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In the 17th century, Cambridge—founded as “Newe Towne”—grew until it stretched from the Charles River near Newton Upper Falls to where Lowell is now on the Merrimac. Before that century was over, however, it was beginning to come apart. Billerica, Newton, and Lexington were some of the pieces, and others fell away during the next century and a half. This part of the website maps and describes the town’s extraordinary geographical adventures, of which its separation from Lexington is just one part.

Chapters in this part...

  • Newe Towne is Born
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    Cambridge began with a hasty choice to build the colony's capital there, but soon lost out to Boston. Within its cramped borders, the town cried out for more farmland to attract settlers.
  • Growth Spurts[+]
    Not once, but three times, the colony came to the town's assistance by enlarging its boundaries. Ultimately, its limits comprised a surprisingly large stretch of territory.
  • Thriving and Dividing[+]
    The establishment of Harvard and the town’s academic name change didn’t solve its economic problems right away, but the town kept growing, and centrifugal forces were at work. Cambridge had become too big to be just one town.
  • Final Cuts[+]
    Centrifugal forces prevailed, as the towns of Newton, then Lexington were carved out of Cambridge. By the early 19th century, the town had cut back to its present borders, not very different from those of the 1630s.
  • Map of Cambridge
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    This isn't a chapter; it’s the map that all these chapters are about, and it's conveniently accessible from any point in any chapter. But if you want to skip all that and just look at the map, here it is.