Bulfinch Courthouse, c. 1975, History Cambridge collection

Heading East

By Michael Kenney, 2013

To head east along Cambridge Street is to become instantly conscious that this is not the Cambridge of academia and mansions, of student hangouts and jazz clubs.

It is a Cambridge that pulses with an almost old-world vitality. There are three older men chatting on the sidewalk and children in school uniforms, a Portuguese social club and an Italian market. Along its streets are the tidy three-deckers and tenements built by earlier generations.

While this is not the Old Cambridge of Tory Row, it is in East Cambridge that Thomas Graves, the future city’s first settler, lived and where the road to the Revolution began.

It is a Cambridge where hogs were slaughtered – 5,000 a day – and where shoes and leather coats, soaps and steam valves, were made. It is a Cambridge that marks the feast days of saints as well as national holidays.

Then, as Cambridge Street moves down the old drumlin toward the river, the dark red brick buildings of Bulfinch’s courthouses appear – a reminder that the visitor has not quite left “Old” Cambridge behind.