Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Rachael Solem in a photo posted Jan. 1, 2021. (Photo: Rachel Solem via Facebook)

The proprietor of the Irving House, Turner House and Harding House guesthouses in Cambridge, Rachael Solem, died Monday at 68, believed to be the result of a blood clot, members of the business community said.

At a Dec. 6 board meeting for Cambridge Local First, a small-business organization she helped guide for many years since its founding in 2005, Solem announced that she was stepping back from her remaining business at Irving House to enjoy retirement. The business is run by her daughter, Briana Pearson.

The news of Solem’s death was “deeply sad,” said Theodora Skeadas, executive director of Cambridge Local First. “Not only was Rachael an unbelievably impactful board member for our organization’s entire history, but she was also a beautiful woman with a big heart.”

Solem bought Irving House in 1990 with partners. (Turner House, just up Irving Street, was intended for longer-term visitors.) Harding House followed in 1997; Solem updated the structure into a 14-room bed and breakfast with style: Marieke Van Damme, leader of the History Cambridge organization, recalled it as “filled for the next two decades with the aromas of quiche and coffee, quiet conversations and the bustle of guests with newspapers. On Thursdays, staff would set up evening wine and cheese services; when a new artist showcased their work, Harding House would hire a jazz trio for the opening.”

While Harding House closed during the Covid pandemic, Irving House’s 44 rooms in Mid-Cambridge stayed in business – accommodating guests as it had since its origins hosting Harvard University affiliates in the 1920s.

The news of Solem’s death spread quickly Tuesday through the city’s small-business owners; she was active in the community, serving not just on the CLF board over the years but working with the Harvard Square Business Association, Chamber of Commerce and History Cambridge – starting when it was known as the  Cambridge Historical Society – as well as the Cambridge Hotel Association and Massachusetts Lodging Association.

She is the mother of two and grandmother of six. Solem lived with her husband in Wellesley, Pearson said.

This post was updated Jan. 17, 2023, to remove references to a fall and to correct the day of death.