Book: Fresh Pond

My book Fresh Pond: the History of a Cambridge Landscape was published by The MIT Press in 2009.

It tells the history of Fresh Pond Reservation in Massachusetts – onetime summer retreat for wealthy Bostonians, center of the nineteenth-century ice industry, and stomping grounds for Harvard students – through photographs, maps and plans, and stories.

Do you have information on Fresh Pond?

I remain fascinated by the history of this special place.  If you have any comments, corrections, new stories, or historical images that you would like to share, please use the contact page on this website to get in touch.


Annual preservation award from the Victorian Society in America, New England chapter, June 2014.

Shortlisted for the non-fiction book of the year and designated a “must-read” in the Massachusetts Book Awards, 2010.


“Sinclair’s richly illustrated study traces the shifting cultural meaning of Cambridge’s most important public landscape through generations of use and abuse. Well researched and eloquently written, this is landscape history at its best.” —Robin Karson, author of A Genius for Place

“Sinclair explores … Fresh Pond’s history with amazing skill.” —Charles M. Sullivan, Executive Director, Cambridge Historical Commission

“Jill Sinclair celebrates the rich and historically significant story of Fresh Pond. Her monograph not only illustrates why Cambridge, Massachusetts, residents love it to death, but she also makes the case for this forgotten work of the Olmsted firm so that it may take its rightful place alongside the nearly 200 other Olmsted-designed landscapes across America recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.” —Charles A. Birnbaum, FASLA, FAAR, Founder and President, The Cultural Landscape Foundation


Choice (American Library Association), September 2009:

“In this beautiful, well-written book, Sinclair reveals the history of a much-loved local landscape through intensive use of images integrated with the text–historic photographs, maps, plans, and drawings…. This book is not just of interest to people in Cambridge, Boston, or Massachusetts, but also to a broader audience as one of the best examples of localized landscape history…. Highly recommended.”

American Scientist, Nanoviews, November – December 2009:

“…In Fresh Pond, Sinclair shows what can be learned by investigating the environmental and sociocultural history of a patch of land or water profoundly marked by human activity…. I’m grateful for thoughtfully-written, well-illustrated histories such as this one….Such scholarship can help us understand better the essential role of the landscape in the human experience.”

Historic Garden Foundation, November 2009:

“…This impressively researched and engagingly written book gives a locally much-loved landscape a resonance for readers who may never see Fresh Pond’s shores, while the final chapter has messages for all those involved in planning the development of historic green spaces.”

Sierra Club, “The Green Life,” January 2010:

Recommended in a book roundup on water issues: “…A mix of photographs and text, this book documents the history of this small body of water and examines the tensions inherent to natural spaces in urban settings. It also provides an interesting example of the interaction between changing social goals and values and American landscapes.”

Massachusetts Book Awards, April 2010:

Shortlisted as one the twelve non-fiction books of the year: “an important reminder about the fragility of one of Massachusetts’ most treasured natural resources.”

Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Spring 2010:

“Well-researched and drawing on a rich array of archives, Sinclair has built a portrait of the Pond over time, and in doing so she has cast light on the wider cultural history of Cambridge, Massachusetts and beyond. Her book covers an absorbing and unexpectedly various range of topics … And yet, with all this tempting material, Sinclair never loses her focus on Fresh Pond itself.”

National Association for Olmsted Parks, May 2010:

“Jill Sinclair makes a strong case for the importance of the Pond’s history, aided by an unusually full visual record of vintage photos and maps.”

Journal of Regional Science, December 2010:

“Beautifully formatted, richly illustrated with maps, photographs, and plans, and slightly oversized for the standard bookshelf, it calls the reader to open it and flip through the pages. Writing in spare, clear prose, Jill Sinclair recounts a thoroughly researched, multilayered, engaging story with many themes. The pond is both a backdrop for some of the social and economic forces that shaped Cambridge and the focal point of the narrative of the history of how the pond and surrounding land have been used and altered over time.”

Massachusetts Historical Review, vol 13, 2011:

“a work in which distinct personalities, particular events, and specific debates about the pond’s future present themselves in vibrant detail. … The archival work that has gone into recreating the many stories that lie behind this landscape is truly impressive, though it must be said that the book’s illustrations often steal the show. … Fresh Pond deserves a place both on the bookshelf of the serious researcher and on the coffee table of anyone with an antiquarian interest in the New England landscape.”