Polaroid got its start in a few places—briefly an apartment in New York, then a couple of buildings in Cambridge and Connecticut—but it really got rolling in a former furniture factory near the MIT campus. The building at 2 Osborn Street was a dilapidated old industrial brick thing back then—Edwin Land once called it “wretched”–but it had an extraordinary history of invention. Alexander Graham Bell’s first long-distance call, from Boston to Cambridge, had been received in that same building. Land moved in in the late 1930s, and Polaroid kept the building, as far as I can tell, until at least the 1990s. Land’s own lab was there, even after Polaroid moved its headquarters to a big modern complex at Technology Square, and I get the sense that he preferred its no-nonsense clutter to Tech Square’s corporate polish.
The Osborn Street lab is now part of MIT, and although the neighborhood is still home to a lot of of light industry, the building is spiffier than it used to be. Your author, attempting to replicate Land’s 1947 pose a little farther up the block (shot with a leaky Polaroid Automatic 100 camera):
Compare the cleanliness of the sidewalk, then and now.
Fun discovery: The building around the corner on Main Street is the Tootsie Roll factory.
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