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Explore Self-Guided Cambridge Historical Walking Tours

Explore Self-Guided Cambridge Historical Walking Tours

Learn about our city’s fascinating history while enjoying outdoors with these Cambridge Historical Society Self-Guided Walking Tours.

Whether you are brand new to our fair city – welcome! – or a long-time resident, exploring one or more of the Cambridge Historical Society Self-Guided Tours is a great way to enjoy the fall weather while learning more about the fascinating history of Cambridge.

I explored two tours during September. Each has a detailed downloadable PDF with photos and lots of historical information; I'm providing a few highlights in this article.

Caribbean Community in the Port

This tour, created by Marian Darlington-Hope & Joe Galusha, focuses on the history of the Caribbean community in the Port through personal stories in the context of places of work, education, worship, and outreach.

  • The tour starts at Squirrel Brand Park (photo 1). Squirrel Brand was a candy company and part of “confectioner’s row” when Cambridge was the candy capital of the world, making long-time favorites including Charleston Chews and Sugar Daddies. Many Port community members worked at Squirrel Brands or one of the other candy companies in the Port. In the late 1980s, Squirrel Brand was moving and a group of people in the neighborhood fought for the building to be turned into housing.
  • The tour ends at Pentacostal Tabernacle Church (photo 2). The congregation was founded in 1927 and purchased this building in 1947 when they ran out of space in their original location on Austin Street (now Bishop Allen Drive). Roughly 60% of the congregation comes from outside of the United States and there are roughly 30 different countries of the African continent represented. The church is has long history of being very active in the community.

Clay, Bricks, Dump, Park: A Walking Tour of North Cambridge

This tour, created by Joe Galusha, begins with glacial time – 10,000 years ago when ice left behind vast deposits of clay in North Cambridge, then fast-forwards 9,800 years to the neighborhood’s brickmaking heyday, and the dump left in its wake. Clay shaped one of Cambridge’s biggest industries, and the lives of North Cantabrigians for generations.

  • The tour begins at Jerry’s Pit/Pond (photo 3). Jerry’s Pond, which some know better as Jerry’s Pit, used to be a fairly large clay pit, named after Jeremiah McCrehan, an Irish immigrant who came here in the 1840’s or 50’s, and found work in the claypits and brickyards. In the early days of the brick-industry, most of the workers immigrated here from Ireland, pushed out of their homes by the Irish Potato Famine.
  • The tour ends at Danehy Park (photo 4). The land that is now Danehy Park was opened to clay excavation in 1847, right at the beginning of the brick-making industry, and was used until 1952. After years of serving as a trash dump and then a construction staging area for the Red Line extension to Alewife, the 50-acre space is now a recreational facility with wide-open spaces, paved paths, sports fields, playgrounds, a dog park, picnic tables and grills, and a 2-acre wetlands area.

These are just two of the - currently - nine self-guided tours available on the Cambridge Historical Society website. Others include a bike tour entitled Pedaling the People’s Republic, A History of Political Activism in Cambridge and Huron Village's Modern Houses.