Category Archives: Uncategorized

Famous Trees of Cambridge

[Originally published in the Cambridge Chronicle, August 2002]

Cambridge has been doubly blessed in terms of its natural architecture–both by a long history reflected in the trees and also by its progressive contemporary policies toward them. Take a walk or bike ride one of these summer days when the weather is warm and the foliage at its peak to learn about some of Cambridge’s most prominent trees.

The Houghton Beech

The magnificent but slightly claustrophobic looking beech tree at 1008 Mass Ave is the Houghton Beech, Cambridge’s only living landmark. 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, the tree was threatened but saved in the 1970s when MIT acquired the property and demolished the original buildings. Then in the 1980s, the tree was scheduled to be destroyed to make way for the sprawling apartment complex that now occupies the site. Neighborhood activists intervened and in 1985, the tree was declared a historic landmark.

Washington ElmThe Washington Elm

If you travel carefully across the busy intersection at Mason and Garden Streets, you’ll see all that remains of the most famous of Cambridge’s trees, a brass plate commemorating where the Washington Elm once stood. Born in the forests of pre-Colonial Cambridge, the elm is said to have sheltered George Washington as he took command of the American Army in July 1775. For almost 150 years, it was the most beloved of American elm trees–a prime tourist destination and subject of countless accolades. Its last decades saw it decline to a sad shadow of its former glory, and the remains were toppled by a storm in 1923. Today its scion lives nearby in the Cambridge Common.

Winnie-the-Pooh’s House

[Note: does this still exist?] Children will be delighted to learn that Winnie-the-Pooh keeps a city apartment on Hurlbut Street, between Harvard and Porter Squares for his trips away from Pooh Corner. Carved from the stump of a 100-year old silver maple by prolific Cambridge artist Mitch Ryerson and local resident Irven DeVore, the Pooh Tree has attracted thousands of well-wishers from around the world since it was created in 1998. Visitors are encouraged to sign Pooh’s guest book and inspect his tiny bedroom (complete with Hunny Pot) by peeking through the windows at the base of the tree.

Longfellow’s Linden

To the right of the poet’s famous house at 105 Brattle Street is the only living survivor of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s era—-a grand linden tree more than 200 years old and 110 feet high. Longfellow mentioned the tree in his diary: “Fanny sits under the linden tree and reads to me Heine’s poems…”

The Memorial Drive Sycamores

It’s only thanks to the efforts of two men, John Moot and Edward L. Bernays (aka the “Father of Public Relations” that the grand row of sycamores still lines the stretch of Memorial Drive near Harvard Square. In 1964, a proposed highway interchange project was approved that would have destroyed the trees. Moot and Bernays caught wind of the project and mobilized widespread support for the trees. The project was halted and the sycamores continue to grace the roadway as they have done for over 150 years.

Mount Auburn Cemetary

The first and greatest of America’s garden cemeteries is home to one of the world’s greatest collections of trees and other plants. With over 6,000 mature trees marked clearly with identifying tags, Mount Auburn Cemetery is the perfect place to learn to identify new trees or just admire the view. Many of the trees here were planted in the 1830s when the cemetery was consecrated and are now reaching their full maturity and glory.


Central Square to get a Target in 2017

photo-4Cort Furniture on the corner of Pearl Street and Mass Ave will become a Target sometime in 2017. But don’t fret the big box invasion exactly – this will be one of Target’s new CityTarget stores, smaller and more focused on the urban consumer.

I can’t help but worry that some longtime Central Square institutions like Economy Hardware and Pill Hardware might suffer with the new competition. What do you think? Is this a boon for Central Square or just another nail in the coffin in Central Square’s economic diversity?


OMG Boomerangs in Central Square

Have you been to the new Boomerangs that just opened in Central Square where the Attic once was? (563 Massachusetts Ave)

Go. Now.

Not only do your purchases support the AIDS Action Committee, but it’s shaping up to be a Central Square institution.

Treasures. Clothing. Furniture. Local Central Square celebrities (such as the “guy with the fence” on Brookline and Franklin, aka my neighbor).

Last week I found an unused full cowhide for $5 that I used to patch our leather chair.

Also, make sure you check out the stairway to nowhere and the old air conditioning sign that used to be the wall for the Central Square Movie theater that was most recently a Blockbuster video.

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.


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.

Oriental Dynasty Furniture is closing

Another venerable member of the old Mass Ave furniture row is closing. This time it’s Oriental Dynasty Furniture, which sold new and used Asian furniture and home accessories. I sensed the end was coming a few months back when I saw the “Now taking consignments” sign in the window, followed by a permanent sale sign. That and almost every other furniture store on the block has closed (closely watching Bo Concept and Crate & Barrel now).

Please excuse the lame photo. I am now working full time far, far from Cambridge and can’t get over to photograph that often. Or post for that matter!

Have any tips or photos you would like me to post? Let me know: lotuspadyoga [at] gmail [dot] com

Rodney’s Bookstore is closing

This one is really depressing. I love Rodneys. I love it for so many reasons – not only do they have one of the biggest and best collections of used books in the area, they also have an amazing selection of new books, toys, posters, and most importantly, kids books. Rodneys is one of the few kid-friendly retail destinations left in the neighborhood. And it is a destination, about as much fun to go to as the park for my daughter.

Apparently, they will be open through the summer. Everything is 50% off. Come fall, Central Square will shed a collective tear.

UPDATE: Rodney’s is most definitely NOT closing. When asked why, the terse clerk responded that the “city stepped in.” He clearly did not want to discuss it,  so does anyone else have the story?

Empty Mass Ave in the Harvard Crimson

Our little blog got a mention in today’s Harvard Crimson, which we thought was pretty cool.

I was excited to hear that “many of the businesses whose closings are documented on Downey’s blog already have been or will soon be replaced.” Great news!

Apparently there are plans to demolish the old Bowl & Board and replace it with a new construction (wonder if it will include retail?), and certainly the old Adidas/Briggs & Briggs store seems to be getting some action. But I would love to know the plans for many of the others, including the old Alpha Omega store, and the row of empty storefronts that run from about Trowbridge Street to Dana Street (the old furniture row), ans especially the many large storefronts in Central Square.

Comment, HSBA?