The mayor threw open the doors of City Hall and Cantabrigians gathered inside yesterday to sip punch and munch Danish pastry, all to mark the birthday of General George Washington.
"We wanted to gather everyone here for an open house--just to have people of all persuasions from around the city," John Pasquarello, legislative assistant for Cambridge mayor Francis H. Duehay '55, said yesterday.
And so through the early afternoon, "the public" made small talk on the steps and in the corridors of the Central Square City Hall.
Some showed up to woo votes--state Senate candidate George Bachrach bounced from group to group introducing himself. And others were there to shoot the political breeze that is the lifeblood of many Cantabrigians.
"You've got everyone here--CCA people (members of the Cambridge Civic Association, the city's progressive party) and Independents (Cambridge's neighborhood politicians). And everyone's having a good time," Pasquarello said.
"Anytime you set out free food in Cambridge, you can draw a group like this," city councilor David Sullivan added.
But, interspersed among the political chatter and the less-than-subtle electioneering efforts of state senate candidates, there were even a few mentions of Washington, a historical figure with strong ties to this city.
July 2, 1775, a month-and-a-half after the battle of Lexington and Concord, Washington arrived on Cambridge Common to take command of the Continental Army, a raggedy forced camped here to keep the British bottled up in Boston.
A historical record distributed at yesterday's City Hall party described his entrance as triumphant.
"As he entered the confines of the camp, the shouts of the multitudes and the thundering of the artillery gave note to the enemy beleaguered in Boston of his arrival."
"His military reputation had preceeded him and excited great expectation," the local chronicler reported. "His personal appearance, notwithstanding the dust of travel, was calculated to captivate the public eye... Happy was the countryman who could get a full view to carry home an account of it to his neighbors."
'He is tall and well-proportioned, and his personal appearance truly noble and majestic...Modesty marks every line and feature of his face."
Washington's command was a tremendous success--the British, their supply routes largely cut off and their forces contained, left Boston by sea March 17 of the next year, and the Revolutionary War shifted from the area.
And even in a city overburdened with history, Washington is remembered, the nation's first elected official in a city where politics is the civic pastime. A costumed, wigged colonial stood on the steps of City Hall passing out souvenir programs and directing people up the stairs. "Meet the mayor--right this way," he urged visitors.