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Carl Barron, ‘mayor of Central Square,’ and founder of furniture store, dies at age 97

Mr. Barron, owner of Putnam Furniture Leasing Co. in Cambridge, considered his wife, Ruth, the boss of the operation.
Mr. Barron, owner of Putnam Furniture Leasing Co. in Cambridge, considered his wife, Ruth, the boss of the operation.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/1999 file

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Carl F. Barron pioneered the concept of furniture leasing 70 years ago in Cambridge amid the comings and goings of visiting Harvard professors and graduate students.

Known as the unofficial “Mayor of Central Square,” Mr. Barron built his Putnam Furniture Leasing Co. into the largest privately held business of its kind in the nation, according to the industry publication Furniture Today. He shared his profits and skills so generously with local causes that the city named a plaza after him long before his death.

Mr. Barron, who lived in Belmont and sold his company in 2001 to CORT Furniture, a Berkshire Hathaway Co., died of prostate cancer Feb. 16 at Mount Auburn Hospital.

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