Category Archives: cambridge ma

Five interesting and random things to see along Mass Ave.

Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge is always morphing, and always interesting. Here are five kind of cool things that you may not have known about on Cambridge’s main thoroughfare.

1. The Porcellian Club (1324 Massachusetts Ave) The nondescript brick facade gives no hint of the centuries of power and money that this Harvard University men’s-only social club has nurtured. Founded in 1791, the pig-themed club is considered one of the most exclusive in collegiate history, even denying membership to the most elite Harvard students.

Barred from joining, future President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked in his thirties that not getting in to the Porcellian Club was the “biggest disappointment of my life.” Kennedy clan patriarch was also denied entry, much to his bitter disappointment.

Be sure to check out the gate directly across the street from the club that erected by Porcellian club members in honor of  Joseph McKean, one of the club’s founders.

2. The Houghton Beech (next to 1008 Massachusetts Ave)

The magnificent but slightly claustrophobic looking beech tree at 1008 Mass Ave is the Houghton Beech, Cambridge’s only living historical landmark. The tree was planted over 150 years ago on the estate of Henry O. Houghton, Cambridge’s one-time mayor and founder of the Houghton Mifflin Company and Riverside Press. MIT acquired the property in the 1970s, demolishing the original buildings. When a 1985 development threatened to destroy the tree, neighborhood activists fought to keep the tree standing by having it declared an historic landmark.

3. Central Square Movie Theater

Before (via Flickr)

There used to be two movie theaters in Central Square – the long-gone Central Square Movie Theater and the Orson Welles. Can you imagine how great that was? Maybe someone could start a Kickstarter campaign to bring back movies to Mass Ave. Maybe that person could also make it a family-friendly dinner theater that serves good food and beer. Just saying.

Now

 

4. MIT Nuclear Reactor

There is a nuclear reactor on MIT’s campus, just steps away from Mass Ave next to the Metropolitan Storage facility. And it’s run by students. And it’s over 50 years old. Gulp.

(image via Wikipedia)

5. Harry Houdini plaque (end of Mass Ave Bridge, Boston side)

In April 1908, magician Harry Houdini performed one of his famous escapes right at the end of the Mass Ave bridge on the Boston side. According to reports, Houdini walked from his nearby hotel to the still frigid Charles River, where he had himself bound in chains. The reporters asked him if he was afraid. With a loud laugh, Houdini responded, “Afraid? What do I have to fear? I am the King of Handcuffs. Nothing can hold me!” He then jumped into the frigid river where he remained before a spellbound audience of 10,000. He eventually surfaced.

(image via Bluestein Design)

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Globe Corner Bookstore & Curious George to close

Harvard Square institutions Globe Corner Bookstore and Curious George Goes to Wordsworth are both set to close, leaving a huge hole in the city’s independent bookstore landscape. Curious George is also one of the only places in Harvard Square left to buy toys and great kids books.

Read more at Wicked Local.

Location update: Hollywood Express is now Life Alive

I had a sad in my blog when Hollywood Express closed down, but I have to admit, the new restaurant Life Alive is rocking Central Square. Food is great – fresh, nutritious, tasty.Vibe is spiritual-hip, with lots of wood, comfy seats, flower of lifes, Buddhas, wood and growing things. the place always seems to be packed. This is a good thing.

And it has a kids playspace downstairs.

And you can get beer and wine. No coffee though (thanks to a non-competition agreement with 1369 Coffeehouse next door). Hope you like dandelion tea.

Happy Mass Ave: Artist & Craftsman Supply

Sure, there are plenty of banks in Central Square, but where do you go for things that are actually useful, like drawing pads, paint, and toys?

Artist and Craftsman Supply is hands down one of the best shopping destinations in Central Square – hell – in CAMBRIDGE. Not only do their art supplies blow the pants off of other art stores, like the now mercifully shuttered Pearl, they have actual, awesome toys.

toys!

Maybe you don’t care about toys, but I do. And my daughter sure as shakes cares about them. And not just any toys mind you, but interesting, well-crafted, often eco-friendly toys that make great gifts for, I don’t know, birthday parties and as a reward for going potty on the actual potty itself.

They have a ton of more grown-up toys, just in case the kid scene isn’t your thing.

Please go in and support them, or just say hi. The entire staff is very friendly and helpful, which might just be in part because the store happens to be worker-owned.

Happy Massachusetts Ave

springtime ant hole mandala by my 4-year-old

I can’t post any more negative news for a while. There are so many batshit insane things happening in the world that I need my own little corner of the universe (aka Central Square) to be warm and fuzzy. But seriously, there is some great stuff happening in Cambridge these days and I can’t wait to tell you about it. Some of the closed storefronts have found great new uses recently (many are still shuttered too), and I am a happy girl.

  • A few new vegetarian restaurants opening in Central Sq (one vegan)
  • A Pinkberry in Harvard Sq (I don’t care what it is, it sounds happy)
  • The Central Square library has reopened after a ridiculously long renovation.
  • Boomerangs is going to be opening up in Central Sq
  • Jeff Mangum is playing the Sanders Theater in September.

Cambridge is a wonderful place.

Jeff Mangum pen and ink drawing, won in a charity auction

Thank you, Billy Ruane

Billy Ruane in front of the Middle East on Mass Ave, 1988

Stores, as vital as they are to the health and wealth of a city, are ultimately cold shadows compared to the people that make the streets hum and breathe.

 

We learned this the hard way when Boston music patron, impresario, wild dancer, and all around beloved friend Billy Ruane passed away last week at the age of 53.

While I did not know him personally (although many of my friends did), I am celebrating all that he brought to the city. I did not know it in my music days, but I had Billy to thank for bringing music to the Middle East, and helping to establish countless bands.

Thank you for making Mass Ave such a vibrant place, Billy. You will be missed.

Central Square Banksy mural removed

Before

After
So what do you do when you get a mural on the side of your building by a world-famous artist whose other murals have been valued at upwards of $600,000? You remove it of course!

In all fairness, I don’t know if it was Supercuts or the City of Cambridge who had it removed, but either way, bad move.

(Thanks JJ for the heads up)