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The second city of the metropolitan region—in scale, history, economy, and influence—Cambridge looms large in the national consciousness. The city developed from three distinct nodes. Old Cambridge, the area of modern Harvard Square (HS1), was founded as the colonial capital in 1630; it lost that function in 1634 and its original name of Newtowne by 1638. The founding of Harvard College here in 1636 insured its continuing importance. The outlying sections of present-day Cambridge remained agricultural until the early nineteenth century. The building of bridges across the Charles River to Boston—first the West Boston Bridge of 1793 followed by the Canal or Craigie Bridge finished in 1809—created the new, isolated districts of Cambridgeport and East Cambridge as commercial rivals for the colonial village. Both East Cambridge and Cambridgeport developed as industrial zones and as middle-and working-class residential neighborhoods, creating power struggles between the three components as each expanded toward the other. The other major industry of the city remained education, as Radcliffe College, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and smaller institutions made Cambridge their home during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today a vibrant, liberal, and diverse city of more than 95,000 inhabitants, Cambridge sprawls over 6.5 square miles north of the meandering Charles River.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan

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