History of Your Cambridge House or Neighborhood - Learn more about where you live, your neighborhood, or the property you rent or own.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Christopher Hail’s Cambridge Buildings and Architects
This online database of all Cambridge buildings, architects, builders, and streets is a great first stop for basic facts about a building.

Cambridge City Directories, 1848-1972
City directories contain a wealth of information about people, businesses, local government, and clubs and civic organizations. Names are listed alphabetically and by street address. Cambridge businesses are listed by industry. Please note: you must search within individual volumes. Directories were not published annually after 1922.

Poll Lists (Men and Women), 1904, 1932-1947
These books are voter lists; men and women are published separately. Names are listed by ward and street.

Historic Cambridge Newspaper Collection, 1846-2015
This collection contains the following four newspaper titles: Cambridge Chronicle, Cambridge Press, Cambridge Tribune, and Cambridge Sentinel. Search for your address in quotations. For example, “449 Broadway.”

Atlases, 1833-1930
These atlases show Cambridge property owners, street names, and structures on land plots. They show how Cambridge property and neighborhoods have changed over time.

Mapjunction.com
Compare any two maps from Boston, Cambridge, and environs to maps of today. This resource has over 400 maps and aerial photographs dating back to 1630. Type in any Cambridge address to view how a property has changed over centuries.

Property Database
This database allows you to search any residential and business address in Cambridge for current data. Each property includes a photograph, sketch, current owners, square footage, assessment value, zoning information, property class, and building style. Every property links to a comparable sales search, a GIS map, and a PDF map.

Historical Cambridge City Viewer
View any property in Cambridge from a historic aerial photograph. In 1947, the city of Cambridge began using professional flyover photographers to photograph the entire city from above. This resources covers the years the city took flyover photographs: 2003, 1995, 1978, 1969, 1947. The resource also includes the 1916 atlas of Cambridge as well as and 1865 map to give historical perspective. You can move between maps and see how properties have changed over the decades. Click on the Historical map and enter the address.

Cambridge in 3-D
This interactive resource allows you to a view a current map of Cambridge in 3-D.

HOLC Redlining Map of Cambridge
Cambridge was one of 239 American cities that the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) surveyed in the 1930s to create "residential security maps,” indicating the level of security for real-estate investments. The areas outlined in green were affluent and considered the most desirable for lending purposes. The Blue areas were considered “still desirable;” the yellow areas were labeled as “declining;” and the red areas were considered the most risky investments for banks. The areas that were “redlined” tended to be black neighborhoods. These redlining maps enforced racial segregation and urban decay throughout the United States until Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 began to change lending practices. Redlining in Cambridge affected the predominantly African American neighborhoods of Riverside, Cambridgeport, and the Port as well as the immigrant neighborhoods of East Cambridge.

ADDITIONAL HOUSE HISTORY RESOURCES AVAILABLE IN THE CAMBRIDGE ROOM

To use these resources, please contact the Cambridge Room at Ask a Librarian.

Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge by the Cambridge Historical Commission
This six-volume set is an excellent socio economic and architectural history from the founding of Cambridge in 1630 to the mid-twentieth century of the five geographic areas of Cambridge. These volumes are also available in the Library’s circulating collection and can be requested with a Cambridge or Minuteman library card.

Please note that the Cambridgeport volume includes the area bounded by Massachusetts Avenue to the south, the Somerville line to the north, Inman Square to the west, and Kendall Square to the east.

Neighborhood Oral Histories
Sarah Boyer’s Oral History Books

Sarah Boyer, the oral historian for the city, published four books throughout her 20-year effort collecting interviews in various Cambridge neighborhoods. These books are a great way to get a sense of how the following neighborhoods have changed in the late 19th Century to the present. These books are also available in the Library’s circulating collection and can be requested with a Cambridge or Minuteman library card. The Cambridge Room also has the Sarah Boyer Oral History Collection, which includes interviews, transcripts, and photographs from her project.

In our Own Words: Stories of North Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1900-1960

All in the Same Boat: Twentieth-Century Stories of East Cambridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Crossroads: Stories of Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1912-2000

We are the Port: Stories of place, perseverance, and pride in the Port/Area 4: Cambridge,
Massachusetts, 1845-2005


Mid Cambridge Oral History Project
From the Heart of Cambridge: A Neighborhood Portrait

This book is the result of a series of oral histories conducted by the Longfellow Oral history project that began in 2004. The book is also available in the Library’s circulating collection and can be requested with a Cambridge or Minuteman library card.

Police Listings and Street Listings, 1972-Present
These voter lists are published annually by the City of Cambridge. Names are listed by ward and street so it is helpful to know the address or neighborhood of the person you are researching.

Cole Directories, 1989-Present
This collection contains a street address directory, telephone directory, and office building directory. Names are listed by street so it is necessary to know the address of the person you are researching. Please note: some years are missing.

Workshops
The Cambridge Room Archivist offers a popular, free workshop to help you research your house or property using online resources. Please contact the Cambridge Room at Ask a Librarian to find out when the next workshop will be held.

Extensive House and Property Research
If the resources above do not answer your questions, please contact the Cambridge Historical Commission. They have a file on every address in the city, including photographs. You can also research deeds at the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds in East Cambridge.