Our Community–The Port

The Margaret Fuller House has been the heart of the Port/Area 4 for over 112 years. Generations of families have depended on the House as a gathering place and a broad support system.

Our neighborhood was originally called Cambridgeport or the Old Port. These names reference the geography many years ago when water levels were so high that boats could use the area as an actual port from the ocean. One of the densest neighborhoods of Cambridge, Area 4 or “The Port” is a vibrant residential community with over 7,000 diverse residents.

1895 Lilian Wald and Mary Brewster Visiting nurses

1895 Lilian Wald and Mary Brewster Visiting nurses

The Port has a rich history of science and invention, American Revolutionary involvement, factories, human rights advocates, writers, and artists. The West Boston (now Longfellow) Bridge opened in 1793, and offered the first direct route from Cambridge to Boston. Cambridgeport grew up along the roads leading to the bridge. Pleasant residential neighborhoods spread out from Massachusetts Avenue, while Central Square became the City of Cambridge’s true downtown. After 1850, industrialization of the area spread rapidly: soap-making, printing, confectionery, rubber, piano, and paper box-making factories filled the neighborhood.

Outside_0010In the mid to late 1800s, people from Ireland, then Eastern Europe and the South immigrated to Cambridgeport.  Immigrants followed them from the West Indies and Central and South America during the 20th century. Immigrants walked to and worked in neighborhood businesses and factories. The Margaret Fuller House became a refuge for young women working 12-hour days.

Today the Port/Area 4 still houses many new immigrants to Cambridge–from Haiti, Barbados, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Somalia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Portugal and other countries.  Many come to the Margaret Fuller House and find a welcoming place to visit with friends and neighbors, to learn English, to get food or take computer classes or find help with finding a job.

Blizzard in 2005

Blizzard in 2005

Our neighborhood is also changing dramatically with increasing gentrification as Kendall Square and MIT develop an exciting hub of innovation. However, we cannot forget the folks who have lived in the Port for many years or the new immigrants who have just arrived.  An important vision of the Margaret Fuller House is to insure that thousands of neighbors have a welcoming place to share for another century.

Did you know?

  • The first two-way long distance telephone conversation took place between Alexander Graham Bell (in Boston) and Thomas G. Watson (at 710 Main Street, Cambridge) on October 9, 1876.
  • Elias Howe, Jr invented the sewing machine on Cherry Street – right down the road from the Margaret Fuller House.
  • Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison lived on Broadway St .
  • W.E. Dubois also lived in Cambridgeport
  • Richard Henry Dana, author of Two Years Before the Mast grew up here .
  • Polaroid’s first factory was across the St. from the Margaret Fuller House.
  • Sometimes when you’re walking along Main Street and throughout Area 4 you can smell Junior Mints being made at the Cambridge Brands candy factory.
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Margaret Fuller House at 71 Cherry St., Cambridge, MA