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Welcome to Central Square!

Central Square, Cambridge is a historic, dining, shopping, and entertainment destination that the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) designated as a Cultural District in the fall of 2012 – one if the first fifteen Cultural Districts in the state.

The Central Square Cultural and Business District (C2CD) are home to a mix of artists and makers, creative start-ups, independent retailers, non-profits and corporations. Central Square is an abundantly creative place to live and work because of its cultural resources: public art, resident artists, dynamic cultural organizations, diverse restaurants, Cambridge City Hall, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and surrounding college and universities.

Central Square has been a welcoming starting place for performers and events. Our annual calendar of events (hyperlink) includes the Taste of Cambridge, Cambridge Science Festival, Central Square World’s Fair, Together Festival, Howlfest, The Festival of Dumplings, and the City Wide Dance Party with new additions this year of Geek Central and Parking Day Mini-Golf.

Business and property-owners in the Square are committed to attracting new partners to keep its vibrant mix appealing to all different kinds of people. Central Square is an authentic, constantly evolving urban neighborhood that has always been and will continue to be one of the region’s most eclectic and distinctive place to live, work and play.The Central Square Business Association (CSBA) welcomes you to Central Square and to our community.

Central Square History

Central Square, Cambridge’s traditional downtown, originated in the late 18th century as a new village within the town of Cambridge. The construction of the West Boston Bridge (now the Longfellow Bridge) in 1793 reduced the distance from Cambridge to Boston from 8 to 3 ½ miles, and opened the countryside between Harvard Square and the Charles River to development. The Longfellow Bridge reached the Cambridge shore near Kendall Square, but required a causeway to cross the salt marsh to Pelham’s Island, at today’s Lafayette Square. The first settlement in Cambridgeport was near the intersection of today’s Main Street and Massachusetts Avenue and developed into the Central Square business and cultural district.

After the Civil War, Cambridgeport became a residential suburb of Boston and a commercial and administrative center of the city of Cambridge. The industrial revolution of the late 19th century led to a surge of development of Central Square, and the area was compared to Detroit and Toledo as an emerging industrial powerhouse. The Cambridge Subway, completed in 1912 provided transportation to and from Cambridge.

Central Square came to be known as a robust downtown between 1920 and 1950, when several large department stores, movie theatres, and dozens of small retailers served the needs of Cambridge and its visitors. After World War II, like many American downtowns, Central Square was influenced by post-war suburbanization. The early 1990’s brought renewed public investment in infrastructure and residential and commercial development.

Today Central Square is a mix of new businesses including the Central Square Theater, Danger! Awesome, Flour Bakery and Four Burgers, and longstanding cornerstone businesses such as The Middle East, Miracle of Science, Pandemonium Books and Games, Improv Boston, TT the Bears, Harmonix and Hubba Hubba – all of which continue to add to Central Square’s unique fabric.

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