Suspicious Box Prompts Holyoke Evacuation

Andrew M. Brunner

Members of Cambridge's emergency services prepare to handle a suspicious package found outside Finale at the Holyoke Center on Monday afternoon.

Police evacuated parts of the first three floors of the Holyoke Center and cordoned off several blocks of Mount Auburn Street Monday morning after a report of a suspicious package that turned out to be harmless.

The Cambridge Fire Department, with assistance from the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) and the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD), investigated the complaint.

“The package did not contain a bomb, nor bomb-making materials,” Cambridge Police Department spokesperson Frank T. Pasquarello said. “But we take every threat seriously.”

The Holyoke Center—which is Harvard property and includes the offices of University Health Services (UHS)—and Mount Auburn Street were reopened at 2:06 p.m, HUPD spokesperson Peggy A. McNamara said. The suspicious package report came in at 10:57 a.m., CFD deputy chief James Burns said.

McNamara said the suspicious package report was the only one she could recall at Holyoke Center in over 20 years at HUPD.


But Burns said CFD frequently responds to reports of suspicious packages.

“Most of the time, it’s a false alarm,” Burns said.

Doreen O’Connor, an accounting assistant at UHS, said she first noticed an unattended box on a table outside the dessert restaurant Finale—located on the ground floor of the Holyoke Center—when she went outside on break Monday morning.

An unidentified male opened the box and removed an object that “looked like something electrical, like a cell phone or a beeper,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor added she was uncertain of the contents of the box.

O’Connor said the male then closed the box, explaining that he had hoped that there would have been money inside.

O’Connor’s break partner then alerted Arthur Strauss, the UHS manager of central services, to the presence of the box. Strauss said he called the police.

UHS Director David S. Rosenthal ’59 said the CFD only evacuated the levels of the Holyoke Center near Finale up to the third floor because they feared that an explosion could have caused glass to fly from windows.

Rosenthal said he authorized all personnel on the first three floors to leave the building to allay concerns among staff caused by the suspicious package.

Jamie Fletcher, an accounts receivables supervisor who works on the 10th floor of Holyoke Center, was one of several bystanders who nonetheless expressed concern that only the first three floors of the building were evacuated.