Cambridge, July 2014

memorial drive

memorial drive, under the longfellow bridge  (sonya kovacic)

memorial drive, under the longfellow bridge (sonya kovacic)

In the years following World War I, countries across the globe started a new tradition. Instead of constructing monuments to great victories (e.g., Paris's Arc de Triomphe, Boston's Bunker Hill Monument) or military leaders, many cities and towns made an effort to remember the ordinary soldiers, especially those that fought and died.

In the United States, streets and squares were renamed for these soldiers — often on a large scale. The trend became so widespread, that in some cases, citizens became concerned that their cities would run out of things to rename. It was during this period (in 1922) that a group of veterans petitioned the Cambridge City Council to rename the Charles River Road to Memorial Drive. The scenic road would honor all who had fought.

James T. Barrett, Cambridge's City Council President, was on the delegation. In his remarks, he stated that the name "Memorial Drive" was preferable to "Charles River Road" in terms of patriotic inspiration. The latter came from King Charles I of England (who named the river after himself in the 17th century, despite having never been to America) — and the British king was "long since dead"

Fifty years ago, an MIT professor attached a video camera to his car and took a tour around the city. The video is now online, and you can get a 50-year-old glimpse into some of Boston's neighborhoods:

  • 0:00 - Memorial Drive
  • 1:09 - Central Square
  • 1:48 - Longfellow Bridge
  • 2:12 - Government Center
  • 3:00 - South Station
  • 3:12 - Fort Point
  • 5:01 - Back Bay
  • 5:20 - Storrow Drive
  • 7:52 - Cleveland Circle