Cambridge Oral History Projects
The Cambridge Historical Commission has published four oral histories. Follow the underlined links for more information,
CURRENT PROJECT DETAILS:
Area 4/The Port Oral History Project is Underway
The Commission has recently begun an exciting new oral history project on Area 4 or the Port, a diverse neighborhood of African Americans, West Indians, Latinos, Irish, Haitians, Lithuanians, and many other ethnic groups. Area 4 is bounded by Prospect, Hampshire, and Portland streets, and Massachusetts Avenue.
Beginning with the opening of the West Boston Bridge (now site of the Longfellow Bridge) in 1793, Cambridgeport became an important commercial location. In 1805, Cambridgeport was declared a U.S. port of delivery, increasing the development of businesses, stores, and residences. The Embargo of 1807-1809 and the War of 1812 negatively affected land values and commercial ventures, so by 1815 the future of Cambridgeport as a commercial center looked bleak.
The Cambridgeport economy depended on commercial traffic passing back and forth between that area and Boston via the West Boston Bridge. Main Street and Massachusetts Avenue were the main thoroughfares, and a business strip ran from Inman Street on the west to Windsor Street on the east. After 1850, industrialization of the area spread rapidly: soap-making, printing, confectionery, rubber, piano, and paper box-making factories filled the neighborhood.
In the mid to late 1800s, people from Ireland, then eastern Europe and the South immigrated to Cambridgeport. They were followed by immigrants from the West Indies and Central and South America during the 20th century. Immigrants walked to and worked in neighborhood businesses and factories. Eventually the attraction to Boston, its industries and commercial and retail centers, as well as taverns which were not under the Cambridge No License laws, drew residents away from the Port.
Interviews for the
project will include many of the older residents whose families came from
Ireland, Greece, and from Barbados or the southern states, as well as
more recent immigrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico,
If you would like to learn more about the project, please contact Sarah Boyer:
Pictured below: Plate 7, Atlas of the
City of Cambridge, Massachusetts. G. W. Bromley & Co., 1916.
Click on the map for a zoomed in view.
Pictured below: Plate 8, Atlas of the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
G. W. Bromley & Co., 1916. Click on the map for a zoomed in view.