Researchers Unearth the History of the Powder Magazine and Captain’s Island

6 Jun

From the Photo Collection of the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library. Cambridge Historical Commission archive.

In May we submitted a preliminary chronology and history of the powder magazine/bath house and Magazine Beach to the DCR for their Historic Structure Report. In our quest to unearth that history, we’ve visited numerous repositories of primary source material, including national, state, city, military and university archives; historical societies; libraries; registry of deeds, and secondary sources.

Our investigations have turned up many interesting details about the powder magazine and the story of gunpowder. The 1818 call for bids to contractors for building the original structure specified its dimensions and materials. The ever-evolving ordinances for transporting gunpowder through city and residential streets offer a glimpse into everyday life when gunpowder was stored at Captain’s Island. Private as well as state gunpowder was stored there; local merchant vessels armed themselves against privateers, and stored their gunpowder at Captain’s Island when in port.

The research continues! Check out the updated chronology on this site. We look forward to sharing more at our Cambridge Discovery Days tours in August.

Nina Cohen and Marilyn Wellons

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