History

The retreating Laurentide Glacier sculpted Fresh Pond and the surrounding hills about 15,000 years ago. Native Americans found an abundance of fish in the ponds and streams of this area, and plentiful wildlife in the woods and marshes. The rich environment also attracted European settlers. The Charles River, in contrast, was inter-tidal and was not a source of fresh water. In the mid 1800s, the Pond was privately owned and the site of a flourishing ice industry, its clean water producing high quality ice that was shipped as far away as Europe, China and India.

Ice Houses at Fresh Pond, mid 18th century.

The Pond became the City's drinking water supply in 1856. By 1889 the Massachusetts Legislature granted Cambridge the right of eminent domain to acquire all the land that is currently part of the Reservation from private owners and the Town of Belmont in the interest of protecting the purity of the water. The small ponds we call Black's Nook and Little Fresh Pond were created from shallow coves in the larger Pond by gravel dikes, which were built to help prevent pollution and to serve as a bed for the road that encircled the Pond.

Today Fresh Pond is a favorite place for many people who enjoy walking, running, bike riding, and roller-blading on the 2¼ mile perimeter road. Birders come to observe a wide variety of resident birds, as well as numerous migrating songbirds and waterfowl that pass through every year. Artists, naturalists and students also treasure this green oasis in its urban setting.

Check out historical images of Fresh Pond in the Historic Images Photo Gallery.