The City & Region

A Counterculture City Catered to College Students

McKinley, who lived in Kirkland House, remembers hearing from his room " a ton of noise and the trains screeching."

Because both the MBTA repair station and the corporate printing company of University Press were operational around the clock, the Square was home to several cafeterias--Hayes Bickford's and Waldorf's--which were open 24 hours a day.

By 1974 however, Sullivan says those around-the-clock industries in the Square began to fade and the restaurants where its laborers ate were going out of business too. University Press found a new home in Wilmington, and the T would soon be undergoing massive renovations as the red line's route was extended beyond Cambridge.

And the city of Cambridge was unsure about how to re-create the thriving commerce they knew in the 1960s.

While the City Council invited the Kennedy Foundation in 1965 to build the presidential library of John F. Kennedy '40 in Cambridge, by 1974, many of those councillors were having second thoughts.


The city wondered out loud whether they could afford another non-taxable development and "its attendant costs like traffic, parking and police protection," according to a Crimson article from the time.

The open invitation was effectively rescinded.

Eventually, the library was built on Columbia Point in Boston while the Kennedy School of Government was constructed at its present JFK Street location.

A College Town

Sullivan says that the early 1970s also brought a change in the retail base for many Cambridge stores.

Harvard Square, once a favorite shopping destination for Cambridge locals, was increasingly becoming the "magnet for college students all over New England," Sullivan says.

While today's Square is only home to the Loews and Brattle Street theaters, 25 years ago, Cambridge boasted nine commercial movie houses.

"With...a dozen or so college film film festivals...Cambridge is in some sense a movie mecca, one of the biggest movie towns in the country," a 1974 Crimson article read.

The Brattle Street Theater sponsored a Humphrey Bogart film marathon during each semester's reading period, culminating in a screening of "Casablanca."

"Everyone knew all the lines," says Sue E. Kuelzer, the original and current owner of Grendel's.

She remembers Grendel's in 1974--where waitresses wore "grannie dresses" and patrons brought their own liquor--as a popular destination for professors, people employed in the Square and especially students on dates.

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