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  • Stephenson B.

Preserving Cambridge's Architectural Tapestry for Modern Living



Cambridge's housing landscape has been shaped by fascinating historical forces over the decades. As a construction company specializing in renovating historic homes, we at HKF Construction appreciate the rich architectural stories woven into the city's residential fabric.

The Early 20th Century: A Time of Architectural Diversity Prior to the 1930s, Cambridge embraced a wonderful mix of housing styles from cozy single-family cottages to multi-family homes and modest apartment buildings. This variety provided options for different family sizes, lifestyles and income levels. The intermixing of housing types created visually interesting streetscapes and socioeconomic diversity within neighborhoods.

However, the introduction of zoning laws in 1926 proved to be an inflection point. New construction of multi-family homes and small apartments quickly dried up after the 1930s. These zoning policies, while intended to improve living standards, had the unintended consequence of reducing housing choices for Cambridge residents.

Modern Construction Transforms the Landscape After decades of relatively slow housing growth, a construction rebound occurred in the 1960s. But the nature of what was being built had fundamentally shifted - nearly all new units were in larger apartment/condo complexes averaging 47 units. Taller, high-density buildings became the norm rather than the exception.

You can visually see this transformation when comparing maps of where housing units were constructed in different eras. While the 1870s saw new homes fanning across the city, modern developments from 2010-2017 are concentrated in dense clusters, often taking the form of apartment towers.

Zoning's Unintended Impacts on Growth Many housing experts argue these restrictive zoning policies limiting multi-family and mixed-use development are a primary culprit behind Cambridge's stagnant population levels after the 1920s population boom. The city's boundaries remained unchanged, but zoning codes limited how that fixed area could be inhabited through new construction.

Looking Ahead: Balancing History and ProgressCambridge faces the dual challenge of preserving its beloved historic architectural character while adding enough housing for a growing population. At HKF, we believe the solution lies in sensible zoning reforms to reintroduce multi-family "missing middle" housing types, combined with respectful renovations that maintain a property's vintage charm.

Our renovations of Cambridge's old two and three-family homes showcase how these properties can be updated for modern living while keeping the signature architectural details that give neighborhoods their timeless appeal. We strive to honor the past while meeting current needs.

By understanding the lessons from the city's housing history, Cambridge can chart a future allowing contextual growth interwoven with preservation. With smart zoning, thoughtful design and quality renovations, the city can re-establish its architectural diversity while expanding housing options for all income levels. HKF Construction is proud to play a role in writing this next chapter of Cambridge's residential story.










We serve Massachusetts and other New England states


Arlington, MA Belmont, MA Beverly, MA Boston, MA Braintree, MA Brookline, MA Burlington, MA Cambridge, MA Chelsea, MA Cohasset, MA Concord, MA Danvers, MA Dedham, MA Everett, MA Framingham, MA Hingham, MA Hull, MA Lexington, MA Lynn, MA Lynnfield, MA Malden, MA Marblehead, MA Medford, MA Melrose, MA Milton, MA Nahant, MA Natick, MA Needham, MA Newton, MA Peabody, MA Quincy, MA Reading, MA Revere, MA Salem, MA Saugus, MA Somerville, MA Stoneham, MA Swampscott, MA Wakefield, MA Waltham, MA Watertown, MA Wayland, MA Wellesley, MA Weston, MA Weymouth, MA Winchester, MA Winthrop, MA Woburn, MA


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