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The History of the Kendall Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Kendall Hotel at the Engine 7 firehouse is the first and only Historic Hotel in Cambridge, MA. We are proud to belong to Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Old EnginehouseThe Kendall Square area has seen a great deal of change in the last two centuries. In the early 1790s, the site of Engine 7 was a salt marsh. By 1830, it was converted to a wharf serving local businesses. In 1870, the City of Cambridge purchased the wharf and used it for deliveries of fuel and paving materials. The turn of the century saw a boom in manufacturing throughout the Northeast, transforming the character of Cambridge, particularly Kendall Square.

In 1894-95, the Engine 7 firehouse was erected to serve this rapidly industrializing area. The Queen Anne-style building was designed by Boston architects R.J. Fitzgerald and S.D. Mitchell. Whereas earlier firehouses were typically housed in the same buildings as police stations and other municipal offices, the late 19th-century firehouses were innovative, single-purpose buildings. They were designed to accommodate stables with a permanent team of horses, coal bunkers to fuel the new steam pumpers, maintenance facilities, and dormitories for the firemen, complete with brass poles for quick response.

The History of the Kendall Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Engine 7 served Kendall Square for nearly a century. Its firefighters were a motley crew who considered themselves the “black sheep” of the Cambridge Fire Department. When Engine 7 closed in 1993, the building fell into neglect. Meanwhile, Kendall Square was becoming the site of yet another major cultural shift: the technological revolution of the 1990s. As late 20th-century biotech office buildings began to crowd the streets, the Engine 7 firehouse was one of the area’s only remaining 19th-century structures.

Despite its historical significance, the building was at risk for demolition. In an effort to preserve the firehouse and give it a new role in the neighborhood, local couple Gerald Fandetti and Charlotte Forsythe purchased it after envisioning its rebirth as a boutique hotel. The renovation project began in 2000 and lasted two years. It was a major project that included moving the entire three-story structure closer to the street, and the construction of a seven-story addition. The renovation sought to maintain the building’s authenticity and feel while updating the facilities to 21st-century standards.

Kendall Hotel at SunsetThe balance between old and new is evident throughout the hotel, from the antique memorabilia on display to the high-speed wireless Internet access in the lobby. Each room was individually designed and appointed by Forsythe, a local artist and collector; the hotel’s many regular guests often request their favorite rooms. In honor of the Engine 7 firefighters, the hotel restaurant could only be named “The Black Sheep.” As an element of the streetscape, the hotel adds variety and relief to its surroundings, reminding passersby of the scale and feel of the 19th century. Bridging the gap between Kendall Square’s Victorian past and its high-tech present and future, the Kendall provides a unique alternative for visitors seeking a more personal city hotel experience.

More information about the history and expansion of the Engine 7 Firehouse may be found in this PDF document: saving-engine-7.pdf.

The Kendall Hotel at the Engine 7 Firehouse

350 Main Street | Cambridge, MA | 866 566 1300 | 617 577 1300
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