Car Plows Into Kirkland House Library; No One Injured

A car crashed into the Kirkland House library—said to be the oldest building in Cambridge—when a valet lost control of a patron’s car while making a left turn onto JFK Street around 8:30 p.m. last night.

Five fire engines, an ambulance, a tow truck and a handful of police cars—all with lights flashing—cordoned off two blocks of JFK Street, as about 50 students and passersby looked on and a local news crew darted about the scene.

The driver, whom police would not identify by name, was uninjured, according to multiple witnesses.

The two Kirkland residents who were inside the library when the accident occurred, Jason M. Scherer ’08 and David A. Sherman ’08, also avoided injury.

The vehicle, a gray Mazda 3 with Massachusetts license plates, plowed through a white picket fence and clipped the corner of the building, coming to a stop partially wedged in the wall and nestled in the adjacent shrubbery.

According to the owner of the car, Richard Palmer of Framingham, Mass., “the [valet] said the car kept accelerating.”

Other than a heap of wooden fence debris and a dislodged window screen, the damage was concentrated around the 10-foot tall gash where the car penetrated the building.

“At first I heard the squeal of tires,” said Scherer, who was on the second floor of the library. “The whole house shook. I went downstairs and the room was filled with smoke. It was hard to breathe.”

Although the building, officially dubbed the John Hicks House, now serves as a House library, it has a rich history.

Erected in 1762, it is the oldest house in Cambridge, according to Kirkland House Master Tom Conley. A stone plaque outside the building states that the library was once Revolutionary War general Israel Putnam’s army office.

Palmer, who had just finished a vodka-tasting dinner with his wife at Upstairs on the Square on Winthrop Street, appeared unperturbed by the situation.

“It’s pretty clearly not our fault,” he said, adding that he was surprised by the magnitude of the uniformed response. “It looks like they brought out the whole goddamn world to solve this.”

Mary-Catherine Deibel, co-owner of the restaurant, said the driver was an employee of Ultimate Valet.

“They’re very good,” Deibel said of the company. “They’ll take care of all damages.”

Scherer said the crash would not distract him from his studies.

“I guess we’ll have to go to Lamont,” he said.

—Staff writer Sam Teller can be reached at steller@fas.harvard.edu.