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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 872: T-295

Records of Cambridge Homes, 1854-2004 (inclusive), 1900-1998 (bulk)


Records of the Cambridge Homes, a nonprofit home for elderly people, include board of directors minutes and reports; by-laws, histories, and brochures; files on residents including birth and citizenship documents and cemetery deeds; and oral histories of residents.


  • Creation: 1854-2004
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1900-1998


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Most of the collection is open for research. All researchers must sign a special permission form agreeing not to use residents' names or initials until 20 years after the resident's death. Personnel records are closed for 50 years from date of creation. Board of Directors records, and any records containing personal, financial, or health information about residents, are closed for 30 years from the date of creation. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Cambridge Homes is retained by Cambridge Homes as long as it exists. Should the corporation dissolve, copyright in these records will revert to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copyright. Copyright in the oral histories of Ruth Anderson, Ethel Caragianes, Erika Chadbourn, Elizabeth Gates, Mary Gates, Jeanne Goldberg, Frank Honey, Anna Lazerson, and Lee Smith, is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.

Copyright. Copyright in the oral history created by William Anthony is held by his daughter Lisa Smith of Haverhill, Massachusetts, for her lifetime, after which time copyright will revert to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.

Copyright. Copyright in the oral history created by James Gilligan is held by his daughter Sheila Gilligan of Somerville, Massachusetts, for her lifetime, after which time copyright will revert to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.

Copyright. Copyright in the oral history created by Max Hall is held by his daughter Judith Allen Hall of Newton, Massachusetts, for her lifetime, after which time copyright will revert to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.

Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


8.76 linear feet ((20 file boxes, 2 half file boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 1 folio+ folder, 3 photograph folders, 34 audiotapes)

The records of Cambridge Homes, a nonprofit home for the elderly, include by-laws, histories, and brochures; Board of Directors files (meeting minutes, notes, committee reports and minutes, lists of board members); resident applications; volumes listing resident wills, financial information, wishes about death and burial; and transcripts and audiotapes from an oral history project with residents. The collection contains extensive documentation of the early years of the Homes - annual reports, treasurer's reports, board minutes, and careful documentation of residents. Files on residents are most complete before the 1940s, and many contain birth certificates, United States citizenship or naturalization documents, and cemetery deeds for residents. There is little documentation of any kind between the 1940s and the 1970s. Board of Directors files from the 1980s through the mid 1990s are quite complete, and reflect the Board's struggles in those years with financial realities, an aging building, and the increased professionalization of elder care. Original titles written on folders or imprinted on volumes appear in quotations in the inventory; most folder titles were created by the archivist.

Additional material received in 2019 (accession number 2019-M68) was added to the collection in April 2019. This material is housed in #22.1. All other files remain in the same order. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical, order.

Series I, HISTORY AND ORGANIZATION, 1892-1996 (#1.1-3.3), includes by-laws, annual reports, brochures, histories, publicity material, and policies of the Cambridge Homes. Two bound volumes contain collected early records of the Homes (#1.2v, 2.16v). This series includes files of resident and Board member Lucy W. Stearns, most related to histories of the Homes that she researched and wrote. A number of brochures (#2.2), many undated, show the ways the marketing of Cambridge Homes changed over time. Files related specifically to the administration of the Homes are included here; a number of Board of Directors files in Series II also address administration issues of the homes.

Series II, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, 1909-1998 (inclusive), 1982-1996 (bulk) (#3.4-12.3), contains minutes, correspondence, reports, memos, and notes from Board of Directors and committee meetings. The Admissions Committee researches, interviews and recommends candidates for admission as Cambridge Homes residents. The House Committee is responsible for authorizing all expenditures for supplies and services in the Homes; it also included residents of the Homes as members. In general this series documents a nonprofit board (primarily composed of nonexperts) grappling with the changing nature of elder care over the late 20th century: increased state regulation, centralization and professionalization of health care, longer lives of residents, changing nature of funds available even to the poorest residents, etc. The Cambridge Homes board undertook studies to determine how to proceed with issues surrounding the cost of on-site nursing care, renovation of an older facility, and planning for an uncertain future. The Strategic Planning Committee, active in the 1990s, hired a consultant to recommend a way forward for the Homes; this resulted in the Board's decision to hire a management company and renovate to become an assisted living facility.

Files comprising this series are a mixture of those kept by Homes administrators and those kept by Homes Board members, including Presidents Frank Duehay and Catherine Gerrish. When files belonging to Board Members were titled or clearly marked as relating to a specific committee or topic, the files have been arranged with other files on the work of that committee, with original owner identified. A number of Board members' files were more general, and these are arranged by member name. Much of the material was unfoldered, and these materials were organized by Committee or topic. Folders with meeting minutes also may include agendas and committee reports to the board. Corporation meeting files may also include Board committee reports, as well as that of the Cambridge Homes Administrator, to the corporation. Series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, RESIDENTS, 1854-1994 (inclusive), 1920-1950 (bulk) (#12.4-20.5, 22.1, FD.1-FD.2, F+D.1), contains resident application files; Cambridge Homes's records about resident next of kin and wishes for death and burial; lists of residents and their financial information, etc. Beginning in 1891, residents were given numbers in order of application. Resident number 1, Jane Augusta Field, applied for residency in October 1891 and took up residence that November. Most records in this series begin with the earliest residents and continue in chronological order through the 1960s. Residents, especially in the first three decades of the Homes, were a mix of immigrant and American-born, however most were white Protestants. Bound registers (#19.5-19.6v, 22.1) list names of residents, their town of residence, town and date of birth, parents' names and birthplaces, living close relatives, religion, occupation, years lived in Cambridge, and date of death and place of burial. Application files of deceased residents include their original applications, and in many cases were also used as catch-all files for the residents: many include directions upon death, cemetery deeds, correspondence residents received from family members or other community members, naturalization and citizenship records, or photographs. Cemetery deeds are often to Mount Auburn Cemetery and Cambridge Cemetery, as well as a few other local cemeteries. Applications contain detailed personal information, such as family background, occupation of parents, spouse if any, personal property, former places of residence, etc. Two bound "Legacy Books" (#18.1v, 18.7v), which list residents in order of death, had many pieces of paper stuck in between pages; these items have been removed and stored separately (#18.3-18.6, 19.1-19.2) A number of documents (#20.3) belonged to resident Lucy Stearns, who also served on the Cambridge Homes Board of Directors. A folder of song books that belonged to residents includes several printed by labor unions. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, CAMBRIDGE HOMES ORAL HISTORY PROJECT, 1999-2004 (#20.6-21.5, T-295.1-T-295.34), contains audiocassettes and transcripts for oral histories taken of 14 Cambridge Homes residents. The Cambridge Homes Oral History project was launched in 1999, when, soon after retiring as curator of manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library, Eva Moseley was invited to serve as an incorporator of Cambridge Homes, and fellow Incorporator Olive ("Polly") Malcolm suggested that Moseley begin an oral history project. Together they assembled a small group of additional volunteer interviewers (Carol Bain, Harriet Belin, and Alexandra Leake) and arranged for training by Ruth Hill, Oral History Coordinator at the Schlesinger Library. The interviews were conducted with residents of the Homes beginning in late 1999. Tapes were transcribed by Amy Zug and each transcript was edited by the interviewer and by the interviewee and/or, in some cases, a family member. Residents were asked a series of questions about their childhood, their professional and adult lives, their family members, and other topics found interesting by the interviewer. All interview subjects signed release forms describing their wishes about access, copyright, etc. Copies of these legal agreements are included with each transcript. Each interview resulted in an edited oral history transcript save two, those of Lydia King and Sally Moulton: only audiotapes of these oral histories are available. All tapes in this series are audiocassettes. The series is arranged alphabetically by interviewee.

Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1876-1983 (PD.1-PD.3), contains photographs of the Cambridge Homes building and its residents, primarily taken for publicity purposes. Also included are photographs belonging to resident John Lowell. These photographs, most unidentified, include a woman seated on donkey in Egypt in 1908; a tintype; and several views of a woman in her bedroom.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


The Cambridge Homes for Aged People was incorporated on June 10, 1887, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to provide housing and other assistance to "respectable aged and indigent men and women." The initial intent was to raise enough money to fund a Home for Aged Women, a Home for Aged Men, and a Home for Aged Couples. In 1891, after four years of fund-raising, a Home for Aged Women opened at 157 Hancock Street. Continued fund-raising for three separate homes proved difficult; the current building at 360 Mt. Auburn Street, which opened in 1899, was meant to house women and men as well as couples. At its opening the Cambridge Homes for Aged People had 34 single rooms and seven for couples. Nine residents moved in to the building in 1899; forty-five were in residence by 1912. The majority of residents, especially during the first fifty years, have been women.

The first resident moved in November 3, 1891; all residents were assigned consecutive numbers when they arrived. This practice continued until the 1980s. Residents must be over sixty-five, and Cambridge residents receive preference. During the early years of the Homes, residents were required to turn over their existing financial property to the organization. Over time, this requirement changed, as national policies like Social Security meant that retired people had more access to monthly income. Cambridge Homes began to accept residents who could pay a monthly fee in 1985.

In 1986, the name was officially changed to Cambridge Homes. Cambridge Homes is overseen by a Board of Directors, a group whose size has ranged from nine to 30. Several residents have served as Directors; other residents served on the Board's House Committee, which oversees social aspects of life in the Homes.

In May 1996 the Cambridge Homes Board of Directors decided to convert Cambridge Homes into an assisted living facility. Renovation of the entire building followed; all resident rooms were rebuilt in a suite-like fashion with a kitchenette. Shared kitchen and dining room facilities continued to exist. Instead of directly employing nursing staff, Cambridge Homes contracted with nearby nursing facilities to provide care. However, this changed the makeup of the residents - those requiring more nursing care would have to move elsewhere. During the renovation Cambridge Homes residents were found alternate housing, and many staff were let go. When the Cambridge Homes building reopened in 1997, management of the facility was contracted to Senior Living Residences, which continues to manage the facility.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. History and organization, 1892-1996 (#1.1-3.3)
  2. Series II. Board of directors, 1909-1998 (inclusive), 1982-1996 (bulk) (#3.4-12.3)
  3. Series III. Residents, 1854-1994 (inclusive), 1920-1950 (bulk) (#12.4-20.5, 22.1, FD.1-FD.2, F+D.1)
  4. Series IV. Cambridge Homes Oral History Project, 1999-2004 (#20.6-21.5, T-295.1-T-295.34)
  5. Series V. Photographs, 1876-1983 (PD.1-PD.3)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 93-M138, 93-M175, 94-M4, 94-M53, 94-M109, 94-M110, 95-M155, 96-M109, 98-M51, 98-M71, 2000-M7, 2000-M13, 2000-M14, 2000-M21, 2000-M22, 2000-M26, 2000-M34, 2000-M35, 2000-M60, 2000-M72, 2000-M73, 2000-M89, 2000-M92, 2000-M93, 2000-M43, 2000-M117, 2004-M139, 2005-M4, 2005-M56, 2013-M47, 2019-M68

The records of Cambridge Homes were given to the Schlesinger Library by the Board of Directors of Cambridge Homes between August 1993 and April 2019, and by Eva Moseley in October 2004 and February 2005.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2016

Updated and additional materials added: April 2019

By: Jenny Gotwals, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Cambridge Homes. Records of Cambridge Homes, 1854-2004 (inclusive), 1900-1998 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Alice Jeannette Ward Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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