History & Mission

The mission of the Margaret Fuller House is to strengthen and empower youth, families, and community residents. We work to address the economic, social and political inequities that shape the lives and futures of the Port/Area IV residents.

back parking lot

Our back parking lot, circa 1955

Built in 1807 as the childhood home of Sarah Margaret Fuller, a noted author, feminist, and Transcendentalist, our house on Cherry Street was reinvented in 1902 as one of the first Settlement Houses in the United States. 

Front Steps 1936At the time, it was the height of the industrial revolution in Cambridge. Factories were staffed mostly by recent immigrants, and their living conditions, in boarding and tenement houses, were dire. In keeping with the spirit of the Settlement House movement, Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) was designed as an outpost of education and culture for these workers, and to ease class tensions.

Young women working 12 hour days came to the house for lunch. Volunteers and staff held meetings and socials; supplied food and clothing for women; organized day and rest trips for mothers; and helped women to find employment. Some of Cambridge’s first ESL classes took place at the MFNH, and the city’s first “Baby clinic” began there.

In the 1930’s, boys learned wood-working at the MFNH while mothers and young girls practiced sewing and cooking. There were drama classes and community productions.  In the 40’s, the house hosted a boxing ring, and in the 50’s and 60’s, teens from all over Cambridge came to Friday evening sock hops. In the early 70’s, the Black Panthers had a radio station on the third floor and sponsored Saturday morning father and son breakfasts in the basement. 

tug of war19 60

Tug ‘o ‘war, 1960’s

The Margaret Fuller House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984. Throughout its history, it has always maintained the basic goals of a Settlement House: “To provide focus, education, recreation, and orientation for its surrounding community; to be the socializing vehicle whereby the middle class and working class could meet…”

Stop by our home on Cherry Street any weekday for a welcome to the neighborhood, or a welcome home.

young girl

Young girl. 1955