Saturday, July 20, 2024

Kolow’s Pharmacy was established in 1921 at 263 Pearl St., Cambridgeport, now the home of Gallery 263. (Photo: Cambridge Historical Commission)

Gallery 263’s large windows offer a view of one of the busiest intersections in the heart of Cambridgeport, but the view inside from Pearl Street and Putnam Avenue can be just as lively. The gallery describes itself as a multifunctional art space offering a variety of exhibitions and events for those in the immediate community and beyond. In addition to exhibitions, inside you might see a yoga class, talk or workshop, or a foraged banquet fundraiser (Gallery 263 is a nonprofit organization). 

The space has served a variety of purposes over the years.

In 1897, a flat of six rooms at 263 Pearl St. was advertised in The Cambridge Chronicle with “modern improvement, open plumbing, separate cellar” among the amenities. An 1899 advertisement tells readers they can buy Warren’s Ice Cream at 263 Pearl St. In 1907, a permit was issued allowing one horse in a stable at the property. And in 1909, a license was granted allowing the sale of “intoxicating liquors for medicinal, mechanical and chemical purposes” at the property.

The building was bought in 1921 by Samuel Kolow, who established Kolow’s Pharmacy. It was the scene of a daring robbery in 1923, when an article in the Chronicle, “Bandits descend on Kolow’s Drug Store,” described how thieves made off with jewelry, money and products before the store owner retrieved a gun from his safe and fired 10 to 15 shots as they got away. Decades later, the space became the Brinkerhoff Gallery, then the Organic Furniture Cellar, an antiques store owned by Richard Weiner that closed in 2007 after more than 25 years in business. Perhaps most famously, 263 Pearl St. was used as a backdrop in scenes from the 1977 film “Between the Lines,” starring Jeff Goldblum.

In 2008, David Craft and Annie Newbold co-founded Gallery 263 as an exhibition venue. Newbold had used the space as a personal art studio, featuring the first several exhibits in the gallery’s history, from 2004 through 2008. The gallery established an artist-in-residency program in 2010 and was approved as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Gallery 263 has continued to evolve, revamping its website and logo to reflect its multifunctional character. As the only art gallery in Cambridgeport, and one of the few in Cambridge, Gallery 263 occupies an important place in the city and neighborhood.

Gallery 263 hosts a Birthday Bash from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday to commemorate its 50th anniversary. Stop by 263 Pearl St. for a hyperlocal Cambridge experience including music, activities for kids, snacks and beverages, birthday cake and, of course, art – all locally sourced. In conjunction with the bash, Gallery 263 plans a Cambridge Community Exhibition running from Thursday to June 24 and features works by artists who live and work in Cambridge. Work will be for sale, with artists donating varied percentages back to the gallery. This will be the first time the gallery has hosted a community exhibition, and curators are especially excited about celebrating and promoting the creative work of the immediate community. More information is available in the gallery’s call for submission.

Allison Gray, the nonprofit’s director of communications, said she hopes the party will reinforce that the gallery is a welcoming and friendly space for the community – somewhere people can pop in regularly to say hello. She also sees the Birthday Bash as an opportunity for Gallery 263 and the Cambridgeport community to look back on its history of the gallery and celebrate successes, all with an eye toward the future.

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About History Cambridge

History Cambridge started in 1905 as the Cambridge Historical Society. Today we have a new name and a new mission. We engage with our city to explore how the past influences the present to shape a better future. We recognize that every person in our city knows something about Cambridge’s history, and their knowledge matters. We listen to our community and we live by the ideal that history belongs to everyone. Throughout 2023, we are focusing on the history of Cambridgeport. Make history with us at historycambridge.org.

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Amy Devin is president of History Cambridge’s board of directors and a member of the Cambridgeport community for more than 20 years.