07 October 2009

Innovate Kendall ~ History of Near Neighborhood

Just got back from the Kendall Square Association Spotlight featuring Dr Bob Krim, Executive Director, Boston History & Innovation Collaborative who spoke about...
The Bump and Connect: Why Kendall Square is the World’s Innovation Center
This is a subset of the larger Innovate Boston! story published by the Collaborative a couple years ago. Fascinating stuff about Kendall Square, including being one of the pioneering places for sewing, bicycle manufacture, firefighting equipment (i.e. woven hose), AI, and more recently biotechnology. Krim spotlighted some important things, and I learned several new historical morsels, but he missed some essential elements of greater Kendall Square too, including:
  • The Davenport railroad car manufactory, later the site where Watson called Bell for the first long-distance phone call, later still home for the Kaplan Furniture manufactory, then Polaroid, and today the MIT-owned location of Shire Pharmaceuticals;
  • Davenport's later failed real estate venture, the Charles River Embankment Company which created the landfill MIT is now quartered on;
  • MIT's Arthur D Little's Research Palace, part of Million Dollar Research Row on Memorial Drive, whose near Kendall neighbors included another MIT alum Dick Morse's National Research Corporation (creators of MinuteMaid frozen concentrate, the name a pun on Minutemen), Lever Bros US HQ, and the Electronics Corporation of America;
  • Jay W Forrester's Project Whirlwind which later spun out MITRE and Digital Equipment Corp and whose other MIT students later founded pioneering System Dynamics consultancies including Pugh-Roberts and pioneering offshoring ventures such as Patni, both long headquartered in Kendall;
  • Technology Square, the first urban brownfield redevelopment linked to a technology university and inspiration for Cambridge Center, University Park, and more;
  • The MIT-role in intentionally shaping neighborhood development, including Bob Simha of the Planning Office commissioning the mid-1960s Opportunities in Kendall Square by DUSP Professor Kevin Lynch;
  • Harvard alum Edwin Land's Polaroid, long a dominant employer in greater Kendall Square;
  • And last but not least, Isaac Fox & Robert Tishman and sons Marvin Fox & Maynard Tishman's F&T Diner -- the ultimate Bump and Connect venue -- located since 1924 in the heart of Kendall proximate to the current Inbound T station but razed -- and not rapidly replaced -- in an act of Institutional and urban stupidity as part of mid-1980s "neighborhood and infrastructure improvement". The site today serves as a ghastly MIT-owned parking lot.
And more. But he only had an hour! Anyways, afterwards Krim said another eye-opening thing: he attributes much of the vitality of the area to the great rivalry between MIT and Harvard!-)

No comments: