Harvard Square Subway Kiosk

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Harvard Square Subway Kiosk
2017 Out of Town News, Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts.jpg
Harvard Square Subway Kiosk is located in Massachusetts
Harvard Square Subway Kiosk
Location0 Harvard Square
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°22′24.9″N 71°7′08.3″W / 42.373583°N 71.118972°W / 42.373583; -71.118972Coordinates: 42°22′24.9″N 71°7′08.3″W / 42.373583°N 71.118972°W / 42.373583; -71.118972
Area500 square feet (46 m2)[2]
BuiltFebruary 1928[3]
ArchitectC. B. Breed[3]
NRHP reference #78000441[1]
Added to NRHPJanuary 30, 1978[1]

The Harvard Square Subway Kiosk is a historic kiosk and landmark located at Zero Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[4] It was built in 1928 as the new main headhouse (entrance building) for the previously opened Harvard Square subway station. After the station closed in 1981 for renovations, the kiosk was moved slightly and renovated. The Out of Town News newsstand, which opened in 1955, has occupied the kiosk since 1984. As of 2016, the City of Cambridge (which owns the structure) may convert it for public use.


The original 1912-built headhouse, which was replaced in 1928
A 1930s postcard of Harvard Square with the headhouse at center foreground

Subway entrance[edit]

Harvard station opened on March 23, 1912, as the northern terminus of the Cambridge Subway.[5] Early plans called for an upright stone entrance in the center of Harvard Square, similar to those at Scollay Square and Adams Square. The headhouse was ultimately constructed as a massive circular brick structure.[6]:20,31

As automobile traffic through the square increased during the 1920s, motorists called the building a hazard to navigation. In February 1928, the Boston Elevated Railway demolished the 1912-built headhouse and replaced it with a lower rectangular brick structure with a copper-clad roof. There is debate about the relative contributions to the design by Boston architect Clarence H. Blackall and MIT civil engineering professor, Charles B. Breed; there also was input from Boston Elevated Railway officials, mayor Edward W. Quinn, the Harvard Square Business Men's Association, and the Public Utilities Commission. The new headhouse, featuring three walls of brick, limestone, and mullion-framed glass windows on three sides, cost around $20,000, of which the city paid $15,000.[3]

The distinctive structure became a Harvard Square landmark. In the late 1970s, the MBTA began planning an extension of the Cambridge Subway – by then known as the Red Line – further north in Cambridge, which involved completely rebuilding Harvard station. The original subway entrance structure was already overcrowded during peak hours and clearly could not handled the anticipated pedestrian flow of an expanded station, so it had to be completely replaced for fundamental functional reasons.

Public opinion called for the historic headhouse to be saved; under the guidance of the Cambridge Historic Commission, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1978.[1] Harvard station closed for reconstruction on January 31, 1981; the temporary Harvard-Holyoke and Harvard-Brattle stations that replaced it were inappropriate for reuse of the headhouse. The expanded Harvard station, opened in 1983, uses a larger glass and steel headhouse at the original location.[5]

On February 13, 1981 the original headhouse roof was removed in one piece and stored during subway construction. The remaining components were dismantled or discarded. Following completion of the subway station and new headhouses, the kiosk was reconstructed, with a contemporary façade, slightly north of its original location. No longer needed by the MBTA, the structure was acquired by the City of Cambridge.[7][8][9]

Circa-1970s postcard of Harvard Square, showing Out of Town News in its former location (dark roof) next to the subway entrance kiosk
Out of Town News in 2006

Out of Town News[edit]

Out of Town News was founded in 1955 by Sheldon Cohen.[10] Located next to a bustling subway entrance, the newsstand was long noted for stocking the leading newspapers from around the nation and around the world, many of which were flown to Boston to be available just one day after printing. Customers, especially academics, came to get the most recent editions of their hometown paper or of newspapers from parts of the world where important news events were unfolding.[11]

The newsstand became famous too for its regular clientele and visitors. John Kenneth Galbraith and Julia Child were both regular customers, and Robert Frost once asked for directions at the stand on the way to a reading.[10] Paul Allen, then a young programmer at Honeywell, bought the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics at Out of Town News. The magazine inspired Allen and his friend Bill Gates to found Microsoft that April.[12]

In 1984, Out of Town News moved into the former subway kiosk structure, which had been relocated a few feet north of its original location on June 8.[10][13] Cohen operated several other businesses around the square, and was known as the “unofficial mayor of Harvard Square".[14] Cohen sold Out of Town News to Hudson News in 1994, though it kept its name and unique business model.[10] Responding to the 1994 sale, a citizen group submitted a petition to landmark the kiosk, but the Cambridge Historical Committee decided the lease restrictions on the kiosk were sufficient protections.[15]

In 2008, it was announced that the newsstand might go out of business, principally because its unique function of supplying yesterday's newspapers was made obsolete by the ability to read them online.[8] The physical structure also required hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs.[10] In January 2009, a new owner, Muckey's Corporation, won a bidding competition and signed a lease to take over the newsstand.[16] Muckey's diversified the stand's offering with more typical magazines and convenience store fare, but maintained the original name.[17]

In 2013, the city began studying use and possible renovation of Harvard Square, including possibly further restoration or reworking of the kiosk. When the long-term lease expired in January 2016, the city signed a month-to-month lease ending in July 2017, while exploring its options for the space.[2] In August 2016, the city released plans to convert the structure to a glass-walled public space, despite the lessee's offer to contribute to the renovations if the business could stay.[18]

In September 2016, a citizen group again petitioned the Cambridge Historical Commission to designate the kiosk as a protected landmark, which would effectively stop the proposed major renovation.[15] In November 2016, the Cambridge Historical Commission voted in support of proceeding with a landmark study.

Out of Town News closed on October 31, 2019. Temporary artwork will be placed in the kiosk until renovation of the building begins, planned for early 2020.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ a b Feijo, Sara (July 9, 2015). "Big plans for Out of Town News in Harvard Square". Wicked Local Cambridge. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "NEW HARVARD-SQ STATION ALLEVIATES TRAFFIC PERIL". Boston Daily Globe. February 12, 1928. p. A16 – via Proquest Historical Newspapers.
  4. ^ "Shopping in Harvard Square". Harvard Square Business Association. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Belcher, Jonathan (June 27, 2015). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district 1964-2015" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved September 5, 2015.
  6. ^ Cheney, Frank (2002). Boston's Red Line: Bridging the Charles from Alewife to Braintree. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738510477.
  7. ^ Kleespies, Gavin W., and Katie MacDonald. "Transportation History". Harvard Square Business Association. Archived from the original on March 8, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Howland, Sarah J. (November 19, 2008). "Facing Lease Problems, Newsstand May Soon Close". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  9. ^ "NORTHEAST JOURNAL; OWNING A PIECE OF HARVARD SQUARE". New York Times. December 15, 1985. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e Levenson, Michael (November 20, 2008). "Plan to shutter newsstand pierces heart of Harvard Sq". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  11. ^ Noah, Timothy (October 5, 1999). "Saving Out-of-Town News". Slate. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
  12. ^ Finucane, Martin (December 30, 2008). "Harvard Square newsstand sold the magazine that started a revolution". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on January 1, 2009.
  13. ^ 1984 Annual Report. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 1984.
  14. ^ Flynn, Kerry M. (January 11, 2012). "Out of Town News Founder Sheldon Cohen Honored in Retirement". The Crimson. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Protected Landmark Petition: Harvard Square Subway Kiosk" (PDF). Our Harvard Square. September 27, 2016.
  16. ^ Nierstedt, Jenna (January 29, 2009). "Good news! Corporation rescues Out of Town stand". Archived from the original on January 31, 2009.
  17. ^ Hansen, Amy (October 12, 2012). "Out of Town newstand in Harvard Square adjusts to the digital age". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  18. ^ Conti, Katheleen (August 26, 2016). "Harvard Square could lose iconic Out of Town News". Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  19. ^ Vaughn, Alyssa (September 9, 2019). "Out of Town News, a Harvard Square Fixture for 60 Years, Is Closing". Boston. Retrieved September 17, 2019.

External links[edit]