Shortly after the Cambridge Historical Commission was established it embarked on the task of surveying Cambridge's architectural resources. The Commission published five reports, from 1964 to 1977, on each area of the city. This series, called the Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge, was among the first inventories of its kind in America.
This new edition of East Cambridge, the first report, appears at a time when the neighborhood is experiencing increasing development pressures, making it a particularly valuable resource on the area's history and growth for residents, planners, and outside investors.
Although its primary focus remains architectural, the second edition includes the results of extensive primary source research on the district's colonial history, industrial development, and social history. It breaks new ground by correlating city directory and census data with the types of workers' housing built in the period from 1820 to 1870.
Development is not new to East Cambridge. Established on an isolated island in the salt marshes opposite Boston in 1809, it became the first part of Cambridge to undergo industrial expansion and attracted great numbers of immigrants during the mid-nineteenth century. The substantial Federal brick houses built on speculation by the Lechmere Point Corporation gave way to modest workers' cottages in the early 1820s. This building type soon became characteristic of the community densely populated, working class, with a distinctive architecture that still largely survives.