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Cambridge and Somerville Superlatives

Cambridge and Somerville are often recognized as “best places” by various groups and organizations.  Here are some of the accolades Cambridge and Somerville have received recently:

Cambridge and Somerville Win Awards

Cambridge and Somerville Win Awards

Cambridge was recognized as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance.  Cambridge has been recognized every year since the competition began five years ago.

Cambridge received a 2011 Massachusetts ECO Award for Excellence in Commuter Options for providing top notch commuter benefits to its employees including bicycle parking, transit pass programs and emergency rides home.

The Cambridge Public Library received a number of awards for programming and for its newly renovated main branch. 

Cambridge took home  four awards from the Massachusetts Library Association conference: first prize for the library newsletter, On and Off Broadway, first prize for the Friends of the Library book Cambridge Voices, and third prize for the library website and for its website for teens. 

The Boston Society of Architects awarded the new library with the Harleston Parker Medal for the “most beautiful building” in the Greater Boston area.

The new Cambridge Public Library was also honored with an Annual Design Review Award from Architect Magazine.

Those are only the most recent accolades for the CPL main branch.  Since the beautiful new library opened in 2009 the renovation project has received nine awards from architectural, design, and preservation groups.

Not exactly an award but certainly something to feel good about – in February Cambridge once again earned Triple A ratings from each of the three major credit rating agencies – a ranking held by just 30 or so municipalities in the US. 

Somerville also earned the designation of one of America’s 100 Best Communities for Young People for the 4th time.

The Massachusetts Health Council named Somerville the Healthiest City in Massachusetts for programs and iniatives that included Shape Up Somerville, school food service, and infrastructure upgrades to promote active living such as bike path improvements, sidewalk widening, and upgraded crosswalks. 

Somerville was named the 10th Most Walkable City in the US by WalkScore.

HUD presented Somerville with a Door Knocker Award recognizing the city’s work with affordable housing.

There’s lots to like about living and working in Cambridge and Somerville.  We’re happy that others recognize the benefits of living here too.

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My Favorite Full Serve Gas Stations

Gulf Station at Mount Auburn & Aberdeen. Don't judge the prices by the photo - that's like comparing lenders with quotes two weeks apart - interest rates and gas prices are apt to change daily

Gulf Station at Mount Auburn & Aberdeen. Don't judge the prices by the photo - that's like comparing mortgage lenders with quotes two weeks apart - interest rates and gas prices often change daily

Let me start out by saying that I don’t pump gas if I don’t have to – and I almost never have to.  I also don’t bag or ring through my own groceries but that’s a topic for another post.

So, I’m always on the lookout for a good full serve gas station.  It’s simply not true that the price is always higher than at self serve gas stations.  In fact, you’ll often find full serve gas stations (and truly the definition of that nowadays is that they pump the gas – and in a pinch might check your oil if you ask nicely) within yards – and in full view – of self serve gas stations with comparable or even slightly higher prices.  Go figure.  American consumers often aren’t on the ball it seems.

But I have strict standards for full serve gas stations.  I *did* pump gas at one point – in high school I worked briefly one summer pumping gas.  So I know how it’s done.  It’s pretty simple – you go to the driver’s window, get the order, pump the gas, and return to the window for payment.  And you’re friendly and pleasant while you’re at it.

Somehow many gas stations have lost track of the basics.  The new method is to go to the passenger window – if it’s closed, bang on it – and take the order and the cash from afar, making the driver stretch across the seat.  To put an end to this ongoing battle I may just choose my next car by virtue of its driver’s side gas tank but in the meantime I’ll go elsewhere.

So here’s my short list of  the best full serve gas stations in the area with excellent service and good prices. I haven’t had repairs done at any of the stations but these are my regular places to fill up:

Best Full Serve Gas Stations

Teele Square Auto in Somerville on Broadway at the corner of Victoria Street  This busy gas station offers a lower price for cash purchases (pay in cash – it helps keep your local service station in business) and is open 7 days a week.  They service and repair cars, do inspection stickers, and have a towing service.  Teele Square Auto is at 1284 Broadway.

Gulf Station in Cambridge on Mount Auburn Street at Aberdeen Ave (aka Route 16)  Their super friendly service can’t be beat.  This gas station is on Mount Auburn Street across from Mount Auburn Cemetery. Getting gas is a pleasure here – they service cars and do inspection stickers too.

Mobil in Arlington on Mass Ave across from Jimmy’s restaurant Friendly, courteous service – unlike the other big chain station nextdoor. Don’t get confused – it’s the Mobil you want.  The neighboring gas station would make it on my worsts list if I did one. Why not go to Mobil for service with a smile?!  And they do work on cars here as well.  Mobil is at 1116 Mass Ave in Arlington Heights

Do you have a favorite full serve gas station?  Let us know.

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Cambridge Discovery Days 2011

Cambridge Discovery Days

Cambridge Discovery Days

Looks like we’ll have good weather (not *too* hot)  for the first installment of Cambridge Discovery Days tomorrow.

Every August on two Saturdays, a variety of tours and talks are held around Cambridge.  This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War and many of the events will focus on the impact of the Civil War in Cambridge.

Cambridge Discovery Days is sponsored by the Cambridge History Collaborative – a partnership of local historical and educational groups that include  the Cambridge Historical Commission, the Cambridge Historical Society, Mount Auburn Cemetery, and the Longfellow National Historic Site.

In addition to tours of Mount Auburn Cemetery, the Longfellow House, and the Cooper-Frost-Austin House, there are talks and tours around town.  Here’s a sampling of the talks for Cambridge Discovery Days 2011: 

  • Telling Our Story: Fresh Pond and the Civil War
  • Candy Land
  • Discover East Cambridge Through Public Art
  • The Poet and the Civil War: James Russell Lowell
  • “His thoughts sounds no depth”:  Cambridge’s Greatest Literary Battles
  • Strolling Down Magazine Street

For details, times and more there’s a two-page flyer or a multi-page listing with full descriptions of each tour or talk.

Events are free, open to the public and held rain or shine.  Please note – some events require registration.  Check the flyer for more details and contact information.

Cambridge Discovery Days 2011 will take place on Saturday, August 6. 2011 and Saturday, August 13, 2011.  Self-guided tours of Mount Auburn begin at 8 am, the first talk begins at 9:30 am.

Categories: Area Info
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Faces Nightclub – Soon To Be Apartments?

Anyone who’s driven into the city via Route 2 for the last twenty years or so has wondered about the eyesore on the right side of the highway as you enter Cambridge.

Faces nightclub, once a popular disco, has been abandoned for some twenty years.  Increasingly shabby, it’s a terrible way to welcome people to Cambridge.  “When will Faces be torn down?” has been asked innumerable times.  Turns out that Faces site may be destined for apartments.

Arthur D. Little Office Building Is No More. Is Faces Next?

Arthur D. Little Office Building Is No More. Is Faces Next?

A week or so ago while on our weekly real estate tour we thought it had been torn down as we drove past on Route 2.  We must not have been paying attention, however, because after circling back it turned out that it was the old Arthur D. Little office building that had just been reduced to rubble.

Is Faces next?  Lately the old Faces sign has been wrapped in plastic.  Far more promising, though is the recent Cambridge Planning Board meeting in February where developers presented plans for rental housing to be built on the Faces site.

Criterion Development Partners came before the Planning Board to introduce their plans to build a 227-unit apartment building on the site. There would be studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in the four story complex.  The development team would buy the Faces site from long-time owners the Martignettis.

The Faces site is complicated because of the flood plain and wetlands.  The developers talked about how the design of the complex addresses those issues.   The apartment building will be constructed with green building standards and there is an emphasis on the use of public transportation and bicycle use, capitalizing on the proximity of the Alewife MBTA stop and the bike path.  The developers proposed that residents will be given a three month Charlie Card subway pass and there will be bike storage and a bicycle sharing program for tenants.

The Planning Board had plenty of questions for the developers but it was clear that everyone looks forward to the day that Faces is torn down.

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Rodney’s Bookstore Is Not Closing After All

Rodney's Bookstore Is Not Closing After All

Rodney's Bookstore Is Not Closing After All

Rodney’s Bookstore Is Not Closing After All   

Great news this week for all of us who appreciate a good book store – Rodney’s Books  in Central Square isn’t closing after all. 

If you’ve been bummed out, as I have, by the Going Out of Business signs in Rodney’s windows you can relax.

In fact, the owner hopes to remain in business for at least another five years according to Brock Parker on who reported that owner Shaw Taylor

 “said renegotiating his rent will help the business remain open, and the success of the closing sale has enabled the store to pay of its bills.”     read the rest of the story

I know I did my part!  Rodney’s Books is one of my favorite local used bookstores.  When I heard about the impending closing I headed right over – and emerged with several hundred dollars worth of books.  “Books” and “sale” – a dangerous combo!

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Election Day – November 2, 2010

Vote on November 2, 2010Election Day – November 2, 2010 

It’s going to be a busy day at the polls today. 

I saw more people at my polling place than I can remember seeing – even during the presidential election. 

Polls in Cambridge and across Massachusetts are open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m

Don’t forget to vote – and bring some extra cash for the bake sale!

It’s going to be a looong night waiting for results to come in – an afternoon nap may be just the ticket so I can make it through till 3 a.m. – but I’m too wound up to sleep.

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The Old Manse – Concord MA – House Museum Monday

The Old Manse in Concord MA

The Old Manse in Concord MA

The Old Manse – Concord MA – House Musuem Monday   The Old Manse has always been one of my favorite house museums. 

History of the Old Manse

Built in 1770 by the Reverend William Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather, the Emerson family watched the battle at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775.

After Reverend Emerson died later that year, his widow married the Reverend Ezra Ripley and the family remained at the Old Manse.

Ralph Waldo Emerson lived at the house for a time and wrote his Transcendentalist work “Nature” here.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family rented the house from the Ripleys for three years, moving in shortly after their marriage in 1842. I had always remembered the writings they carved into the glass window panes with Sophia Hawthorne’s diamond ring.  But I was really struck during the tour by the liberties they took with the house as tenants who failed to pay rent for much of their stay.  Not your model tenants for sure!  But how amazing is it that the inscriptions are still there?

That’s one of the real treats when you visit the house – it is largely intact with the furnishings and possessions that were in the house in 1800s. You’re able to see the house very much as it looked when Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller and Henry David Thoreau visited.  Fortunately the house had remained in the Ripley family until 1939 when it was bought by the Trustees of Reservations who today maintain it as a house museum open to the public.

Visiting The Old Manse – Concord MA

The Old Manse is open year round. From mid-April through October the Old Manse is open daily. Weather permitting, the house is open Thursday through Sunday the rest of the year.  Check the Trustees of Reservations website  for more information.

The Old Manse is located at 269 Monument St, Concord, MA 01742.  The phone number is 978-369-3909.

More House Museum Mondays

General Artemas Ward House

Count Rumford House in Woburn


Categories: Area Info
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Battle Road Open House 2010

Daniel Chester French Minute Man Statue in Concord

Daniel Chester French Minute Man Statue in Concord

Battle Road Open House 2010  On Saturday, September 18, 2010 the Minute Man National Park held a day-long open house.  Battle Road Open House and Historic Trades Day provided a rare opportunity to visit almost a dozen Colonial-era houses, most of which are typically not open to the public.  It also was a perfect day for kids with re-enactors demonstrating crafts and trades including blacksmithing, carving, rope making and more.  And it was my chance to be a tourist in my own backyard.

This was the second Battle Road Open House day. Let’s hope they’ll make it an annual event.

The open house day was an old house enthusiast’s dream –  a chance to see and compare so many houses of the same period. 

Since I grew up in Concord during the years that the Park Service was acquiring much of the land and houses that make up the park I had some misgivings too.  It wasn’t easy for home and business owners to have no say in the matter when the park  was acquiring properties.  But now, when open land is so often threatened by development, its’s wonderful to see the fields that line the Battle Road preserved.  If we could just do something about the overhead wires – and the airport!

But I gulped when I realized that the parking area near Meriam’s Corner was the site of the former Willow Pond Kitchen.  I worked at the Willow Pond for years – a time when the owner, Peter Sowkow, was battling with the NPS to keep the Kitchen open.  It was a sad day when the restaurant closed. 

One of the Park Rangers at the Meriam House showed me a vintage photo of the Willow Pond Kitchen that they keep in the office.  It predates the time when I discovered the Willow Pond but so little changed there over the years it looked very familiar.  The image is included in the slide show below.

I managed to see all but the two houses that are open regularly during the year, the Hartwell Tavern and the Wayside.  Here’s the rest of the Battle Road Open House tour:

Jacob Whittemore Housein Lexington  was built in the early 1700s and extensively renovated in the 1780s.  On April 19, 1775 seven members of the Whittemore family fled the house as the battle drew near.

Captain William Smith House in Lincoln   Captain Smith was commanding officer of the Lincoln Minute Men.  He was also Abigail Adams’ brother and “Abigail Adams” greeted us at the door.  The house was built in 1692 but restored by the Park Service to its appearance at the time of the Revolution.

Noah Brooks Tavern was built in 1798 on land that had been in the Brooks family since 1656. Though it postdates the Battle the NPS has kept the house because it is one of several owned by the Brooks family who owned adjacent farms.  This spot became know as Brooks Village. The tavern was a popular gathering spot and remained in business until the 1850s.  For part of the day Scottish Highland Cattle grazed in the fields outside the house.

Joshua Brooks House next door was also built just after the Revolution in 1779.  The family ran a slaughterhouse and tannery across the street. At the time of the Revolution Joshua and his family lived in an earlier house on this site. Their son Joshua was a Minute Man.

The Job Brooks House across the street dates from 1740.  Job Brooks was a farmer and a currier at the Brooks Tannery. Today the National Park Service uses the house to store the Park’s archival collections. There was an amazing sampling of artifacts found around the Park on exhibit in the house on Saturday.

Samuel Brooks House  Parts of this house date to the 1690s.  For 300 years, until the NPS purchased the house in 1963, all of the owners of the house were related in some way to the Brooks family.  Outside the house, in the field out back. a Concord blacksmith demonstrated his craft.

Battle Road Slide Show

Meriam House in Concord  Meriam’s Corner was an important site on April 19, 1775.  Here the Colonists lay in wait for the British soldiers and shots were fired. Two British soldiers died. The Meriam house, built in 1705, sits back from the road – a classic New England setting.  It is one of the houses that is open on occasion during the year.

Barrett’s Farm  On the other side of Concord, some two miles from the Old North Bridge, is the house of Colonel James Barrett.  The British searched Barret’s house on April 19th but the artillery and ammunition they hoped to find had already been moved.  The Barretts lived in the house for its first 200 years and then the McGrath family lived here for the next 100. 

Today the Colonel Barrett house  is in the midst of an extensive restoration after Save Our Heritage acquired it. Legislation has extended the Park Service’s boundaries to include the area around the farm. The open house day provided a fascinating look at a restoration in process.

Buttrick House   It was Major John Buttrick who gave the first order to fire on the British. His house is close to the Old North Bridge.  The two minute men killed at the bridge were brought to the house.   

The Buttrick House was my last stop on the Battle Road Open House tour.  It was closing time and the ladies were putting away the 18th century style dresses they had on display. 

I took the trail down to the Old North Bridge and walked to the Old Manse.  The house is maintained by the Trustees of the Reservation and I managed to catch the last tour.  Afterwards, our guide encouraged us to pick some Concord grapes from the old vine aside the house – a marvelous end to a busy day.

More House Museum Monday Posts

Emerson House

General Artemas Ward House

Count Rumford House


 The Battle Road Open House in Minute Man National Historic Park included houses in Lincoln, Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.

Categories: Area Info
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