The Port, Cambridge

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Clement G. Morgan Park

The Port, formerly Area 4, is a neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts, roughly between Central Square, Inman Square, and MIT. It is bounded on the south by Massachusetts Avenue, on the west by Prospect Street, on the north by Hampshire Street, and on the east by the Grand Junction Railroad tracks.[1] Area 4 is a densely populated residential neighborhood with about 7,000 residents.

History and name[edit]

Prior to the filling in[2] of Boston's Back Bay and Charles River marshes, brackish saltwater reached into what is now The Port. After landfill allowed Cambridge to expand over the area now known as Cambridgeport, this entire portion of Cambridge was known as the "Old Port". Cambridge split the city into 13 statistical zones to analyze the 1950 census, whereby the old Cambridgeport neighborhood was split into two zones, Area 4 and Area 5, divided by Massachusetts Avenue. Later those census zones were rolled over into official planning districts by the Cambridge Community Development department.[3] The "Cambridgeport" name went to Area 5, where the waterfront is currently located; the inland Area 4 never received an official designation, as the planning districts were never meant to define neighborhood boundaries. For decades, Area 4 was one of only two planning districts to lack an official name, (the other, neighborhood nine, still lacks one.) Neighborhood and other Cambridge residents continued refer to the area alternatively as "the Port", a diminutive that used pre-1950 to refer to the whole Cambridgeport area,[4] or as Area 4. Community organizations petitioned the Cambridge City Manager, in 2003 and 2013,[5] to restore "The Port" as the official name of the Area 4 planning district[6] for official documentation. On October 19, 2015, after the process had commenced the March prior, it was announced at a City Council meeting that Area 4 would officially adopt the poll-selected name, "The Port". The change was driven in great part by Vice-Mayor Dennis Benzan, who grew up in Area 4 and was crucial in ensuring that the adoptive name be selected through a community-based decision.[7]

Elias Howe, Jr. invented the sewing machine at 55 Cherry Street in The Port in 1846. Howe's was the first patented functional sewing machine. Isaac Singer, who made sewing machines commercially successful, was forced to pay patent royalties to Howe.[8]

The Port was the site of the first reciprocal telephone conversation, which took place between Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson on October 9, 1876. Watson was at an office in The Port, and Bell was at an office on Cambridge Street in Boston. A plaque commemorating this event is mounted at 710 Main Street near the Windsor Street intersection.

Candy industry[edit]

The Port was the early hub of the candy industry in the United States, beginning with the first candy factory in Cambridge, started by Robert Douglass in 1826 on Windsor Street. Notable candy factories in The Port included Cambridge Brands, makers of Junior Mints, still in operation on Main Street; the Squirrel Brands company, makers of Squirrel nut caramel (the inspiration for the band name Squirrel Nut Zippers); and Necco (New England Confectionery Company), whose factory located across Massachusetts Avenue from today's Port was the largest candy factory in the world.

Notable people and places[edit]

  • The Garment District is a new and used clothing store located in a historic building. It is widely known throughout the Boston area, especially its "Dollar a Pound" section. In 2004-2005 the store was threatened with redevelopment into condominiums, but was preserved with help by the Area 4 neighborhood coalition and a historical designation for the building by the City of Cambridge.[9]
  • Squirrel Brand Park[10] is located on the grounds of the old Squirrel Brand candy factory.


Per city data, in 2005, Area 4 had a population of 7,263 residents living in 2,523 households. The average household income was $34,306.[1] In 2000, the racial demographics for the neighborhood were 45.9% White, 35.4% Black, 15.7% Hispanic origin, 8.2% Asian/Pacific Islander, 0.2% Native American, 7.3% other race.[11]


  1. ^ a b Cambridge Police Department Archived 2007-02-26 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Boston: History of the Landfills Accessed 2008-09-01
  3. ^ Cambridge Community Development Home Page
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ The History of the Sewing Machine - Elias Howe and Isaac Singer
  9. ^ Historic Garment District Saved, Harvard Crimson
  10. ^ DPW Construction Updates - City of Cambridge, Massachusetts Archived 2006-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Racial Composition Detailed" (PDF). Retrieved June 28, 2011.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°22′1″N 71°5′52.″W / 42.36694°N 71.09778°W / 42.36694; -71.09778