Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Cambridge, Massachusetts
—  City  —
Cambridge City Hall
Motto: "Boston's Left Bank"[1]
Cambridge ma highlight.png
Location in Middlesex County in Massachusetts
Coordinates: 42°22′25″N 71°06′38″W / 42.37361, -71.11056Coordinates: 42°22′25″N 71°06′38″W / 42.37361, -71.11056
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Middlesex
Settled 1630
Incorporated 1636
 • Type Council-City Manager
 • Mayor Henrietta Davis
 • City Manager Robert W. Healy
 • Total 7.13 sq mi (18.47 km2)
 • Land 6.43 sq mi (16.65 km2)
 • Water 0.70 sq mi (1.81 km2)
Elevation 40 ft (12 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 105,162
 • Density 16,422.08/sq mi (6,341.98/km2)
 • Demonym Cantabrigian
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02138, 02139, 02140, 02141, 02142
Area code(s) 617 / 857
FIPS code 25-11000
GNIS feature ID 0617365

Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders.[2] Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent universities, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 105,162.[3] It is the fifth most populous city in the state, behind Boston, Worcester, Springfield, and Lowell.[3] Cambridge was one of the two county seats of Middlesex County prior to the abolition of county government in 1997; Lowell was the other.


Formation of Massachusetts towns

A map showing the original boundaries of Cambridge

The site for what would become Cambridge was chosen in December 1630, because it was located safely upriver from Boston Harbor, which made it easily defensible from attacks by enemy ships. Also, the water from the local spring was so good that the local Native Americans believed it had medicinal properties. Thomas Dudley, his daughter Anne Bradstreet and her husband Simon were among the first settlers of the town. The first houses were built in the spring of 1631. The settlement was initially referred to as "the newe towne".[4] Official Massachusetts records show the name capitalized as Newe Towne by 1632.[5] Located at the first convenient Charles River crossing west of Boston, Newe Towne was one of a number of towns (including Boston, Dorchester, Watertown, and Weymouth) founded by the 700 original Puritan colonists of the Massachusetts Bay Colony under governor John Winthrop. The original village site is in the heart of today's Harvard Square. The marketplace where farmers brought in crops from surrounding towns to sell survives today as the small park at the corner of John F. Kennedy (J.F.K.) and Winthrop Streets, then at the edge of a salt marsh, since filled. The town included a much larger area than the present city, with various outlying parts becoming independent towns over the years: Newton (originally Cambridge Village, then Newtown) in 1688,[6] Lexington (Cambridge Farms) in 1712, and both West Cambridge (originally Menotomy) and Brighton (Little Cambridge) in 1807.[7] Part of West Cambridge joined the new town of Belmont in 1859, and the rest of West Cambridge was renamed Arlington in 1867; Brighton was annexed by Boston in 1874. In the late 19th century, various schemes for annexing Cambridge itself to the City of Boston were pursued and rejected.[8][9]

In 1636, Harvard College was founded by the colony to train ministers and the new town was chosen for its site by Thomas Dudley. By 1638, the name "Newe Towne" had "compacted by usage into 'Newtowne'."[4] In May 1638[10][11] the name was changed to Cambridge in honor of the university in Cambridge, England.[12] The first president (Henry Dunster), the first benefactor (John Harvard), and the first schoolmaster (Nathaniel Eaton) of Harvard were all Cambridge University alumni, as was the then ruling (and first) governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop. In 1629, Winthrop had led the signing of the founding document of the city of Boston, which was known as the Cambridge Agreement, after the university.[13] It was Governor Thomas Dudley who, in 1650, signed the charter creating the corporation which still governs Harvard College.[14][15]

Washington taking command of the American Army at Cambridge, 1775 - NARA - 532874

George Washington in Cambridge, 1775

Cambridge grew slowly as an agricultural village eight miles (13 km) by road from Boston, the capital of the colony. By the American Revolution, most residents lived near the Common and Harvard College, with farms and estates comprising most of the town. Most of the inhabitants were descendants of the original Puritan colonists, but there was also a small elite of Anglican "worthies" who were not involved in village life, who made their livings from estates, investments, and trade, and lived in mansions along "the Road to Watertown" (today's Brattle Street, still known as Tory Row). In 1775, George Washington came up from Virginia to take command of fledgling volunteer American soldiers camped on the Cambridge Common—today called the birthplace of the U.S. Army. (The name of today's nearby Sheraton Commander Hotel refers to that event.) Most of the Tory estates were confiscated after the Revolution. On January 24, 1776, Henry Knox arrived with artillery captured from Fort Ticonderoga, which enabled Washington to drive the British army out of Boston.

File:Cambridge 1873 WardMap.jpg

Between 1790 and 1840, Cambridge began to grow rapidly, with the construction of the West Boston Bridge in 1792, that connected Cambridge directly to Boston, making it no longer necessary to travel eight miles (13 km) through the Boston Neck, Roxbury, and Brookline to cross the Charles River. A second bridge, the Canal Bridge, opened in 1809 alongside the new Middlesex Canal. The new bridges and roads made what were formerly estates and marshland into prime industrial and residential districts.

In the mid-19th century, Cambridge was the center of a literary revolution when it gave the country a new identity through poetry and literature. Cambridge was home to the famous Fireside Poets—so called because their poems would often be read aloud by families in front of their evening fires. In their day, the Fireside PoetsHenry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes—were as popular and influential as rock stars are today.

Soon after, turnpikes were built: the Cambridge and Concord Turnpike (today's Broadway and Concord Ave.), the Middlesex Turnpike (Hampshire St. and Massachusetts Ave. northwest of Porter Square), and what are today's Cambridge, Main, and Harvard Streets were roads to connect various areas of Cambridge to the bridges. In addition, railroads crisscrossed the town during the same era, leading to the development of Porter Square as well as the creation of neighboring town Somerville from the formerly rural parts of Charlestown.

1852 Middlesex Canal (Massachusetts) map

1852 Map of Boston area showing Cambridge and rail lines.

Cambridge was incorporated as a city in 1846. This was despite noticeable tensions between East Cambridge, Cambridgeport, and Old Cambridge that stemmed from differences in in each area's culture, sources of income, and the national origins of the residents.[16] The city's commercial center began to shift from Harvard Square to Central Square, which became the downtown of the city around this time. Between 1850 and 1900, Cambridge took on much of its present character—streetcar suburban development along the turnpikes, with working-class and industrial neighborhoods focused on East Cambridge, comfortable middle-class housing being built on old estates in Cambridgeport and Mid-Cambridge, and upper-class enclaves near Harvard University and on the minor hills of the city. The coming of the railroad to North Cambridge and Northwest Cambridge then led to three major changes in the city: the development of massive brickyards and brickworks between Massachusetts Ave., Concord Ave. and Alewife Brook; the ice-cutting industry launched by Frederic Tudor on Fresh Pond; and the carving up of the last estates into residential subdivisions to provide housing to the thousands of immigrants that arrived to work in the new industries.

For many years, the city's largest employer was the New England Glass Company, founded in 1818. By the middle of the 19th century it was the largest and most modern glassworks in the world. In 1888, all production was moved, by Edward Drummond Libbey, to Toledo, Ohio, where it continues today under the name Owens Illinois. Flint glassware with heavy lead content, produced by that company, is prized by antique glass collectors. There is none on public display in Cambridge, but there is a large collection in the Toledo Museum of Art.

Among the largest businesses located in Cambridge was the firm of Carter's Ink Company, whose neon sign long adorned the Charles River and which was for many years the largest manufacturer of ink in the world.

By 1920, Cambridge was one of the main industrial cities of New England, with nearly 120,000 residents. As industry in New England began to decline during the Great Depression and after World War II, Cambridge lost much of its industrial base. It also began the transition to being an intellectual, rather than an industrial, center. Harvard University had always been important in the city (both as a landowner and as an institution), but it began to play a more dominant role in the city's life and culture. Also, the move of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from Boston in 1916 ensured Cambridge's status as an intellectual center of the United States.

After the 1950s, the city's population began to decline slowly, as families tended to be replaced by single people and young couples. The 1980s brought a wave of high-technology startups, creating software such as Visicalc and Lotus 1-2-3, and advanced computers, but many of these companies fell into decline with the fall of the minicomputer and DOS-based systems. However, the city continues to be home to many startups as well as a thriving biotech industry. By the end of the 20th century, Cambridge had one of the most expensive housing markets in the Northeastern United States.

While maintaining much diversity in class, race, and age, it became harder and harder for those who grew up in the city to be able to afford to stay. The end of rent control in 1994 prompted many Cambridge renters to move to housing that was more affordable, in Somerville and other communities. In 2005, a reassessment of residential property values resulted in a disproportionate number of houses owned by non-affluent people jumping in value relative to other houses, with hundreds having their property tax increased by over 100%; this forced many homeowners in Cambridge to move elsewhere.[17]

As of 2012, Cambridge's mix of amenities and proximity to Boston has kept housing prices relatively stable.


Charles River Cambridge USA

A view from Boston of Harvard's Weld Boathouse and Cambridge in winter. The Charles River is in the foreground.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Cambridge has a total area of 7.1 square miles (18 km2), of which 6.4 square miles (17 km2) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) of it (9.82%) is water.

Adjacent municipalitiesEdit

Cambridge is located in eastern Massachusetts, bordered by:

The border between Cambridge and the neighboring city of Somerville passes through densely populated neighborhoods which are connected by the MBTA Red Line. Some of the main squares, Inman, Porter, and to a lesser extent, Harvard, are very close to the city line, as are Somerville's Union and Davis Squares.




Central Square

Harvard square 2009j

Harvard Square

Cambridge MA Inman Square

Inman Square

Cambridge has been called the "City of Squares" by some,[18][19] as most of its commercial districts are major street intersections known as squares. Each of the squares acts as a neighborhood center. These include:

  • Kendall Square, formed by the junction of Broadway, Main Street, and Third Street, is also known as Technology Square, a name shared with an office and laboratory building cluster in the neighborhood. Just over the Longfellow Bridge from Boston, at the eastern end of the MIT campus, it is served by the Kendall/MIT station on the MBTA Red Line subway. Most of Cambridge's large office towers are located here, giving the area somewhat of an office park feel. A flourishing biotech industry has grown up around this area. The "One Kendall Square" complex is nearby, but—confusingly—not actually in Kendall Square. Also, the "Cambridge Center" office complex is located here, and not at the actual center of Cambridge.
  • Central Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Prospect Street, and Western Avenue, is well known for its wide variety of ethnic restaurants. As recently as the late 1990s it was rather run-down; it underwent a controversial gentrification in recent years (in conjunction with the development of the nearby University Park at MIT), and continues to grow more expensive. It is served by the Central Station stop on the MBTA Red Line subway. Lafayette Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Columbia Street, Sidney Street, and Main Street, is considered part of the Central Square area. Cambridgeport is south of Central Square along Magazine Street and Brookline Street.
  • Harvard Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Brattle Street, and JFK Street. This is the primary site of Harvard University, and is a major Cambridge shopping area. It is served by a Red Line station. Harvard Square was originally the northwestern terminus of the Red Line and a major transfer point to streetcars that also operated in a short tunnel—which is still a major bus terminal, although the area under the Square was reconfigured dramatically in the 1980s when the Red Line was extended. The Harvard Square area includes Brattle Square and Eliot Square. A short distance away from the square lies the Cambridge Common, while the neighborhood north of Harvard and east of Massachusetts Avenue is known as Agassiz in honor of the famed scientist Louis Agassiz.
  • Inman Square, at the junction of Cambridge and Hampshire streets in Mid-Cambridge. Inman Square is home to many diverse restaurants, bars, music venues and boutiques. The funky street scene still holds some urban flair, but was dressed up recently with Victorian streetlights, benches and bus stops. A new community park was installed and is a favorite place to enjoy some takeout food from the nearby restaurants and ice cream parlor.

Other neighborhoodsEdit

The residential neighborhoods (map) in Cambridge border, but are not defined by the squares. These include:

  • East Cambridge (Area 1) is bordered on the north by the Somerville border, on the east by the Charles River, on the south by Broadway and Main Street, and on the west by the Grand Junction Railroad tracks. It includes the NorthPoint development.
  • MIT Campus (Area 2) is bordered on the north by Broadway, on the south and east by the Charles River, and on the west by the Grand Junction Railroad tracks.
  • Wellington-Harrington (Area 3) is bordered on the north by the Somerville border, on the south and west by Hampshire Street, and on the east by the Grand Junction Railroad tracks. Referred to as "Mid-Block".
  • Area 4 is bordered on the north by Hampshire Street, on the south by Massachusetts Avenue, on the west by Prospect Street, and on the east by the Grand Junction Railroad tracks. Residents of Area 4 often refer to their neighborhood simply as "The Port", and refer to the area of Cambridgeport and Riverside as "The Coast".
  • Cambridgeport (Area 5) is bordered on the north by Massachusetts Avenue, on the south by the Charles River, on the west by River Street, and on the east by the Grand Junction Railroad tracks.
  • Mid-Cambridge (Area 6) is bordered on the north by Kirkland and Hampshire Streets and the Somerville border, on the south by Massachusetts Avenue, on the west by Peabody Street, and on the east by Prospect Street.
  • Riverside (Area 7), an area sometimes referred to as "The Coast," is bordered on the north by Massachusetts Avenue, on the south by the Charles River, on the west by JFK Street, and on the east by River Street.
  • Agassiz (Harvard North) (Area 8) is bordered on the north by the Somerville border, on the south and east by Kirkland Street, and on the west by Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Peabody (Area 9) is bordered on the north by railroad tracks, on the south by Concord Avenue, on the west by railroad tracks, and on the east by Massachusetts Avenue. The Avon Hill sub-neighborhood consists of the higher elevations bounded by Upland Road, Raymond Street, Linnaean Street and Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Brattle area/West Cambridge (Area 10) is bordered on the north by Concord Avenue and Garden Street, on the south by the Charles River and the Watertown border, on the west by Fresh Pond and the Collins Branch Library, and on the east by JFK Street. It includes the sub-neighborhoods of Brattle Street (formerly known as Tory Row) and Huron Village.
  • North Cambridge (Area 11) is bordered on the north by the Arlington and Somerville borders, on the south by railroad tracks, on the west by the Belmont border, and on the east by the Somerville border.
  • Cambridge Highlands (Area 12) is bordered on the north and east by railroad tracks, on the south by Fresh Pond, and on the west by the Belmont border.
  • Strawberry Hill (Area 13) is bordered on the north by Fresh Pond, on the south by the Watertown border, on the west by the Belmont border, and on the east by railroad tracks.

Parks and outdoorsEdit

Alewife Brook Reservation

Alewife Brook Reservation

Consisting largely of densely built residential space, Cambridge lacks significant tracts of public parkland. This is partly compensated for, however, by the presence of easily accessible open space on the university campuses, including Harvard Yard and MIT's Great Lawn, as well as the considerable open space of Mount Auburn Cemetery. At the western edge of Cambridge, the cemetery is well known as the first garden cemetery, for its distinguished inhabitants, for its superb landscaping (the oldest planned landscape in the country), and as a first-rate arboretum. Although known as a Cambridge landmark, much of the cemetery lies within the bounds of Watertown.[20] It is also a significant Important Bird Area (IBA) in the Greater Boston area.

Public parkland includes the esplanade along the Charles River, which mirrors its Boston counterpart, Cambridge Common, a busy and historic public park immediately adjacent to the Harvard campus, and the Alewife Brook Reservation and Fresh Pond in the western part of the city.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1790 2,115
1800 2,453 +16.0%
1810 2,323 −5.3%
1820 3,295 +41.8%
1830 6,072 +84.3%
1840 8,409 +38.5%
1850 15,215 +80.9%
1860 26,060 +71.3%
1870 39,634 +52.1%
1880 52,669 +32.9%
1890 70,028 +33.0%
1900 91,886 +31.2%
1910 104,839 +14.1%
1920 109,694 +4.6%
1930 113,643 +3.6%
1940 110,879 −2.4%
1950 120,740 +8.9%
1960 107,716 −10.8%
1970 100,361 −6.8%
1980 95,322 −5.0%
1990 95,802 +0.5%
2000 101,355 +5.8%
2010 105,162 +3.8%

Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.[21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

As of the census[32] of 2010, there were 105,162 people, 44,032 households, and 17,420 families residing in the city. The population density was 16,422.08 people per square mile (6,341.98/km²), making Cambridge the fifth most densely populated city in the US[33] and the second most densely populated city in Massachusetts behind neighboring Somerville.[34] There were 47,291 housing units at an average density of 7,354.7 per square mile (2,840.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 66.60% White, 11.70% Black or African American, 0.20% Native American, 15.10% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 2.10% from other races, and 4.30% from two or more races. 7.60% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. Non-Hispanic Whites were 62.1% of the population in 2010,[35] down from 89.7% in 1970.[36] This rather closely parallels the average racial demographics of the United States as a whole, although Cambridge has significantly more Asians than the average, and fewer Hispanics and Caucasians. 11.0% were of Irish, 7.2% English, 6.9% Italian, 5.5% West Indian and 5.3% German ancestry according to Census 2000. 69.4% spoke English, 6.9% Spanish, 3.2% Chinese or Mandarin, 3.0% Portuguese, 2.9% French Creole, 2.3% French, 1.5% Korean, and 1.0% Italian as their first language.

There were 44,032 households out of which 16.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.9% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 60.4% were non-families. 40.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.00 and the average family size was 2.76.

In the city the population was spread out with 13.3% under the age of 18, 21.2% from 18 to 24, 38.6% from 25 to 44, 17.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30.5 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $47,979, and the median income for a family was $59,423 (these figures had risen to $58,457 and $79,533 respectively as of a 2007 estimate[37]). Males had a median income of $43,825 versus $38,489 for females. The per capita income for the city was $31,156. About 8.7% of families and 12.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.1% of those under age 18 and 12.9% of those age 65 or over.

Cambridge was ranked as one of the most liberal cities in America.[38] Locals living in and near the city jokingly refer to it as "The People's Republic of Cambridge."[39] For 2012, the residential property tax rate in Cambridge is $8.48 per $1,000.[40] Cambridge enjoys the highest possible bond credit rating, AAA, with all three Wall Street rating agencies.[41]

Cambridge is noted for its diverse population, both racially and economically. Residents, known as Cantabrigians, include affluent MIT and Harvard professors. The first legal applications in America for same-sex marriage licenses were issued at Cambridge's City Hall.[42]

Cambridge is also the birthplace of Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), who is the world's longest reigning monarch at age 82 (2010), as well as the longest reigning monarch in Thai history. He is also the first king of a foreign country to be born in the United States.


Federal and state representationEdit

Voter registration and party enrollment as of October 15, 2008 (2008-10-15)[43]
Party Number of voters Percentage
  Democratic 37,822 58.43%
  Republican 3,280 5.07%
  Unaffiliated 22,935 35.43%
  Minor Parties 690 1.07%
Total 64,727 100%

Cambridge is part of Massachusetts's 8th congressional district, represented by Democrat Mike Capuano, elected in 1998. The state's senior member of the United States Senate is Democrat John Kerry, elected in 1984. The state's junior member is Democrat Elizabeth Warren, elected in 2012. The Governor of Massachusetts is Democrat Deval Patrick, elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.

On the state level, Cambridge is represented in six districts in the Massachusetts House of Representatives: the 24th Middlesex (which includes parts of Belmont and Arlington), the 25th and 26th Middlesex (the latter which includes a portion of Somerville), the 29th Middlesex (which includes a small part of Watertown), and the Eighth and Ninth Suffolk (both including parts of the City of Boston). The city is represented in the Massachusetts Senate as a part of the "First Suffolk and Middlesex" district (this contains parts of Boston, Revere and Winthrop each in Suffolk County); the "Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex" district, which includes Everett and Somerville, with Boston, Chelsea, and Revere of Suffolk, and Saugus in Essex; and the "Second Suffolk and Middlesex" district, containing parts of the City of Boston in Suffolk county, and Cambridge, Belmont and Watertown in Middlesex county.[44] In addition to the Cambridge Police Department, the city is patrolled by the Fifth (Brighton) Barracks of Troop H of the Massachusetts State Police.[45] Due, however, to close proximity, the city also practices functional cooperation with the Fourth (Boston) Barracks of Troop H, as well.[46]

City governmentEdit


Cambridge City Hall in the 1980s

Cambridge has a city government led by a Mayor and nine-member City Council. There is also a six-member School Committee which functions alongside the Superintendent of public schools. The councilors and school committee members are elected every two years using the single transferable vote (STV) system.[47] Once a laborious process that took several days to complete by hand, ballot sorting and calculations to determine the outcome of elections are now quickly performed by computer, after the ballots have been optically scanned.

The mayor is elected by the city councilors from amongst themselves, and serves as the chair of City Council meetings. The mayor also sits on the School Committee. However, the Mayor is not the Chief Executive of the City. Rather, the City Manager, who is appointed by the City Council, serves in that capacity.

Under the City's Plan E form of government the city council does not have the power to appoint or remove city officials who are under direction of the city manager. The city council and its individual members are also forbidden from giving orders to any subordinate of the city manager.[48]

Robert W. Healy is the City Manager; he has served in the position since 1981. In recent history, the media has highlighted the salary of the City Manager as being one of the highest in the State of Massachusetts.[49]

The city council consists of:[50]
  • Leland Cheung (Jan. 2010–present)
  • Henrietta Davis (Jan. 1996–present)*
  • Marjorie C. Decker (Jan. 2000–present)[51]
  • Craig A. Kelley (Jan. 2006–present)
  • David Maher (Jan. 2000-Jan. 2006, Sept. 2007–present[52])**
  • Kenneth Reeves (Jan. 1990–present)**
  • E. Denise Simmons (Jan. 2002–present)**
  • Timothy J. Toomey, Jr. (Jan. 1990–present)
  • Minka vanBeuzekom (Jan. 2012–present)

* = Current Mayor
** = former Mayor

Fire DepartmentEdit

The city of Cambridge is protected full-time by the 274 professional firefighters of the Cambridge Fire Department. The current Chief of Department is Gerald R. Reardon. The Cambridge Fire Department operates out of eight fire stations, located throughout the city, under the command of two divisions. The CFD also maintains and operates a front-line fire apparatus fleet of eight engines, four ladders, two Non-Transport Paramedic EMS units, a Haz-Mat unit, a Tactical Rescue unit, a Dive Rescue unit, two Marine units, and numerous special, support, and reserve units. John J. Gelinas, Chief of Operations, is in charge of day to day operation of the department.[53] The CFD is rated as a Class 1 fire department by the Insurance Services Office (ISO), and is one of only 32 fire departments so rated, out of 37,000 departments in the United States. The other class 1 departments in New England are in Hartford, Connecticut and Milford, Connecticut. Class 1 signifies the highest level of fire protection according to various criteria.[54] The CFD responds to approximately 15,000 emergency calls annually.

Engine Company Ladder Company Special Unit Division Address Neighborhood
Engine 1 Ladder 1 491 Broadway Harvard Square
Engine 2 Ladder 3 Squad 2 378 Massachusetts Ave. Lafayette Square
Engine 3 Ladder 2 175 Cambridge St. East Cambridge
Engine 4 Squad 4 2029 Massachusetts Ave. Porter Square
Engine 5 Division 1 1384 Cambridge St. Inman Square
Engine 6 176 River St. Cambridgeport
Engine 8 Ladder 4 Division 2 113 Garden St. Taylor Square
Engine 9 167 Lexington Ave West Cambridge
Maintenance Facility 100 Smith Pl.

Water DepartmentEdit

Cambridge is unusual among cities inside Route 128 in having a non-MWRA water supply. City water is obtained from Hobbs Brook (in Lincoln and Waltham), Stony Brook (Waltham and Weston), and Fresh Pond (Cambridge). The city owns over 1200 acres of land in other towns that includes these reservoirs and portions of their watershed.[55] Water is treated at Fresh Pond, then pumped uphill to an elevation of 176 feet (54 m) above sea level at the Payson Park Reservoir (Belmont); From there, the water is redistributed downhill via gravity to individual users in the city.[56][57]

County governmentEdit

Cambridge was a county seat of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, along with Lowell prior to the abolition of county government. Though the county government was abolished in 1997, the county still exists as a geographical and political region. The employees of Middlesex County courts, jails, registries, and other county agencies now work directly for the state. At present, the county's registrars of Deeds and Probate remain in Cambridge; however, the Superior Court and District Attorney have had their base of operations transferred to Woburn. Third District court has shifted operations to Medford, and the Sheriff's office for the county is still awaiting a near-term relocation.[58][59]


MIT Main Campus Aerial

Aerial view of part of MIT's main campus

Dunster House

Dunster House, Harvard

Higher educationEdit

Cambridge is perhaps best known as an academic and intellectual center, owing to its colleges and universities, which include:

At least 129 of the world's total 780 Nobel Prize winners have been, at some point in their careers, affiliated with universities in Cambridge.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is also based in Cambridge.

Primary and secondary public educationEdit

The Cambridge Public School District encompasses 12 elementary schools and 5 upper schools that follow a variety of different educational systems and philosophies.

The 12 elementary schools that offer grades K-5 are:[60]

  • Amigos School
  • Baldwin School
  • Cambridgeport School
  • Fletcher-Maynard Academy
  • Graham and Parks Alternative School
  • Haggerty School
  • Kennedy-Longfellow School
  • King Open School
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. School
  • Morse School (a Core Knowledge school)
  • Peabody School
  • Tobin School (a Montessori school)

The 5 upper schools which are physically located in some of the same buildings as the elementary schools offer grades 6-8. They are:[60]

  • Amigos School
  • Cambridge Street Upper School
  • Putnam Avenue Upper School
  • Rindge Avenue Upper School
  • Vassal Lane Upper School

There are three public high schools serving Cambridge students, including the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.[61] and Community Charter School of Cambridge (

In 2003, the CRLS, also known as Rindge, came close to losing its educational accreditation when it was placed on probation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.[62] The school has improved under Principal Chris Saheed, graduation rates hover around 98%, and 70% of students gain college admission.

Community Charter School of Cambridge serves 350 students, primarily from Boston and Cambridge, and is a tuition free public charter school with a college preparatory curriculum. All students from the class of 2009 and 2010 gained admission to college.

Outside of the main public schools are public charter schools including: Benjamin Banneker Charter School, which serves students in grades K-6,[63] Community Charter School of Cambridge,[64] which is located in Kendall Square and serves students in grades 7–12, and Prospect Hill Academy, a charter school whose upper school is in Central Square, though it is not a part of the Cambridge Public School District.

Primary and secondary private educationEdit

Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge Public Library original building, part of an expanded facility

There are also many private schools in the city including:


Cambridge Skyline

Buildings of Kendall Square, center of Cambridge's biotech economy, seen from the Charles River

Manufacturing was an important part of the economy in the late 19th and early 20th century, but educational institutions are the city's biggest employers today. Harvard and MIT together employ about 20,000.[65] As a cradle of technological innovation, Cambridge was home to technology firms Analog Devices, Akamai, Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN Technologies) (now part of Raytheon), General Radio (later GenRad), Lotus Development Corporation (now part of IBM), Polaroid, Symbolics, and Thinking Machines.

In 1996, Polaroid, Arthur D. Little, and Lotus were top employers with over 1,000 employees in Cambridge, but faded out a few years later. Health care and biotechnology firms such as Genzyme, Biogen Idec, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Sanofi, Pfizer and Novartis[66] have significant presences in the city. Though headquartered in Switzerland, Novartis continues to expand its operations in Cambridge. Other major biotech and pharmaceutical firms expanding their presence in Cambridge include GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Shire, and Pfizer.[67] Most Biotech firms in Cambridge are located around Kendall Square and East Cambridge, which decades ago were the city's center of manufacturing. A number of biotechnology companies are also located in University Park at MIT, a new development in another former manufacturing area.

None of the high technology firms that once dominated the economy was among the 25 largest employers in 2005, but by 2008 high tech companies Akamai and ITA Software had grown to be among the largest 25 employers.[65] Google,[68] IBM Research, and Microsoft Research maintain offices in Cambridge. In late January 2012—less than a year after acquiring Billerica-based analytic database management company, VerticaHewlett-Packard announced it would also be opening its first offices in Cambridge.[69] Around this same time, e-commerce giants Staples[70] and[71] said they would be opening research and innovation centers in Kendall Square. Video game developer Harmonix Music Systems is based in Central Square.

The proximity of Cambridge's universities has also made the city a center for nonprofit groups and think tanks, including the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cultural Survival, and One Laptop per Child.

In September 2011, an initiative by the City of Cambridge called the "Entrepreneur Walk of Fame" was launched. It seeks to highlight individuals who have made contributions to innovation in the global business community.[72]

Top employersEdit

The top ten employers in the city are:[73]

# Employer # of employees
1 Harvard University 10,718
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 7,604
3 City of Cambridge 2,922
4 Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research 2,095
5 Mount Auburn Hospital 1,665
6 Vertex Pharmaceuticals 1,600
7 Genzyme 1,504
8 Biogen Idec 1,350
9 Federal Government 1,316
10 Pfizer 1,300



Harvard Square at Peabody Street and Mass Avenue

Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square

Several major roads lead to Cambridge, including Route 2, Route 16 and the McGrath Highway (Route 28). The Massachusetts Turnpike does not pass through Cambridge, but provides access by an exit in nearby Allston. Both U.S. Route 1 and I-93 (MA) also provide additional access on the eastern end of Cambridge at Leverett Circle in Boston. Route 2A runs the length of the city, chiefly along Massachusetts Avenue. The Charles River forms the southern border of Cambridge and is crossed by 11 bridges connecting Cambridge to Boston, including the Longfellow Bridge and the Harvard Bridge, eight of which are open to motorized road traffic.

Cambridge has an irregular street network because many of the roads date from the colonial era. Contrary to popular belief, the road system did not evolve from longstanding cow-paths. Roads connected various village settlements with each other and nearby towns, and were shaped by geographic features, most notably streams, hills, and swampy areas. Today, the major "squares" are typically connected by long, mostly straight roads, such as Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard Square and Central Square, or Hampshire Street between Kendall Square and Inman Square.

Mass transitEdit

Central MBTA station

Central station on the MBTA Red Line

Cambridge is well served by the MBTA, including the Porter Square stop on the regional Commuter Rail, the Lechmere stop on the Green Line, and five stops on the Red Line (Alewife, Porter Square, Harvard Square, Central Square, and Kendall Square/MIT). Alewife Station, the current terminus of the Red Line, has a large multi-story parking garage (at a rate of $7 per day as of 2009).[74] The Harvard Bus Tunnel, under Harvard Square, reduces traffic congestion on the surface, and connects to the Red Line underground. This tunnel was originally opened for streetcars in 1912, and served trackless trolleys and buses as the routes were converted. The tunnel was partially reconfigured when the Red Line was extended to Alewife in the early 1980s.

Outside of the state-owned transit agency, the city is also served by the Charles River Transportation Management Agency (CRTMA) shuttles which are supported by some of the largest companies operating in city, in addition to the municipal government itself.[75]


Cambridge has several bike paths, including one along the Charles River,[76] and the Linear Park connecting the Minuteman Bikeway at Alewife with the Somerville Community Path. Bike parking is common and there are bike lanes on many streets, although concerns have been expressed regarding the suitability of many of the lanes. On several central MIT streets, bike lanes transfer onto the sidewalk. Cambridge bans cycling on certain sections of sidewalk where pedestrian traffic is heavy.[77][78]

While Bicycling Magazine has rated Boston as one of the worst cities in the nation for bicycling (In their words, for "lousy roads, scarce and unconnected bike lanes and bike-friendly gestures from City Hall that go nowhere—such as hiring a bike coordinator in 2001, only to cut the position two years later"),[79] it has listed Cambridge as an honorable mention as one of the best[80] and was called by the magazine "Boston's Great Hope." Cambridge has an active, official bicycle committee.


Weeks Footbridge Cambridge, MA

The Weeks Bridge provides a pedestrian-only connection between Boston's Allston-Brighton neighborhood and Cambridge over the Charles River

Walking is a popular activity in Cambridge. Per year 2000 data, of the communities in the U.S. with more than 100,000 residents, Cambridge has the highest percentage of commuters who walk to work.[81] Cambridge receives a "Walk Score" of 100 out of 100 possible points.[82] Cambridge's major historic squares have been recently changed into a modern walking landscape, which has sparked a traffic calming program based on the needs of pedestrians rather than of motorists.


The Boston intercity bus and train stations at South Station, Boston, and Logan International Airport in East Boston, are accessible by subway. The Fitchburg Line rail service from Porter Square connects to some western suburbs. Since October 2010, there has also been intercity bus service between Alewife Station (Cambridge) and New York City.[83]



Cambridge is served by several weekly newspapers. The most prominent is the Cambridge Chronicle, which is also the oldest surviving weekly paper in the United States.


Cambridge is home to the following commercially licensed and student-run radio stations:

Callsign Frequency City/town Licensee Format
WHRB 95.3 FM Cambridge (Harvard) Harvard Radio Broadcasting Co., Inc. Musical variety
WJIB 740 AM Cambridge Bob Bittner Broadcasting Adult Standards/Pop
WMBR 88.1 FM Cambridge (MIT) Technology Broadcasting Corporation College radio


Cambridge Community Television (CCTV) has served the Cambridge community since its inception in 1988. CCTV operates Cambridge's public access television facility and programs three television channels, 8, 9, and 96 on the Cambridge cable system (Comcast).

Social mediaEdit

As of 2011, a growing number of social media efforts provide means for participatory engagement with the locality of Cambridge, such as Localocracy[84] and Foursquare.

Culture, art and architectureEdit


Fogg Museum, Harvard


Public artEdit

Cambridge has a large and varied collection of permanent public art, both on city property (managed by the Cambridge Arts Council),[85] and on the campuses of Harvard[86] and MIT.[87] Temporary public artworks are displayed as part of the annual Cambridge River Festival on the banks of the Charles River, during winter celebrations in Harvard and Central Squares, and at university campus sites. Experimental forms of public artistic and cultural expression include the Central Square World's Fair, the Somerville-based annual Honk! Festival,[88] and If This House Could Talk,[89] a neighborhood art and history event. An active tradition of street musicians and other performers in Harvard Square entertains an audience of tourists and local residents during the warmer months of the year. The performances are coordinated through a public process that has been developed collaboratively by the performers,[90] city administrators, private organizations and business groups.[91]

Longfellow National Historic Site, Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Longfellow National Historic Site

Wfm stata center

Stata Center, MIT

Simmons Hall, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Simmons Hall, MIT


Despite intensive urbanization during the late 19th century and 20th century, Cambridge has preserved an unusual number of historic buildings, including some dating to the 17th century. The city also contains an abundance of innovative contemporary architecture, largely built by Harvard and MIT.

Notable historic buildings in the city include
Contemporary architecture


The city has an active music scene from classical performances to the latest popular bands.

Sister citiesEdit

Cambridge has 8 active, official sister cities, and an unofficial relationship with Cambridge, England:[93]

Ten other official sister city relationships are inactive: Dublin, Ireland; Ischia, Catania, and Florence, Italy; Kraków, Poland; Santo Domingo Oeste, Dominican Republic; Southwark, London, England; Yuseong, Daejeon, Korea; and Haidian, Beijing, China.[93]

There has also been an unofficial relationship with:

Zip codesEdit

  • 02138—Harvard Square/West Cambridge
  • 02139—Central Square/Inman Square/MIT
  • 02140—Porter Square/North Cambridge
  • 02141—East Cambridge
  • 02142—Kendall Square


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General referencesEdit

  • History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Volume 1 (A-H), Volume 2 (L-W) compiled by Samuel Adams Drake, published 1879–1880.
  • Eliot, Samuel Atkins. A History of Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1630–1913. Cambridge: The Cambridge Tribune, 1913.
  • Hiestand, Emily. "Watershed: An Excursion in Four Parts" The Georgia Review Spring 1998 pages 7–28
  • Paige, Lucius. History of Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1630–1877. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1877.
  • Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge: Mid Cambridge, 1967, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge, Mass.Template:ISBN missing
  • Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge: Cambridgeport, 1971 ISBN 0-262-53013-9, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge: Old Cambridge, 1973 ISBN 0-262-53014-7, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge: Northwest Cambridge, 1977 ISBN 0-262-53032-5, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge: East Cambridge, 1988 (revised) ISBN 0-262-53078-3, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Sinclair, Jill (April 2009). Fresh Pond: The History of a Cambridge Landscape. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-19591-1. 
  • Seaburg, Alan (2001). Cambridge on the Charles. Billerica, Mass.: Anne Miniver Press. ISBN 978-0-9625794-9-3. 

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