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.

Land on Osborn Street, 1947:









And about 30 years later (with Polaroid pictures in hand; photo courtesy of Bill Warriner):








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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One Response to Instant Moment: Osborn Street

  1. Yusuf says:

    Hi Jess! I’m not sure how long expired film lasts. Just get out there and start sotihong it. Nothing is sadder than film that doesn’t work. The film packs have batteries in them that make the cameras work so the life of those might be more important. People are saying this will be the last year of Polaroid film which I assume means that the expired film is becoming less and less stable. What kind of film do you have? What cameras do you have? :-)

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