher Polish Company. Charles began manufacturing the product in the barn behind his property at 197 Lakeview Avenue near Fresh Pond. Butcher’s Wax was first sold in Boston in 1880.

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Undated image of 197 Lakeview Avenue published in Yankee Magazine, 1955.

After Charles passed in 1916, his sons William Laramy and Charles Howlett (1884-1951) inherited the company and ran it much in the same way as their father. Later, their sons, including Charles’ son, Charles II (1916-2004) took over the business. Charles II, known as Charlie, married Agnes and together they had a daughter, Susan Howlet Butcher (1954-2006).

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Undated images of Charles H. Butcher and William L. Butcher. Yankee Magazine, 1955.

Above: Charles II (Charlie) portrait at Harvard (1939) and Susan Howlet (no date, Alaska Sports Hall of Fame)

Susan Butcher became known as a highly-skilled dog musher and in 1986 became the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, an annual sled dog race of around 1,100 miles. In 1990, she became the second four-time winner and the first to win four out of five sequential years. Butcher died in 2006 at age 51 after being diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in 2005. Two years later, the Alaska state legislature established Susan Butcher Day, observed every year on the first Saturday in March.

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Susan Butcher with her lead dog, Granite (no date, Alaska Sports Hall of Fame)

The Cambridge Trotting Park: Part 4

This post is the fourth and final in a series of four written by guest author, Dan Sullivan, owner of The Book Oasis in Stoneham.


What do I think about the track? It did offer, at least at times, an extremely high level of competition from both horses and the human athletes. Hiram Woodruff, for instance, is in the Trotting Hall of Fame as an ‘Immortal.’ (As is Lady Suffolk.) Besides managing the Cambridge track for a few years, he was also a trainer, driver, and horse owner and wrote a book on the sport. It was said that his “honesty was unimpeachable.” Woodruff was not the only person associated with the track who made his home in the area. Dan Mace, another leading driver, lived in the Cambridge track neighborhood. A study of the city directories shows several people living near the Trotting Park who list their profession as something that is most likely linked to the track, such as horse trainer.

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“The celebrated trotting horse Judge Fullerton, as he appeared, driven by Dan Mace” published by Currier & Ives, 1874

Because of the drinking and gambling the park was held in very low esteem by its contemporaries. Was it immoral? It is always dangerous to judge another era’s morals. It was seen that way by many locals but other sections of the country embraced such tracks. Was it rowdy? Certainly it could be, but when you compare the number of these types of stories to the way that they were played up, I believe there was an imbalance. Yes, the majority of stories on the track dealt with negative activities and yes, I am sure not all were covered. But if you consider that the track spanned eighteen years there were not actually that many of them. I see the dangerous driving on city streets as a real problem that needed to be dealt with, but I think that the drinking and gambling might have been overblown by the press, considering how isolated the track was. I have to ask myself, “Did the average resident come in contact with many of the rowdier activities?”

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“Celebrated trotting horse ‘John Stewart’ as he appeared on the twentieth mile: In his great match against time over the fashion course L.I. Tuesday Sept. 22nd 1868. When he performed the unparalleled feat of trotting to wagon 20 miles in 59 minutes and 23 seconds” published by Currier & Ives, 1868

Also, once the park was no longer allowed to collect ticket revenue, the money from betting was their main source of income. Could gambling have been less of a necessary evil if ticket sales had been allowed to continue?

As often happens with such things, as decades passed the disdain for the track lessened. Several rather nostalgic articles were written after the park closed. I wonder if by that time some of the ‘Young Bloods’ that enjoyed going to the track had become staff members of the Chronicle.

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Clipping from the Cambridge Chronicle, 24 March 1924

I said at the beginning that the Cambridge Trotting Park had not left much of a mark on today’s map of Cambridge. That is true in the sense that one would not know it existed by just looking at a map. It did affect the way the map of Cambridge looks, in an odd way. Almost a century after the original park had opened, a greyhound park was proposed for Cambridge in 1935. It got approval from the state. It would have been built near Concord Avenue and Fresh Pond, completely changing that section of the city. After much debate, that track was built in Revere rather than in Cambridge. What stopped it? The trotting park closed in 1855. To prevent anything like it from ever coming back, the city enacted a new law in 1856 that gave the mayor and the council veto power over any new racing facility.

The Cambridge Trotting Park: Part 3

This post is the third in a series of four written by guest author, Dan Sullivan, owner of The Book Oasis in Stoneham.


Most of the local stories related to the track dealt with the dangerous riding and driving of the patrons on their way home. It seemed that after spending a day watching others race on the track many people would race each other on the streets of Cambridge causing a safety hazard. To make matters even more scandalous, some of the racers were women! “Their mouths poured forth clouds of smoke, from cigars they were puffing, and boisterous songs, while urging their horse to his speed.” Headlines cried out, “Nuisance” and “Furious Driving.”

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Clipping from the Cambridge Chronicle, 13 December 1849

Police blotters also made mention of illegal alcohol and card playing at the hotels on and near the track. There were also a few prominent stories about fights at the track..

The longest story in the Chronicle that even mentioned an event dealt with Lady Suffolk racing a mile on June 14, 1849. It was stated that: “It was considered a great occasion by those who take pleasure in such amusements…. One of the horses on the Course beat anything ever before heard of – trotting his mile in two minutes and twenty-six seconds!” Not only is the horse not named but she is referred to as ‘he’. Most of the remainder of the article dealt with how congested and ‘dusty’ the roads leading to and from the track were. The Chronicle even reported the highest single-day volume of alcohol ever consumed in Cambridge. It was obviously not seen as a proud milestone for the city!

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Lithograph featuring ‘Lady Suffolk’ and announcing her win over ‘Mac’ Mile at the Cambridge Course on 14 June 1849. Published by Currier, ca. 1849.

A similar coverage was given for the Stetson-Grindell ten-mile race. The paper dealt more with traffic and how much was taken in tolls on the West Boston (now Longfellow) Bridge that day. Volume was so high on the bridge that extra men were called into work.

Even as the property was put up for sale it still caused a scandal as a rumor spread that the property would be purchased by the Catholic Church.

A few decades later a local Baptist church, in looking back on its early days and its neighbors, the course and the hotels, recalled a fire at one of the hotels as “the great purifier” for the area.

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Clipping from the Cambridge Chronicle, 26 October 1848

The two boxing events that were held there met with the same disdain by the Chronicle: “We are of the opinion that those whose business it is to look after such matters, will cry ‘enough’ before these persons are allowed to test the skill they possess in pounding each other to a jelly. Let not Cambridge be disgraced by any such proceedings!”

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“John L. Sullivan, champion pugilist of the world. Born in Boston, October 15th, 1858” published by Wm. M. Clarke, ca. 23 November 1883.

Check back next week for Part 4, the conclusion!…

The Cambridge Trotting Park: Part 1

This post is the first in a series of four written by guest author, Dan Sullivan, owner of The Book Oasis in Stoneham.


Part 1

Just a casual glance at an 1854 map of the city makes it clear that North Cambridge was a very different place than it is today. Now the map is crowded with streets, and the houses on them are built on small lots. Massachusetts Avenue is lined with businesses. By contrast, 1854 shows an area with very few streets. Most business in the area consist of a few farms and the brick industry. The one area that is beginning to show some ‘crowding’ is the village of Dublin, which is made up of Rindge Avenue, Sargent Street, and Dublin (now Sherman) Street. Few landmarks would be recognizable by a modern visitor. The most prominent feature on that map is something that has left little trace on today’s landscape; the Cambridge Trotting Park.

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Aerial view of Northwest Cambridge, 2019

From 1837 until 1855 North Cambridge had a sports arena that often drew thousands of spectators and had such a high level of talent that it regularly generated national news. Famous horses such as Black Hawk and Lady Suffolk raced on the track. The strange thing is, it got almost no coverage from the Cambridge Chronicle, and the stories that did appear in that paper seldom focused on the actual sporting events. Many did not even mention them.

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H.F. Walling & Co. map of Northwest Cambridge, 1854

The course was one mile around and followed a route that was just inside what are now Rindge Avenue, Harvey and Cedar streets, and about one hundred feet beyond Clifton Street. The name ‘Trotting Park’ is slightly misleading. Yes, that was the principal type of event held on the course but not the exclusive type. Besides being the site of multiple types of horse racing, the park also hosted many foot races, or what was known at the time as ‘Pedestrianism.’ I have found descriptions of a greased pig chase, two boxing matches, and multiple mixed event ‘handicapped’ races. In addition to these there was one event that came close to what we would call a track and field meet today. It consisted of a hammer throw, a mile run, and the one-hundred–yard dash with other less traditional events.

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Beadle’s dime hand-book of pedestrianism : giving the rules for training and practice in walking, running, leaping, vaulting, etc., etc. Together with a full account of the great Weston feat, 1867

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Detail of ‘Running’ section, Beadle’s hand-book, 1867

My principal sources for information for these events are out of state newspapers. Why, you might ask, would these papers cover the events at the Cambridge Trotting Park and yet the hometown paper almost completely ignore them? The answer was an ethical one. You see, the principal activity at the Park was not sports competition, but rather the gambling that took place on those events, and Cambridge in the 1800’s would rather have ignored that.

Check back next week for Part 2…

Modern Monday: Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street

Exterior of Loeb Drama Center_Radcliffe College Archives

Completed in 1960, the Loeb Drama Center at 64 Brattle Street stands as one of Cambridge’s greatest examples of Modern Architecture. The structure is human-scaled, made of regional materials and is a sensitive addition to its residential and commercial neighbors along Brattle Street. The scale of the building was reduced to blend in with adjacent heights and the use of New England waterstruck brick is a nod to the Harvard and Radcliffe buildings nearby. Exposed concrete serves as a sort of frame to the delicate ornamental grille which provides a lace-like effect, enhanced further at night when the light from inside the building shines through.

Exterior View of Loeb Drama Center_night_Radcliffe College ArchivesExterior View: Harvard - Loeb Drama Center, 29 Brattle Street

Architect Hugh Stubbins wanted the theater to be architecturally exciting, while still serving as a backdrop to the purpose of the building, the arts. Stubbins was quoted as saying, “the auditorium should please the imagination in such a way as to release it, not captivate it” and later went on to reference examples of recent museums and art galleries erected by architects to overshadow the art within them.

Interior View of Loeb Drama Center_Radcliffe College ArchivesView of Loeb Drama Center setbuilding_Radcliffe College Archives

The building opens right off the sidewalk of Brattle Street by the way of deep setbacks off the first floor, forming a porch-like or arcade feeling. The sides of the building open to a garden court on one side and a spacious terrace on the other. The travertine flooring in the lobby extends gracefully to the brick-paved courtyard, contained by a red brick serpentine wall.

Exterior courtyard Loeb Drama Center_Radcliffe College ArchivesExterior View of Loeb Drama Center (2)_Radcliffe College Archives

The theater was unveiled as a mechanical marvel as the first fully-automatic and flexible theatre in the United States. The audience’s position in relation to the stage, along with the position and shape of the stage itself could be altered between three main configurations: theater-in-the-round, proscenium, and arena seating, all possibly during the same performance. Yale’s noted stage technician and theater design engineer, George C. Izenour worked with Stubbins to integrate lighting, rigging and staging into an automated and hydraulic lift system, which could be altered and staged by just two people in mere minutes.

The Loeb Drama Center is now home to The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) at Harvard University, which collaborates with artists around the world to develop and create work in new ways. To learn more about A.R.T. and their upcoming shows and events, check out their website at: https://americanrepertorytheater.org/

1960 color photo_CHC_LOEB

Color slide courtesy of CHC Staff.

Historic photos courtesy of Radcliffe College Archives and CHC slides.