A Neighborhood Fixture in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Had a Storied Past and Just Got a Fresh Start

Architects William Ruhl and Sandra Jahnes transform a 1919 building surrounded by local lore into an industrial-inspired live/work space for its latest owner.

Over the years, the lore surrounding this bunkeresque building on a block of more traditional homes in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has grown along with the neighborhood. The textured-block structure was built in 1919 as a candy-making factory for a nearby sweets shop. Since then, its occupants have included a textile-cleaning company, a contracting business, and—according to a neighbor—a Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor who lived there in the ’70s and added a greenhouse beneath a plexiglass bubble. In 2005, entrepreneurs Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston made it the East Coast headquarters of their startup incubator, Y Combinator. (Longtime neighbors allege the property was even once owned by two feuding brothers who nearly set it ablaze over a dispute.)

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