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Central Square: 1912

Cambridge, Massachusetts, circa 1912. "Central Square and Massachusetts Avenue." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, circa 1912. "Central Square and Massachusetts Avenue." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Central Square was NOT seedy

It's an urban center, not unlike neighborhoods in the Upper West or East Side in NYC. It had music, food, culture, and people. Not any different than Harvard Square just up the road.

I suppose if you grow up in leafy quiet suburbia in the middle of nowhere, an urban center can seem dangerous. Suggestion: Get out more.

A trigger shot --

So many threads to my life in and around Central Square.

My first job while in school was at a print shop on the bottom floor of 678 Mass Ave. Not sure if this image has that building or a predecessor. The one I'm referring to was built in 1910. It could well be the one we see along the left of the image. Somehow I ended up with an old lawyer's desk from an office in that building. The desk itself is massive -- sits in our basement, and probably got moved into the building when it was newly finished.

Our marriage license sits in the records for the City of Cambridge -- the bell tower in the background. I also had to pay many a parking ticket, some earned by my roommates who'd borrow my car to tool around Boston.

There was nightlife in the 1980s and '90s in the area -- the Middle East just down the street toward MIT, and the Man-Ray / Campus dance club off one of the side streets.

And if you were in college and you needed to get a tux, you took the Red Line to Central Square and walked to Keezer's, a consignment shop with rows of options in all sizes.

This was a delightful morning visit, Shorpy! Thanks so much!

A Civil War Veteran?

I wonder if the bewhiskered elderly gentleman on the corner was heading to Post 30 of the Grand Army of the Republic or to inquire of T.H. Raymond about automobile insurance for his new Oldsmobile Autocrat. Though the horse still dominated in Cambridge this may be the oldest window display for automobile insurance I have seen on Shorpy.

William H. Smart Post 30, Massachusetts Department GAR, was chartered in 1867 and surrendered the charter in 1935. It was named for Private William H. Smart of Company G, 1st Massachusetts Infantry, killed at Blackburn's Ford, Virginia, in 1861.

There is lots of detailed GAR information available on the www.

Next to Harvard Square

That hustle and bustle seen here are still going on today in a vibrant neighborhood and melting pot of culture. The street is Massachusetts Avenue, which stretches from downtown Boston through Cambridge and beyond to the suburbs. The cobblestone streets are under the modern pavement in some areas that were still there many years later. It's a rich and interesting area, full of life.


I think I've seen those kind of caps called "newsboys' caps." They're young guys' caps, so I guess it was natural for kids on the street to adopt them. The two guys talking on the corner look like they're from Central Casting -- 'get me a couple newsies.'

Seedy encounter

Central Square was the site of my weirdest urban panhandler experience. One summer around 1980, I came out of the Central Square T station and was accosted by a loquacious street denizen. He wanted money, but rather quickly got fixated on my pants, which were corduroy. I wore corduroy year-round, an affectation I did not consider too weird for Massachusetts. The panhandler got so worked up about my fashion inappropriateness that he seemed to forget about money. I thought perhaps he wanted me to give him my pants, but being some distance from Filene's Basement, I didn't think I could get away with it.

100 Years Of Convenience

I've spent much time in and around this corner. Interesting to see that the Oak Grove Grocery in 1912 sat in the same spot (albeit in a new building) as Store 24 in the 1990s and Convenience Plus in recent years. At least it's not a bank -- yet.

Klashman Bros. Tailors

I wonder if that’s Mr. Klashman who just finished crossing the street on the left, his right heel in the air.

Sounds like a jingle ...

"Have a lunch and a shine!"

The main difference

The way the women dress now is scandalous!

Formerly Seedy Central Square

My first job after college was in Central Square, a couple blocks past City Hall (the tower at the center of the photo). Then, in 1980, Central Square was interesting but a bit run-down. On my last visit a couple years ago, I found it gentrified, but lacking its former character.

Voted least likely

to still be here, by those born with a cynic's soul (or who have since acquired one by being disappointed one too many times by vintage photos), it surprises:

Adding to the simple joy of mere survivalhood, it forms a particularly nice Romanesque ensemble with the Cambridge City Hall across the street.

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