Almost 400 years ago, a handful of Puritans rowed up the Charles River, and landed on the slight elevation now known as Harvard Square, where they built a fortified town. It was selected by the governor to become the capital of the Mass. Bay Colony until officials changed their minds. Boston got the capital and Newtowne, later Cambridge, got the college.
Since its colonial village days, Harvard Square has been a focal point for businesses, students, and visitors. Take a look at centuries of history and recent developments.
Latest: North End favorite Mike’s Pastry may set up shop on 11 Dunster St.
The North End cannoli haven Mike’s Pastry might open in Harvard Square, reported Boston Restaurant Talk.
According to a Harvard Square Advisory Committee page on the City of Cambridge website, Mike’s Pastry is looking to open a new shop at 11 Dunster St., the blog reported.
Just over a month after opening its first Boston-area restaurant in Chestnut Hill, New York City burger chain Shake Shack it is seeking to open in Harvard Square.
The fast food restaurant is seeking to open in the Galeria building at 57 JFK Street in Harvard Square and is scheduled to go before a couple of city boards in the next week for its needed approvals.
Pictured: The Shake Shack in Chestnut Hill.
The Inn at Harvard
Harvard University is shuttering The Inn at Harvard in July.
After renovations, the inn will be used as a “swing dorm,’’ or temporary housing for students while other dorm spaces are undergoing renovations.
About 95 employees will be affected by this closure.
The Just Crust
Harvard Square’s The Upper Crust is reopening under new management and a new name, The Just Crust.
The new restaurant, owned in part by the employees, will open in March.
The original franchise owners of The Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy in November.
New York City-based The Bowery Presents has launched a concert venue with room for 525 people at 52 Church Street. Harvard Square hasn’t had a large, live rock music venue since The House of Blues closed in 2003. The nearby Club Passim is a smaller, more intimate music venue that’s been around since 1958.
The restaurant/concert venue has been plaued with delays and has been forced to push back its opening date from November to January and cancel shows. The concert hall finally hosted its first show in December.
Michael Schlow, the chef behind Boston restaurants Radius and Happy’s, has also been brought in as a consultant for the restaurant.
Casablanca, the landmark Harvard Square restaurant, was set to close at the end of August, according to owner Sari Abul-Jubein. Then the restaurant announced it would remain open “until at least the end of this year.’’
The restaurant finally kept its promise by closing for good. Several local restauranteurs have expressed interest in the location.
The venue has been a gathering for professors, artists, writers and Bohemians for more than four decades.
Tucked under the Brattle Theatre at 40 Brattle St., Casablanca first opened its doors in 1955. Abul-Jubein put the restaurant up for sale last year, citing difficulties with competition and the economy.
Fifteen years after the landmark Tasty Sandwich Shop, also known as The Tasty, closed in the heart of Harvard Square, a group of Boston restaurateurs has opened “Tasty Burger’’ on the same block. The burger place will cater to late night diners until 4 a.m.
The new restaurant will be the third location of “Tasty Burger’’ which has been open on Boston’s Boylston Street near Fenway Park since 2010 and in South Boston this year.
The Korean fried chicken franchise with a location in Allston has recently expanded to a second spot in Harvard Square. The restaurant can be found in the lower level of The Galleria on JFK Street.
The Allston location features sushi while the newer Harvard Square spot features Korean BBQ with grills built into the tables.
The sushi restaurant on the second floor of the Westin Copley Place is opening another location at Harvard Square.
The restaurant owners recently filed for a alcohol and restaurant license for 104 Mount Auburn Street.
Customer Erol Pekoz is pictured in the Copley Place OSushi restaurant.
Harvard Square’s Crema Cafe chefs recently competed in an episode of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.”
The restaurant posted its audition video to the show, and the shop is offering a “Cupcake Wars’’ four-pack.
Pictured: Harvard senior Joanna Miller sat on the balcony at Crema Cafe in Harvard Square.
AMC Entertainment sold its Harvard Square location to the owner of the Charles Hotel.
Cambridge-based Carpenter & Company Inc. has purchased the building at 10 Church Street for $6.5 million, shortly after AMC Entertainment closed the theater on July 8.
Plans for the future of the theater are still being considered, said a spokesman.
Harvard Square’s movie theater recently closed.
The AMC Loews Harvard Square 5 was originally known as the Harvard Square Theater. It opened in 1926 with a single screen and 1,700 seats and balcony box seats. The entrance and lobby faced Massachusetts Avenue. In time, the theater divided into smaller theater spaces and the lobby turned into a retail space.
Pictured: The Loews theater was loud with excitement as fans of the “Rocky Horror Show” prepared for a Halloween screening. One of the first live performance of Rocky took place at this theater in the 1980s, which spawned a pop culture movement.
The landmark newsstand opened in 1955 and stands today, though the ownership has changed and the store was temporarily relocated during the Harvard Square MBTA station construction in the 1980s.
Its customers have included Jack Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, and Henry Kissinger.
The island where the newsstand is located is named after original owner Sheldon Cohen.
Pictured: Harvard Square in 1970 with the Out of Town News and Out of Town Ticket Agency kiosks.
Fred Fox of Belmont looked through some books among half empty shelves on the day Wordsworth bookstore closed in 2004 after 28 years as a Harvard Square landmark.
Brigham’s Ice Cream was one of many dessert shops that came and went.
Pictured: The factory in Arlington where Brigham’s Ice Cream made its product for decades.
After more than 20 years, the Taste of India is closing its doors.
Toscano in Beacon Hill will open a second location in its place.
Don Valcovic manned the grill in the Harvard Square institution The Tasty, a former 24-hour diner.
The tiny store is beloved in the Harvard Square community.
It’s known for the store’s high shelves and is associated with some of the most famous of American poets.
The poetry book shop celebrates its 85th anniversary this year.
Independent bookstore Curious George & Friends closed its doors for good in the summer of 2011 after more than 15 years in the heart of Harvard Square.
But, much to the delight of children, parents and grandparents from Cambridge and farther afield, the Curious George book store is back, but with new owners and an additional focus on merchandise.
It has since been renamed The World’s Only Curious George Store.
The Globe Corner Bookstore closed at the end of June 2011, but will continue operating the company’s online store.
The decision was made public six months after company president Patrick Carrier announced he was seeking to sell the map and specialty shop, as well as the online store, after being diagnosed with a worsening seizure disorder.
Restaurant chain Panera Bread moved into the space vacated by Bob Slate Stationer on Massachusetts Avenue in the spring after more than 75 years in the square.
Store owners Justin and Mallory Slate sold the business to Laura Donohue.
Donohue found a new space for the business at 30 Brattle St. and officially opened the store on Oct. 17, 2011.
Pictured: The Slate brothers posed at their stationary store in Harvard Square in 2003.
The first in a chain of restaurant and live music venues opened in Harvard Square in 1992.
It has since shut down and been replaced by a Tommy Doyle’s.
Pictured: Blues Brother Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy performed in 1997 at the House of Blues for its fifth anniversary in Harvard Square. The Bluesmobile in the back was featured in the movie.
The store that caters to soaps and cleaning products was founded in Harvard Square in 1972.
The owner sold the company to a Malaysian company in 1996.
Pictured: Lavender toiletries from Crabtree & Evelyn.
The spot known for premium sweet treats shut down in 2009 after more than 27 years in Harvard Square.
The owner said he could no longer afford to subsidize the store in the face of higher rents, increased franchise fees, and growing competition from rivals like J.P. Licks.
The old time hair cuttery was established in 1898 and is one of the oldest barber shops in the state.
In 2010, Playboy Magazine named it one of the top barber shops in America.
Pictured: George Papalimberis has been cutting hair at the La Flamme barber shop on Dunster Street in Harvard Square since 1978.
The humor magazine’s headquarters was built in 1909 with funding from legendary businessman William Randolph Hearst, a Lampoon staffer who had been kicked out of Harvard in the mid-1800s for incessant pranks.
The Cambridge building is a monument to the Lampoon’s mission all these years: essentially, to be funny, at anyone’s expense. The building’s architecture parodies Flemish and Dutch architecture of the 16th century. It’s a joke, literally.
Former Mayor Alfred E. Vellucci tried to plant a tree in front “to blot out one of the ugliest buildings in the world.”
The restaurant with its cave-like dining room is named after the evil monster’s dwelling in the epic poem Beowulf and opened in 1961.
The owners of the restaurant were involved in a seven-year legal battle with the church building owners. The case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled that the state law allowing the church’s veto of a liquor license violated the separation of church and state.
The corporate office of NPR’s Car Talk radio show is located at the corner of Brattle and JFK streets in Harvard Square above the Curious George book store.
Hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi came up with the name as a law firm parody (“Do we cheat them? And how!)”
This classic burger place was founded more than half a century ago but lines still extend outside on the sidewalk with hungry patrons.
Mr. Bartley himself can usually be spotted on a stool taking orders and handing out menus with hamburgers that are topically named after famous folks. (Mr. Bartley comes up with the burger names and snarky descriptions while his son, William, is responsible for the sandwich board signs)
Take a look at some of Bartley’s pop-culture inspired burgers.
A history of the square
The neighborhood was distinctive during its development in the 1630s for the orderly grid-like layout of streets and plots of land.
Though the village was called Newtowne for a time, most of the local clergy and leadership were graduates of Cambridge.
In 1638, the Legislature formally recognized the town’s new name as Cambridge. A year later, John Harvard of Charlestown, dying, bequeathed his library and other endowment to a new college and the Legislature named it after him.
Pictured: Horse-car rides from Harvard Square to Boston cost 5 cents shortly after the Civil War.
Cambridge’s first principal public building, the meeting house, was a little south of Dane Hall, near Harvard Law School today.
It was used both as a church and town house until 1708, when a building was erected in the middle of Harvard Square to serve for meetings and courts. Here, the first provisional Legislature provided for the organization of the Minute Men and for the establishment of the Committee of Safety during the American Revolution.
Cambridge Street was originally a military road built by George Washington to connect Cambridge Common with a battery in East Cambridge.
Harvard Square had the first printing press in New England.
From 1640 to 1675, the printing press, which later became known as University Press, did all the printing in America.
It was set up in the college president’s house. The first book printed in America was a metrical version of the Psalms for religious use, according to Calvin Coolidge in a speech at Cambridge’s 75th anniversary.
Pictured: Horse drawn trains in Harvard Square.
A bridge was constructed over the Charles River at what’s known today as John F. Kennedy Street. Traffic to Boston went through Harvard Square, which led to its business prominence.
Harvard Square became more of a focal point for the village after Harvard College was established.
The area was relatively isolated until the construction of the West Boston Bridge in 1793, which reduced the distance between Boston and Cambridge from 8 miles to 3 miles. As a result, immigrants began moving in and property values rose.
More bridges were built to connect to Boston and the area east of Harvard Square, which were only farms and country estates, became open for development.
Cambridgeport and East Cambridge became rival villages.
In 1816, the courthouse moved east away from Harvard Square, as well as the meeting house in 1832. The neighborhood known as Old Cambridge petitioned to become a separate town, but the issue was opposed and a city government was adopted in 1846.
Pictured: Harvard Square information booth in 1932.
A street railway connected Harvard Square with suburban towns like Arlington, Belmont, and Newton in 1854.
Harvard Square remained an important hub for transportation and to local businesses catering to commuters.
In 1912, the Cambridge Tunnel subway service began in Harvard Square and connected the city to Boston’s Park Station. Businesses began to suffer because travelers no longer had to venture outside between transfers.
Pictured: Harvard Square MBTA station in 1912.
Business owners consulted with Harvard University to redevelop Harvard Square as a district for expensive residence and shops to support its locals.
From then on, buildings would be constructed to match the Colonial style of the nearby college.
Harvard’s private dormitories are a large part of the Square. Owners sought to attract affluent students with then state-of-the-art amenities that included steam heat, electricity, private bathrooms, and elevators.
Businesses opened in the Square to cater to these well-off students, like the Leavitt & Peirce tobacco shop which stands today.
Pictured: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s suite (right with iron railing) was at Adams House at West Morley Court. He lived there, in an area known as the Gold Coast, when he was a student at Harvard.
A whole block was razed to make way for a big Harvard Square development program in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Holyoke Center now occupies the area pictured.
Cambridge and Harvard Square became a magnet for the counter-culture movement starting in the late 1960s.
Students and young people not affiliated with Harvard University held antiwar demonstrations, sometimes causing destruction to private and public property.
Pictured: Patty Larkin Band played atop the Out of Town News kiosk in 1978.
Cambridge was torn by a proposal to build John F. Kennedy’s presidential library on the site of the subway yard near Harvard Square for a decade after his assassination.
Architect I.M. Pei designed a glass structure similar to what he later proposed for the Louvre in Paris.
Residents feared for Harvard Square’s overdevelopment, with regard to losing historical buildings and displacing local small businesses with larger chains. The JFK Library was eventually constructed in Dorchester.Pictured: Harvard Square from Holyoke Center in 1976.
In the ’70s and ’80s, skyrocketing property values and the intense demand for townhouses and condominiums led to the demolition of many significant houses near Harvard Square.
Public outcry lead to restrictions in overdevelopment.
Pictured: Kiosk at Harvard Square in 1978.
Harvard Square no longer has much in terms of a neighborhood shopping center. The local market, Sages, and the old Woolworth’s store are long gone.
Instead, the Square has evolved into a regional shopping center.
Pictured: Looking from Brattle Square to Harvard Square in 1983.
Longtime local establishments like Wursthaus, The Tasty, and Elsie’s Lunch closed to make way for national chains.
Bookstores like Paperback Booksmith and Reading International, Words Worth, and Globe Corner Bookstore, also closed.
The student co-op, the Harvard Coop, is managed by Barnes & Noble.
Take a look at some Harvard Square local institutions and recent changes.
Pictured: Inside the Wursthaus in 1983.