North Cambridge was home to a Camp Cameron during the Civil War; tour its Gold Star memorials
Veterans Day is an appropriate time to pay homage to the role North Cambridge and its residents have played in the military history of Massachusetts and the United States. There are nine memorial pole and dedication markers commemorating Gold Star service members in the area bounded by Rindge Avenue, the Somerville border and Alewife Brook Parkway. In addition, a number of streets and squares have been named or renamed to commemorate people and events going back to the Revolutionary War.
U.S. service members from World War I, World War II and Vietnam are represented. You can visit all markers in an hour’s walk through the neighborhood.
1. Thomas O’Callaghan Playground Named in honor of Cpl. Thomas J. O’Callaghan, killed in action July 10, 1918, in France. (The memorial reads Sept. 10, but the actual date is July 10.) He is buried in Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial, Belleau, Département de l’Aisne, Picardie, France.
2. Joseph R. Theriault Court Renamed from Neal Court in honor of Pvt. Joseph R. Theriault, killed in action Nov. 15, 1944, in France. He is buried in Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, Saint-Avold, Département de la Moselle, Lorraine, France.
3. William Harrington Road Renamed from Wilbur Street in honor of Staff Sgt. William Harrington, killed in action Nov. 11, 1944, in France.
4. Gold Star Road Renamed from Yorktown Road in honor of nine men killed while serving whose mothers lived on the street. No names are listed on the memorial street marker for Gold Star Road, but the honorees are: Staff Sgt. Leo Ford (May 15, 1944, New Guinea); Pvt. John P. Fogarty (July 3, 1944, Normandy); Pvt. John O’Connor (April 27, 1945, le Shima); Pfc. John D. Lynch (July 10, 1943, Tennessee); Staff Sgt. Joseph Oppedisano (Nov. 7, 1943, Cassino, Italy); Pfc. Paul S. Woods (Jan. 16, 1945, Battle of the Bulge); Sgt. Paul F. Meharg (Jan. 13, 1945, France); Pvt. Bernard J. O’Rourke (Aug. 5, 1943, Camp Polk, Louisiana); and Tech. 5th Grade John F. Bellis, also commemorated at Bellis Circle (July 17, 1945, Normandy).
5. Morrison Place Designated in honor of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Morrison, killed in action Sept. 17, 1944, in the South China Sea. Morrison Place is at Gold Star Road and Morrison Court. Morrison Court, however, was not itself named after Robert Morrison; it is listed in the Cambridge Directory for 1911 in that location with that name.
6. Shea Road Renamed from Frank Street in honor of U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. John J. Shea, who was missing in action in 1942 when the USS Wasp was torpedoed. Shea was declared dead the next year; the remains of the ship were not discovered until 2019. (See the link for the exciting story of the discovery of the Wasp.)
7. James F. Walsh Square Designated in honor of U.S. Army Pfc. James F. Walsh, killed in action Aug. 8, 1944, in India.
8. Paul R. Theriault Square Designated in honor of U.S. Marine Cpl. Paul R. Theriault, killed in action May 24, 1968, in Vietnam. He is buried in Cambridge Cemetery.
9. Thomas R. Dwyer Square Designated in honor of U.S. Army Cpl. Thomas R. Dwyer, killed in action July 6, 1969, in Vietnam. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum, Malden.
In addition to these Gold Star Dedication Markers, a number of other streets were named or renamed for their military associations.
During the Civil War, North Cambridge was home to Camp Cameron – the barracks and encampment for the First Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, where recruits were housed and trained from 1861 to 1862. The camp extended for 140 acres, bounded by what is now Massachusetts Avenue, Clarendon Avenue and Shea Road, extending up to what is now Holland Street in Somerville. It occupied the site of the present trolley bus barns and the large Northview Condominiums building at 2353 Massachusetts Ave. The camp was named for Simon Cameron, President Lincoln’s secretary of war at the time, and Cameron Avenue was named for the camp.
After the war, the site of the camp was subdivided and John C. Stiles laid out three streets: John, Camp and Stiles. The land was subsequently bought by C.A. Mason, who laid out new streets and renamed others in commemoration of battles in which Massachusetts regiments had fought:
- John Street was renamed Fair Oaks Street for the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia (May 31 to June 1, 1862).
- Stiles Street was renamed Seven Pines Avenue for the Battle of Seven Pines, Virginia (May 31 to June 1, 1862).
- Camp Street was not renamed.
- Malvern Avenue (a cul-de-sac off Yorktown Road in Somerville) was named for the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862).
- Yorktown Street was named for the Revolutionary War Battle, or Siege, of Yorktown (Sept. 28 to Oct. 19, 1781). It extended from Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge into Somerville. The Cambridge portion was renamed Gold Star Road in 1947. Two additional cul-de-sacs, Yorktown Place and Yorktown Court, were respectively renamed as Gold Star Road Place and Gold Star Road Court. The Somerville portion of the street is now known as Yorktown Street.
Other streets that were renamed include
- Foch Street was renamed in honor of the French World War I commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch. The former name was Bismarck Street.
- Sherman Street, just beyond our area of concern, was renamed from Dublin Street to honor Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
- Verdun Street, a bit east of Sherman, was renamed (from Vernum Street) to commemorate the World War I battle.
This research was prompted by a question to our History Hive about how Gold Star Road was named. Do you have a question about Cambridge history? Submit it to the History Cambridge History Hive.
About History Cambridge
History Cambridge started in 1905 as the Cambridge Historical Society. Today we have a new name, a new look and a whole new mission.
We engage with our city to explore how the past influences the present to shape a better future. We strive to be the most relevant and responsive historical voice in Cambridge. We do that by recognizing that every person in our city knows something about Cambridge’s history, and that knowledge matters. We support people in sharing history – and weaving their knowledge together – by offering them the floor, the mic, the platform. We shed light where historical perspectives are needed. We listen to our community. We live by the ideal that history belongs to everyone.
Our theme for 2021 is “How Does Cambridge Mend?” Make history with us at cambridgehistory.org.