Inman Square is a vibrant little neighborhood on the northern rim of Cambridge (the one in Massachusetts). The area is in the process of gentrification.
The core intersection of the neighborhood, like many other "squares" in the Boston area, is not a true square, instead a six-way intersection between Cambridge Street, Hampshire Street, Inman Street, and Springfield Street. Other important roads in the area include Prospect Street and Webster Avenue.
The square itself contains many brick buildings and businesses, particularly along the Cambridge Street axis, while the periphery of the neighborhood consists of residential multi-family houses. The neighborhood is surrounded on all sides by urbanity: to the south lies Central Square, to the east East Cambridge, and to the west an area nebulously defined as Mid-Cambridge, which lies between Inman and Harvard Square. To the north lies Somerville, with Union Square a few blocks away, as well as several Somerville-style scrapyards to the northeast along Windsor Street and Webster.
Like many Boston-area neighborhoods, getting there can be a challenge to the uninitiated. No state routes go through there, nor is there a T stop (though one may be in the works as part of the Green Line extension or the new Circle Line that will be built in the next 20 years). At this point, these are the following methods:
- Driving: Turn onto Prospect Street from MA-2A/Mass Ave. in Central Square. Go up four blocks. Turn left on Hampshire Street.
- T: Get off at the Central Square stop on the Red Line and walk up Prospect. Or take Lechmere from the Green Line and walk up Cambridge Street.
- Bus: Routes 69, 83, and 91 go directly through the square; routes 68, 85, 86, and CT2 glance its periphery.
Inman Square first appeared in 1809, when Hampshire and Cambridge streets were laid out by developer Andrew Craigie. Hampshire Street at the time was part of the Middlesex Turnpike, which funneled traffic between Boston and its northwestern suburbs. As a result, the area grew quickly. Locals alternatively called the neighborhood Atwood's Corner or Inman Square, with the latter finally decided by a petition in 1875. In 1881, the Charles River Street Railway ran along Cambridge Street. Full service was implemented by 1900.
The early half of the 20th century saw the neighborhood continue to grow, attracting many retail owners. In 1950, however, the streetcars were shut down, and Inman Square, like many urban centers in the latter half of the century, fell into decline. However, the square's proximity to Central Square, Harvard, and MIT kept business alive, and the area was freshly populated with Brazilian and Portugese immigrants. The square also became a place to see new comedians, including Steven Wright, Jane Curtain, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Jimmy Tingle, who performed at the Ding Ho resturant. By the late 90's, rising real estate costs and the transformation of Kendall Square into a premier biotech center made Inman Square a highly desirable place to live. Since then, gentrification has been slowly encroaching on the neighborhood, though at this point not to the extent of Harvard Square or Central Square. East Cambridge is beginning to be gentrified as well.
The neighborhood remains quite diverse, with young professionals, students, and immigrants living side by side. As mentioned in the previous section, expansion of the T is likely to increase the neighborhood's popularity.
Inman Square also features heavily in The Infinite Jest as the site of Antitoi Entertainment. Ryle's is also mentioned.
Things to See and Do
Inman Square has many restuarants, shops, and clubs. Below is a sampling:
- www.wikipedia.org (has a lot on the history of the square)
- maps.a9.com (for reminding me of the stores there)