Streets of Newtowne
Streets of Newtowne

Streets of Newtowne

By Suzanne Preston Blier, Illustrated by Jim Blake


80 Pages, 8 x 10

Formats: Hardcover

Hardcover, $24.99 (US $24.99) (CA $33.99)

Publication Date: June 2023

ISBN 9781637610756

Price: $24.99


Streets of Newtowne addresses the broader history of Newtowne (Cambridge, Massachusetts).While this is the story of one town (my town today), it is also the story of our country. Each chapter features one or more key figures in the telling of this story - from the female Native chief, Sqa Sachem (“Female Ruler”) who met the first pilgrim settlers, to Anne Hutchinson and others who fled the rigidity of the town’s religious and civic rules, to the wealthy slave and plantation owners here, to the Boston Tea Party participants and the arrival of George Washington to take command of the army, to the evacuation of the Loyalists, to the Civil War and the battle within the city between local elites and new émigrés, to the city’s growing importance as a technology center. Every path, street, and water route at this important center held onto its memories of important events that unfolded on or near these critical routes of communication, action, and change. The imagery and text of Streets of Newtowne togetherharness this rich history offering a unique verbal and visual narrative that is both compelling and easy to grasp. Each chapter focuses on key conflicts and challenges that the city has faced over its long history –from religious fundamentalism to the primacy of local political voices, to the challenges of a new and largely émigré community, to issues around over-development and climate crisis. While this book features many of the core conflicts as well as the well-known men who helped to shape this area - from Paul Revere and George Washington to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the blacksmith, Dexter Pratt, special attention is given to the native land holders, from the female chief who ruled the region at the time the pilgrims arrived and signed the early deeds, along with Caleb Cheeshahteamuck, the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. Women figured prominently here, among these, Anne Bradstreet (America’s first poet) and Anne Hutchinson, the local midwife who pushed for more religious freedom and after her heresy trial was banished from the city taking many religious followers with her. Important in Streets of Newtowne too are various people of African descent. One was Onesimus, the enslaved African, gifted to Puritan minister, Cotton Mather, who offered insights on African smallpox inoculation practices, saving many lives. Another was the enslaved and then freed Darby Vassall who greeted George Washington at the gates of his Vassall estate home (now on Brattle Street) after his Loyalist owners fled the city. Darby later would purchase his own home in Cambridge and work as a caterer. Still another is African American author, Harriet Jacobs, who owned and ran a boarding house in Cambridge not far from the first market. Cambridge now faces serious crises – environmental, affordable housing, over development with labs. The book concludes with a return to our native beginnings and ask the reader (and residents to decide: where do we go from here?


“Colorful Streets of Newtowne provides history for the young with voices that other texts leave out. With Blier’s critical outlook on history, lovely illustrations, and key thinking questions sprinkled in." —Cambridge Day.

“Travel the dirt pathways, the rough cobblestones, and the smooth paved streets of Cambridge in this fascinating trip through time, an amazingly comprehensive little volume, richly illustrated and warmly written about one of America’s coolest, smartest, and most interesting towns. It is written for young readers, but no matter how old you are, you’ll be surprised on every page.” —William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Cape Cod and Harvard Yard.

“Harvard Square occupies a site originally intended to be the capital of Massachusetts Bay Colony that has been the location of Harvard College since 1636. Harvard professor and community leader Suzanne Preston Blier has written a vivid and refreshingly original book that brings to life the complex history of this unique community.” —Charles Sullivan, Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission and co-author of Building Old Cambridge. 

“In The Streets of Newtowne, Blier wonderfully retells the story of North America’s first planned city, Cambridge, MA. The book highlights the contributions to the city’s rich history made by its Indigenous, African, and more recent immigrant communities, as well as the enormous contributions made by its female residents. A model retelling of American history by focusing on the fascinating evolution of one of America’s most vibrant, historically significant, and rightly celebrated cities.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard University Professor and host of the PBS Series Finding Your Roots

Author Biography

Suzanne P. Blier Ph.D. is a tenured professor at Harvard (in the Art History and African, African American Studies Departments) and has written many award-winning books in her field – both trade publications and more specialized works. Most recently, she published Picasso’s Demoiselles: The Untold Origins of a Modern Masterpiece, winner of the 2020 Robert Motherwell Award and is now completing a new academic work, 1325: How Medieval Africa Made the World Modern (Yale).