Over the last ten years, as Executive Director of the Multicultural Arts Center, people often ask me about the history of the building we are located in. We are inside Bulfinch Square, occupying 8,250 square feet of a 76,600 square foot building, originally designed as a courthouse by noted architect Charles Bulfinch, and built in stages from 1890-1920.
Another frequently asked question is and how The Multicultural Arts Center came to "live here." In telling this part of the story, I always quote a line from a Joni Mitchell song, "They paved paradise and put up a parkinglot," because after abandoning the "courthouse" in the late 1970's, the plan was to tear down Bulfinch Square and "put up a parking lot" in its place. The plan failed after community activists, artists, and the City of Cambridge intervened, secured the building and canceled the plan to demolish it.
During the years when the building was abandoned (1975 -1980), the building's condition grew increasingly inhospitable with roof damage, leaks and plumbing that would require major renovation work to make it habitable again.
So in 1980, with assistance from the City of Cambridge, the Multicultural Arts Center obtained a 99-year lease on the Middlesex County Superior Courthouse Complex, known as Bulfinch Square, for a nominal rent of $1 per year. That was the first step - and it was huge - because for a brief period we had a 99-year lease for $1 per year on a building that is currently valued at twelve million ($12,000,000) dollars!
But before we could move in, we needed to do a great deal of clean-up and repair, and so the second step involved The Multicultural Arts Center obtaining an $835,000 Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG), again with the help of the City of Cambridge, to renovate Bulfinch Square.
The Multicultural Arts Center entered into an agreement and loaned the UDAG funds to architect Graham Gund and gave him assignment of the 99-year lease - forever changing our status from lease owner to renter.
Via Green Line
We are located just two blocks from the Green line Lechmere MBTA Station. Take a left out of the station, and a left onto Second Street. Cross over Cambridge Street, and our entrance is just one block away.
From Harvard Square, Cambridge, take the #69 bus down Cambridge Street toward the Cambridge Courthouse. Get off at the intersection of Cambridge Street and Third Street (by the courthouse). Walk down 1/2 a block toward the Lechmere subway stop (or toward Boston). Take a right onto Second Street.
Our entrance (41 Second Street) is 1 1/2 blocks on the right.
From 93 North
Take Storrow Drive, keep right and do not enter the tunnel to your left. Stay in the left lane after you pass the tunnel's entrance. Follow signs for 28 North and you will pass the Museum of Science on your left. Stay to the left of the fork in the road, do not bear right toward Monsignor O'Brien Highway. Turn left at the next set of lights onto Second Street. Our entrance (41 Second Street) is located 1 block down on the right.
From I-90 (Mass. Pike) East/West
Take exit 18 "Cambridge". Stay in the right lane. Following the signs for "Cambridge". Go through the first set of lights. Take a right at the second set of lights onto Storrow Drive toward Boston (Double Tree Suites will be on the right at this intersection.)
Follow the directions "From Storrow Drive" below.
From Storrow Drive (eastbound)
Follow the exit signs for Government Center. Follow the signs for Cambridge and go under the Red Line going around the rotary and over the Longfellow Bridge. Turn right at the first set of lights onto Third Street. The Marriott Hotel is ahead. Take Third Street to Thorndike, just past the Middlesex County Courthouse (high rise building) and turn right. We are located 1 block down on the left at 41 Second Street.
From Memorial Drive (Rt.3 and 2A) East Bound
Travel east on Memorial Drive past MA Ave. exit and MIT. Move to the right lanes after passing MIT. Follow sings to Cambridge/Edwin Land Boulevard. Do not exit left to "Government Center." The road veers out over the river and under the Longfellow Bridge and Red Line. At the first set of lights take a left. Sign says Kendall Square/Cinema/Parking. Take the first right onto First Street. Take a left onto Spring Street off of First Street just past Best Buy and Galleria Mall on the right. The next cross street is Second Street. We are one block to the right at 41 Second Street.
A parking garage is on Spring Street between First and Second Streets.