Angerland in Cambridgeport

Inspired by my 9/26 posting “Angerland”, with its One Big Happy play on Ireland as ire ‘anger’ + land, Nigel Fabb sent on this early 1980s view (apparently a favorite of locals for some years) of a building in Cambridge MA, more or less across the street from MIT’s main building:

(#1) The Metropolitan RAGE / IRE building on Mass. Ave. in Cambridgeport

The truth revealed, in a full view down Vassar St.:

(#2) The Metropolitan Storage Warehouse (Fire Proof)

MIT has owned the building since 1966. The warehouse use of it ended in 2015. At the time, MIT planned to convert it into student dorms, an idea that was eventually scrapped. A recent bulletin on plans, from MIT News on 6/14/18, with the headline:

Metropolitan Storage Warehouse is potential new location for School of Architecture and Planning
Historic building would create “design hub” for MIT, with benefits for surrounding community.

We’ll see.

On the history of the building, from a 8/13/15 Cambridge Day story by Marc Levy, “MIT shutting down Metropolitan storage after 121 years to revamp for student uses”, quoting the Cambridge Historical Commission’s 1971 “Survey of Architectural History in Cambridge” description of the structure:

The most distinctive Cambridgeport warehouse, as well as one of the oldest buildings in the vicinity of MIT., is the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse at Massachusetts Avenue and Vassar Street. Built in 1895, the five-story, 90-foot-wide brick building was extended in 1911 to a total length of 480 feet. Peabody and Stearns were the architects for both the original building and the extension. Although constructed of brick rather than a reinforced concrete, the warehouse is fireproof, because its ceiling and roof are brick-arched … Stylistically, the Metropolitan Warehouse evokes the solid, impregnable image of a medieval castle, with a prominent square corner tower, additional towerlike projections along both main facades, a crenellated corbelled cornice and small slit windows (round in the top story).

And really, really thick walls.

[Note: Nigel Fabb, the photographer of #1, is a 1984 MIT PhD in linguistics, now Professor of Literary Linguistics in the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.]

The neighborhood (with some recollections). A map of the central part of MIT:


That’s the Charles River at the bottom. Building 7, on Mass. Ave., is the main entrance to MIT. Building 10, with the dome over it, is at the center of the original main structure (buildings 1-8). When Ann (Daingerfield Zwicky) and I were at MIT, building 8 housed the Science Teaching Center (where Ann worked; some details in my 12/9/16 posting “The abacus”).

(#4) Main entrance to MIT, on Mass. Ave.

The Metropolitan Storage Warehouse is building W41 on the map (W for West, meaning west of Mass. Ave.), on Vassar St.

Further up Vassar St. on the map is the big building 32, the Stata Center (housing both Linguistics and Philosophy, among other things) — the Frank Gehry successor to the ramshackle building 20 of my MIT days, where the linguists hung out. See my 1/27/12 posting “Building 20”.

At the center top of this map, on Main St., the buildings of Technology Square, a mix of MIT offices and commercial development (including a cafe where I used to meet some friends for breakfast).

And then one notable building that is not part of the MIT complex: the former NECCO factory at 250 Mass. Ave., just past Albany St.on the west side of the street. The New England Confectionary Company, which until recently manufactured Squirrel Nut Zippers, Clark Bars, Necco Wafers, Mary Janes, Mighty Malts, Candy Buttons, Sweethearts, Haviland Thin Mints, and Sky Bars. (The Mass. Ave. structure was turned to other uses some years ago, but it was humming when I was a student at MIT, and it scented the air with candy sweetness.)

From Wikipedia:

(#5) Former Necco factory on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, featuring a water tower painted to look like a roll of Necco Wafers (see below)

Necco (or NECCO) is an American manufacturer of candy created in 1901 as the New England Confectionery Company through the merger of several small confectionery companies located in the Greater Boston area.

In May 2018, Necco was sold for $17.33 million to Round Hill Investments LLC, run by billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos; Round Hill Investments subsequently re-sold the company in July 2018 to “another national confection manufacturer,” which turned out to be Spangler Candy Company [Its future is now unclear.]

… In 1927, Necco moved into a new factory on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, which was then the largest factory in the world devoted entirely to candy

(#6) The original 8 flavors were lemon, lime, orange, clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, licorice, and chocolate

(Opinions differ on the attractions of Necco Wafers. They have passionate fans, but many people find them insipid.)

One Response to “Angerland in Cambridgeport”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Somewhere in our house (it used to be on a wall near the front door, but got displaced during a renovation) is a black-and-white photograph showing a closer view of the iconic IRE/RAGE wall, probably taken sometime in the 1960s.

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