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Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard Square, May
Harvard Square, May 2000

Cambridge is a city in the Greater Boston area in Massachusetts, United States. It was named in honor of Cambridge, England, the town where its founding fathers had studied (Cambridge University). Cambridge is perhaps most famous for the two prominent universities that call it home: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 101,355, though even more people commute into Cambridge to work.

Cambridge is located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. The county government was abolished in 1997, and the county exists solely as a geographical description. It and Lowell are the county seats of Middlesex County.


About the city

The diversity of the population is striking. It ranges from distinguished Harvard professors to immigrants from Latin America. This diversity contributes to the liberal atmosphere, and may be compared to Berkeley, California, in some respects. It is often referred to as the "People's Republic of Cambridge" because of the city's famously liberal politics; political organizers often congregate at the Red Line T station in Harvard Square.

Cambridge is becoming more expensive, with obvious resulting changes that have caused a lot of anguish. It looks like it will eventually become a fairly universally wealthy city - it already has the greatest percentage of houses worth over a million dollars of any city with a population of over 100,000. Though this has resulted in a considerably better looking city, the effect on the community is decried by many.

Cambridge has been called the city of Squares, most likely because most of its major street intersections are known as Squares. (In the Greater Boston area, a "Square" is merely a major intersection. Very few squares have four sides. Both of these facts stem from the usually stated origin of squares. The traditional square is said to be the result of the arc swept out by timber brought through on roadways to market/port.) Each of the Squares acts as something of a neighborhood center. These include:

  • Kendall Square, formed by the junction of Broadway, Main Street, and Third Street. Just over the Longfellow Bridge from Boston, at the eastern end of the MIT campus. Served by the MBTA red line subway. A flourishing biotech industry has grown up around here, in large part due to the entrepreneurial efforts of MIT students.
  • Central Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Prospect Street, and Western Avenue. This is perhaps the closest thing Cambridge has to a downtown, and is well-known for its wide variety of ethnic restaurants. Even as recently as the late 1990s it was rather run-down; it has become more gentrified in recent years, and continues to grow more expensive. It is served by the MBTA red line subway. Lafayette Square, formed by the junction of Massachusetts Avenue, Columbia Street, Sidney Street, and Main Street, is considered a part of the Central Square area.
  • Harvard Square, formed by the junction of Mass. Avenue, Brattle Street, and JFK Street. This is the site of Harvard University, the oldest university in the United States. Like Central Square, Harvard Square has become increasingly gentrified in recent years. It includes many interesting stores, and has the highest concentration of bookstores in the country. Served by the MBTA red line subway.
  • Porter Square, about a mile up Mass. Ave from Harvard, formed by the junction of Mass. Ave and Somerville Ave. Served by the MBTA Red Line subway.
  • Inman Square, at the junction of Cambridge and Hampshire streets in middle Cambridge.
  • Lechmere Square, at the junction of Cambridge and First streets, adjacent to the Galleria shopping mall. Perhaps best known as the terminus of the MBTA Green Line subway.

At the edge of Cambridge, Mount Auburn Cemetery is widely famous for both its distinguished inhabitants, and its superb landscaping as a first-rate arboretum.

Although one often sees references to the "Boston/Cambridge area" in print, Cambridge prefers to retain its own unique identity. This name is quite apt as there are a large number of jobs in Cambridge and parts of Cambridge are more urban than some parts of Boston.


Cambridge's private-sector economy has always been dominated by its educational institutions, with Harvard employing over 10,000 people and MIT employing over 7,000 in 2004. As a famous cradle of technological innovation, Cambridge has been home to legendary technology firms, including Akamai, BBN, Lotus Development Corporation, Polaroid, and Thinking Machines. Over the years, as companies grow, prosper, and then either move away or go out of business (see this list of employers for more information), Cambridge's large-scale employment has shifted tremendously. In 1996, Polaroid, Arthur D. Little, and Lotus were all top employers with over 1,000 people in Cambridge, and all declined or disappeared a few years later. In 2004, health care and biotechnology dominate the Cambridge economy, with Genzyme , Biogen Idec, and Novartis as significant players. Of the high-technology companies that dominated the Cambridge economy, only Akamai remains a top-20 employer in Cambridge. These figures do not include the many smaller start-ups and entrepreneurial companies that are part of the Cambridge employment scene.


Cambridge is located at 42°22'25" North, 71°6'38" West (42.373746, -71.110554)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.5 km² (7.1 mi²). 16.7 km² (6.4 mi²) of it is land and 1.8 km² (0.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 9.82% water.

Cambridge is bordered by the city of Boston on its south and east (across the Charles River), by the city of Somerville and the town of Arlington to its north, and by the city of Watertown and town of Belmont to its west.

Law and government

Cambridge has a 9-member City Council, and a 6-member School Committee. The councillors and school committee members are elected every two years using the single transferable vote (STV) system. Since the disbanding of the New York City Community School Boards in 2002, the Council is unusual in being the only governing body the United States to use STV [1].

The mayor is elected by the city councillors, from amongst themselves, and serves as the chair of City Council meetings. The mayor also sits on the School Committee. However, the Mayor is not the Chief Executive of the City. Rather, the City Manager, who is appointed by the City Council, serves in that capacity.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 101,355 people, 42,615 households, and 17,599 families residing in the city. The population density is 6,086.1/km² (15,766.1/mi²). There are 44,725 housing units at an average density of 2,685.6/km² (6,957.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 68.10% White, 11.92% Black or African American, 0.29% Native American, 11.88% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 3.19% from other races, and 4.56% from two or more races. 7.36% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 42,615 households out of which 17.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.1% are married couples living together, 9.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 58.7% are non-families. 41.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.03 and the average family size is 2.83.

In the city the population is spread out with 13.3% under the age of 18, 21.2% from 18 to 24, 38.6% from 25 to 44, 17.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 30 years. For every 100 females there are 96.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 94.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $47,979, and the median income for a family is $59,423. Males have a median income of $43,825 versus $38,489 for females. The per capita income for the city is $31,156. 12.9% of the population and 8.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 15.1% of those under the age of 18 and 12.9% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Famous people associated with Cambridge

Colleges and universities



Cambridge has a congested street network. Several major roads lead to Cambridge, including the Massachusetts Turnpike (Exit 18), Route 2, Route 16 and the McGrath Highway (Route 28) . Massachusetts Avenue runs the length of the city. The Charles River forms southern border of Cambridge and is crossed by 11 bridges.

It can be hard to find a place to park in Cambridge. Main streets have metered parking. Parking on most other streets is restricted to residents with a sticker. Streets are cleaned once a month (over two days, one day per side of the street), except January through March. If you park on the wrong side of street on that street's cleaning day your car will be towed.

Mass Transit

Cambridge has one stop on the Green Line (served by shuttle buses during construction until Summer 2005) and five stops on the Red Line. Alewife Station, with its large and inexpensive parking garage, is an ideal place for visitors to leave their cars. There are also several bus routes, with major local bus terminals at Alewife, Harvard Square, and Central Square, and Lechmere Square, and four trolleybus routes that originate at Harvard Square.


Cambridge has several bike paths, including one along the Charles River, the Minuteman Bikeway and a linear park connecting Alewife and the Somerville Community Path. Bike parking is common and there are bike lanes on many streets, although concerns have been expressed regarding the suitability of many of the lanes. Police will ticket bicyclists who do not follow the Rules of the Road for vehicles. Cambridge has an active, official bicycle committee.


Logan International Airport is easy to get to by car or taxi. It can be reached by mass transit but several transfers are required. Intercity buses and Amtrak stop at South Station, which is a short ride on the Red Line from Cambridge.

See also: Boston transportation

Points of interest

External links

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