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Clark Street Photographs

 Collection
Identifier: P009

Collection Description

The photos were taken on June 1 and June 3, 1901, by the City Engineering Department to document improvements to Clark Street between Washington and School streets. (For more information on the project, see City of Cambridge Annual Reports, 1901, and Cambridge atlases for 1894 and 1903.) There are sixteen photos with a set of duplicates. Copies of the photos are in the Clark Street survey file. Details of the images illustrate the Guide to the Cambridge African American Heritage Trail.

In addition to the work performed by the Street Department, the photos offer a unique view of working-class housing at a turning point in building technology. Many children appear in the photos; a mother leans out of a second floor window. The photos illustrate the diversity of the street and neighborhood.

Dates

  • June 1901

Language of Materials

Material is in English.

Access

Collection is available for research under the CHC rules of use.

Copyright Notice

Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question, unless otherwise designated.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. Questions concerning copyright and permission to publish should be directed to the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives.

Historical Note

At the time these photographs were taken, Clark Street was a crowded residential street in The Port (also known as Area 4), which ran north to south from Webster Avenue to Main Street.

The Port developed in the early nineteenth-century and comprised a dense, changeable mix of industry, small companies such as lumber- and coal-yards, and housing (primarily tenements and multi-family residences). When the photographs were taken, the area’s major industry was soap-making, dominated by Lever Brothers. Other factories produced desks, paper boxes, and organs and pianos; a small cosmetics company was nearby. Iron foundries and a large rubber factory grew up at the north end of Clark. The residents were a mix of poor white and black Americans and immigrants, including Irish, Russian Jews, Lithuanians, Portuguese, Polish, Swedes, Greeks, Canadians, West Indians, and Barbadians; many worked in the neighborhood. In 1941, Clark Street disappeared beneath a new public housing development.

In 1901, Cambridge’s Superintendent of Streets directed the Engineering Department to document the work on Clark Street, which included new processes being used to improve Cambridge streets. The photos show the street before and after the work; the “afters” show a macadamized street, brick sidewalks, and the installation of drains. [Prior to the upgrade to brick sidewalks, duckboards (platforms of wooden slats) flanked the streets in poorer neighborhoods like The Port.]

In addition to the work performed by the Street Department, the photos offer a unique view of working-class housing at a turning point in building technology. Typically, older one- and two-story houses, many of which had been built in the first half of the nineteenth century, lacked indoor plumbing and required the inhabitants to use outhouses; the newer triple-deckers, which appeared as early as the 1860’s, had modern plumbing.

Extent

1 linear foot (1 flat box)

Abstract

The photographs, taken in June 1901 by the City Engineering Department, focus on a single block of Clark Street between Washington to the north and School to the south. At the time, Clark Street, a crowded residential street in The Port (also known as Area 4), ran north to south from Webster Avenue to Main Street. In addition to the work performed by the Street Department, the photos offer a unique view of working-class housing at a turning point in building technology. Many children appear in the photos; a mother leans out of a second floor window. The photos illustrate the diversity of the street and neighborhood.

Physical Location

Collection is stored on-site

Provenance

Donated to the Cambridge Historical Commission by the City Engineering Department in 1985.

Related Material

Cambridge Historical Commission. Guide to Cambridge African American Heritage Trail, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge Historical Commission, 2000

Cambridge Historical Commission. "Report Three: Cambridgeport." Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971.

Cambridge, Mass., Office of the Mayor. “Address of the Mayor upon the Organization of the City Government.” Cambridge, Mass., 1901.

Hail, Christopher. Cambridge Buildings and Architects. January 21, 2003. hul.harvard.edu/lib/archives/refshelf/cba (accessed September 16, 2013).

Processing Information

Processing and finding aid by Lauren Buie, June-September 2013.

Encoded by: Brittany Fox, July 2020.
Title
Inventory of the Clark Street Photographs, 1901
Author
Processing and finding aid by: Lauren Buie, June-September 2013; machine-readable finding aid by: Brittany Fox, July 2020.
Description rules
Finding Aid Was Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives Repository

Contact:
831 Massachusetts Avenue
2nd Floor
Cambridge Massachusetts 02139 US
617-349-4683