Cambridge Open Archives City Collections Tour 2012

Cambridge Open Archives City Collections Tour 2012

A new book published by a Cambridge author, a traffic pattern analysis report, a controversy over new building construction. These sound like today’s headlines, but are just a few of the topics current over the past two hundred years that were covered in The City Collections Tour of the Fourth Annual Cambridge Open Archives Tour.

One of four tours, organized by the Cambridge Historical Society during the week of July 9 and hosted by twelve organizations or city departments, The City Collections Tour I attended included visits to:

  • The Cambridge Department of Public Works
  • The Cambridge Historical Commission
  • The Cambridge Public Library

See Mary Holbrow’s coverage of Tour 2: Harvard Libraries at

The traffic pattern analysis, just one of many maps, schematics, incident reports and other items shared by George Stylianopoulos of the Department of Public Works, was a striking pen and ink drawing from 1923 shown above.

Kit Rawlins, of the Cambridge Historical Commission, and Michael Kenney, a resident of Cambridgeport and an intrepid researcher who volunteers at both the Commission and the Society, used the event theme of “famous and infamous” to showcase the many taverns across the city in the nineteenth century and the battles waged to close them down and, in many cases, reopen them soon after. As Cambridge is frequently on the forefront of things, all this happened long before the Federal prohibition of the 1920’s.

One enterprising saloon owner moved just a few hundred feet from Somerville to Cambridge to get around liquor licensing laws. Mr Dewire sold liquor in a shop near the Somerville/Cambridge line; when Somerville voted No License in 1884, Dewire bought a lot in Cambridge only a few hundred feet from his original shop and erected a double house “of some pretension.” He was quite successful until Cambridge also went No License in 1887.

Our final stop on the tour was The Cambridge Room of the Public Library, where Alyssa Pacy showed us several interesting artifacts, including the original hand-written manuscript of History of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1630-1877 by Lucius R. Paige, published in 1877.

Alyssa requested the public’s assistance in identifying a photo entitled “The Coliseum, 1872” from the library’s collection included at the end of the video below. If you know anything about it, please contact her at

This video features an interview with Gavin Kleespies, Executive Director of The Cambridge Historical Society about this annual event, the largest of its kind in America.

I’ve lived in Cambridge a long time and thought I knew it well, but I know a lot more about its history now!

While the Open Archives Tour comes only once a year, all of the participating institutions make portions of their collections available throughout the year. A full list of organizations with web links is available at