Sunday, July 14, 2024

Judy Delaney, at an April 11 neighborhood history center grand opening, holds a photo from her 1965 middle school graduation in North Cambridge. (Photo: History Cambridge)

History Cambridge welcomed the public April 11 to the grand opening of a pop-up neighborhood history center at 2322 Massachusetts Ave. between Frank’s Steakhouse and the Association of Notre Dame (Le French Club) in North Cambridge. The space is dedicated to collecting and sharing the stories of the neighborhood, from the Indigenous inhabitants and early European settlers who lived, fished and farmed here to the rise of the brick and clay industries in the 19th century and its more recent history as a vibrant, diverse area with a wide array of restaurants, small businesses and houses of worship.

Longtime residents were among the many visitors who attended the party, including Steve Surette, creator of the Growing Up in North Cambridge magazine, and Les Oliver, longtime contributor and parish councilor at St. John the Evangelist Church, a cornerstone of the neighborhood. Steve has generously donated a collection of his magazines that will be on hand for visitors to the History Center to explore.

Neighbors brought pictures, newspaper clippings and other items that help to document the rich history of the area, and the images, maps and advertisements covering the walls provided fodder for animated conversations about the people and places that have shaped the neighborhood and its residents. The night also generated exciting ideas for events and programs, including a possible movie-and-doughnuts night once two attendees finish editing the extensive footage they have of the last days of Verna’s Donuts.

Guests share memories and questions April 11 about North Cambridge history at the opening of the center at 2322 Massachusetts Ave. (Photo: History Cambridge)

We were also pleased to welcome state Rep. Steve Owens and city councillors Patty Nolan and Paul Toner – who once housed his campaign headquarters in the Massachusetts Avenue space that is now the neighborhood history center. History Cambridge executive director Marieke Van Damme spoke to the crowd, emphasizing that “Whether you’ve been in North Cambridge for five minutes, 50 years or five generations, your story is a part of the neighborhood’s history and we need your perspective.”

Over the coming weeks, the center will feature a number of events and programs and host drop-in sessions for residents and visitors to see the space, talk to staff and volunteers of History Cambridge and share their memories and questions. These drop-in hours will take place from 5 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.

History Cambridge board member Liz Adams, left, and executive director Marieke Van Damme at the April 11 opening party. (Photo: History Cambridge)

On Thursday evening we will throw it back for our ’80s Nite, when guests are invited to bring photos and memories of their time in North Cambridge during the 1980s (though the 1880s and even the 1780s will also make appearances, highlighting just how much the neighborhood has changed over the past few centuries). Attire from the 1980s is encouraged for this event, and we are grateful to our neighbors at Raspberry Beret for supplying all your vintage needs.

We are thrilled to have received such a warm welcome from the North Cambridge community, and we look forward to the many connections we will make and the stories we will hear as we continue with our Year of North Cambridge. Check out our website and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all of the great programs we are planning at our Neighborhood History Center and throughout North Cambridge. We look forward to making Cambridge history with you!

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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.

History Cambridge is a nonprofit organization. Our activities rely on your financial support. If you value articles like this one, give today.


Beth Folsom is programs manager for History Cambridge.