Tag Archives: harvard square

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)

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.

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

A hole in the heart of Harvard Square

alpha omega It’s been closed for over two years, but the storefront that once housed Alpha Omega jewelers at 1380 Massachusetts Ave is still jarring in its emptiness. In what should be the most desirable space in retail, there appear to be no plans to develop this enormous property.

Alpha Omega closed abruptly right before Christmas, 2007 when the owner fled the country with his family.

All Day I Dream About Storefronts

Adidas store mass aveThe Adidas boutique on Mass Ave in Harvard Sq is gone, and I’m not sorry. There, I said it. To me, it’s always been a symbol of everything corporate, overpriced, and overly shiny about what Harvard Square has become. The old photo store Ferranti Dege next door left a big hole, as did the sweet children’s boutique Calliope. Harvard Square did not need an overpriced shoe store, but what is going to take its place?

What was this storefront before Adidas – anyone know?
Of course it was the famous music store Briggs & Briggs. Thanks!