Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Cambridge City Hall
Cambridge City Hall

Cambridge is a city in the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts, United States. It was named in honor of Cambridge, England, the town where its founding fathers had studied (at Cambridge University). Cambridge is most famous for the two prominent universities that call it home: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 101,355, though even more people commute into Cambridge to work.

Cambridge is the county seat of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. However, the county government was abolished in 1997. Although the county still exists as a geographical and political region, with Middlesex County courts and jails and such, county employees now work for the state.


About the city

A view of Harvard across the Charles River
A view of Harvard across the Charles River

The diversity of the population is striking. Residents, known as Cantabrigians (although the term isn't in common currency as it is in Cambridge, England), range from distinguished Harvard professors to working-class families to immigrants from around the world. This diversity contributes to the liberal atmosphere, and may be compared to Berkeley, California, in some respects. It is sometimes referred to as the "People's Republic of Cambridge" because of the city's famously liberal politics; political organizers often congregate at the Red Line T station in Harvard Square.

Cambridge has been called the city of Squares, most likely because most of its major street intersections are known as Squares. (In the Greater Boston area, a "Square" is merely a major intersection. Very few of these "squares" have four sides. Both of these facts stem from the usually stated origin of squares. The traditional square is said to be the result of the arc swept out by timber brought through on roadways to market/port.) Each of the Squares acts as something of a neighborhood center. These include:

  • Kendall Square, formed by the junction of Broadway, Main Street, and Third Street. Just over the Longfellow Bridge from Boston, at the eastern end of the MIT campus. It is served by an MBTA Red Line station. A flourishing biotech industry has grown up around here. The "One Kendall Square" complex is nearby, but -- confusingly -- not actually in Kendall Square.
  • Central Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Prospect Street, and Western Avenue. This is perhaps the closest thing Cambridge has to a downtown, and is well-known for its wide variety of ethnic restaurants. Even as recently as the late 1990s it was rather run-down; it has become more gentrified in recent years, and continues to grow more expensive. It is served by a Red Line station. Lafayette Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Columbia Street, Sidney Street, and Main Street, is considered a part of the Central Square area.
Harvard Square, May 2000
Harvard Square, May 2000
  • Harvard Square, formed by the junction of Mass. Avenue, Brattle Street, and JFK Street. This is the site of Harvard University, the oldest university in the United States and is a major Cambridge shopping area (although not as exclusively so as in years past). It is served by a Red Line station. The neighborhood north of Harvard but east of Mass Ave is known as Agassiz in honor of the famed scientist Louis Agassiz.
  • Porter Square, about a mile north on Mass. Ave from Harvard Square, formed by the junction of Mass. Ave and Somerville Ave. Served by a Red Line station.
  • Inman Square, at the junction of Cambridge and Hampshire streets in central Cambridge.
  • Lechmere Square, at the junction of Cambridge and First streets, adjacent to the CambridgeSide Galleria shopping mall. Perhaps best known as the eastern terminus of the MBTA Green Line subway.

At the western edge of Cambridge, Mount Auburn Cemetery is widely known for its distinguished inhabitants, its superb landscaping and as a first-rate arboretum.

Although one often sees references to the "Boston/Cambridge area" in print, Cambridge prefers to retain its own unique identity.


Although manufacturing was an important part of the late ninetheeth- and early twentieth-century Cambridge economy, today long-established educational institutions are its biggest employers; Harvard employs over 10,000 people and MIT over 7,000 as of 2004. As a famous cradle of technological innovation, Cambridge has also been home to legendary technology firms, including Akamai, BBN, Lotus Development Corporation (now part of IBM), Polaroid, and Thinking Machines. Over the years, as companies have grown, prospered, and then either moved away or gone out of business (see this list of employers for more information), Cambridge's large-scale employment has shifted tremendously. In 1996, Polaroid, Arthur D. Little, and Lotus were all top employers with over 1,000 people in Cambridge, and all declined or disappeared a few years later. As of 2005, alongside Harvard and MIT, health care and biotechnology dominate the Cambridge economy, with Genzyme, Biogen Idec, and Novartis the biggest players. Biotech's geographical locus is Kendall Square and East Cambridge, the center of much of the city's manufacturing a century before. Of the computer-industry firms that once dominated the Cambridge economy, only Akamai remains a top-20 employer. However, many smaller start-ups and entrepreneurial companies remain an important part of the Cambridge employment scene.


Cambridge is located at 42°22'25" North, 71°6'38" West 42.373746° N 71.110554° W 1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.5 km² (7.1 mi²). 16.7 km² (6.4 mi²) of it is land and 1.8 km² (0.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 9.82% water.

Cambridge is bordered by the city of Boston on its south and east (across the Charles River), by the city of Somerville and the town of Arlington to its north, and by the city of Watertown and town of Belmont to its west.

Law and government

Cambridge has a 9-member City Council, and a 6-member School Committee. The councillors and school committee members are elected every two years using the single transferable vote (STV) system. [1] Since the disbanding of the New York City Community School Boards in 2002, the Council is unusual in being the only governing body in the United States to use STV [2]. Once a laborious process that took several days to complete, vote counting is now done by computer.

The mayor is elected by the city councillors, from amongst themselves, and serves as the chair of City Council meetings. The mayor also sits on the School Committee. However, the Mayor is not the Chief Executive of the City. Rather, the City Manager, who is appointed by the City Council, serves in that capacity.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 101,355 people, 42,615 households, and 17,599 families residing in the city. The population density is 6,086.1/km² (15,766.1/mi²). There are 44,725 housing units at an average density of 2,685.6/km² (6,957.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 68.10% White, 11.92% Black or African American, 0.29% Native American, 11.88% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 3.19% from other races, and 4.56% from two or more races. 7.36% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 42,615 households out of which 17.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.1% are married couples living together, 9.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 58.7% are non-families. 41.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.03 and the average family size is 2.83.

In the city the population is spread out with 13.3% under the age of 18, 21.2% from 18 to 24, 38.6% from 25 to 44, 17.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 30 years. For every 100 females there are 96.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 94.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $47,979, and the median income for a family is $59,423. Males have a median income of $43,825 versus $38,489 for females. The per capita income for the city is $31,156. 12.9% of the population and 8.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.1% of those under the age of 18 and 12.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Famous people associated with Cambridge

Cambridge Public Library, funded by Frederick Hastings Rindge in 1887.
Cambridge Public Library, funded by Frederick Hastings Rindge in 1887.
The Longfellow National Historic Site, also known as the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Longfellow National Historic Site, also known as the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
For more, see Famous People from Cambridge on the page

Colleges and universities


Cambridge is host to many public and private schools serving the children of Cambridge.

The 12 public elementary schools include:

  • Amigos School
  • Baldwin School
  • Cambridgeport School
  • Fletcher-Maynard Academy
  • Graham & Parks School
  • Haggerty School
  • Kennedy/Longfellow School
  • King Open School
  • Martin Luther King Jr. School
  • Morse School
  • Peabody School
  • Tobin School

There is only one public high school in Cambridge, which is Cambridge Rindge and Latin, a.k.a. CRLS.

There are many other private schools in the region, serving a variety of needs in both parents and students. Some examples are The Shady Hill School, Buckingham Browne & Nichols (a.k.a. BB&N) and German International School Boston (a.k.a. GISBOS).



Cambridge has an irregular street network due to the fact that many of the roads date from the colonial era. Contrary to popular belief, the road system was not designed by cows (and if you think about it for a minute, you'll realize what a ridiculous idea that is). Roads connected various village settlements with each other and nearby towns, and were shaped by geographic features, most notably streams, hills, and swampy areas. Several major roads lead to Cambridge, including the Massachusetts Turnpike (Exit 18), Route 2, Route 16 and the McGrath Highway (Route 28). Massachusetts Avenue runs the length of the city. The Charles River forms the southern border of Cambridge and is crossed by 10 bridges, 8 of which are open to motorized road traffic.

It can be hard to find a place to park in Cambridge. Main streets have metered parking. Parking on most other streets is restricted to residents with a sticker, even in areas without a parking shortage. Nonresidents cannot park in these spaces for any length of time, except on Sundays, or with a visitor permit lent by a resident. Streets are cleaned once a month (over two days, one day per side of the street), except January through March. If you park on the wrong side of street on that street's cleaning day your car will be towed. City policy discourages public off-street parking, in favor of reserved parking for residential and commercial tenants, so paid off-street parking is very expensive, and is nonexistent in many areas.

Mass Transit

Cambridge has one stop on the Green Line (served by shuttle buses during construction until November 12, 2005) and five stops on the Red Line. Alewife Station, with its large parking garage ($5 per day as of November 2005), is an ideal place for visitors to leave their cars (although like many other Boston-area commuter lots, it tends to fill on workday mornings). There are also several bus routes, with major local bus terminals at Alewife, Harvard Square, Central Square, and Lechmere Square, and four trolleybus routes that originate at Harvard Square.


Cambridge has several bike paths, including one along the Charles River, the Minuteman Bikeway and a linear park connecting Alewife and the Somerville Community Path. Bike parking is common and there are bike lanes on many streets, although concerns have been expressed regarding the suitability of many of the lanes. From time to time, police target their traffic enforcement efforts towards bicyclists who do not follow the Rules of the Road for vehicles, especially going through red lights, failure to stop for pedestrians at unsignalized crosswalks, riding on the wrong side of the street or the wrong way on a one-way street, and riding without a headlight at night. Cambridge has an active, official bicycle committee.


Intercity buses and Amtrak stop at South Station, which is a short ride on the Red Line from Cambridge. For a few weeks, intercity buses to New York stopped near Harvard Square, but Cambridge banned them. Logan International Airport is easy to get to by car or taxi. It can also be reached via mass transit by transferring to the Silver Line SL1 bus at South Station.

See also: Boston transportation

Points of interest

External links

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