Sad to hear that Schoenhofs bookstore is closing. One of the oldest bookstores in the country that specializes in foreign language titles.
Schoenhof’s Foreign Books To Close Brick-and-Mortar Store
After 161 years of business, Schoenhof’s Foreign Books plans to permanently shutter its doors on March 25.Schoenhof’s, the self-described “oldest and largest foreign language-only bookstore in the United States,” was originally founded in Boston in 1856. The store moved to Cambridge in the early 1900s and has been at its Mount Auburn St. location in Harvard Square since 1983.
In a press release announcing the closure, Daniel Eastman, Schoenhof’s general director, wrote that high rents in the Square and competition from online booksellers prompted the store to close.
“In recent years a number of independent businesses have been driven out of the Square by the high rents, and Schoenhof’s finds itself joining their ranks,” Eastman wrote.
Eastman said that while the closing is not ideal, he understands that Schoenhof’s had to shutter its brick and mortar location.
“Our landlord has been quite helpful with us, quite helpful and supportive, but there is only so much that they can possibly do,” Eastman said. “There comes a point when what they’re ready to concede and what we’re able to give can’t meet.”
For several decades, Schoenhof’s has rented its location from the Spee Club.
Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that consumers should prioritize buying from local businesses like Schoenhof’s to prevent their closure.
“You can’t expect that bookstores or newspaper stores or retailers of any kind will survive if people continue to buy online. That’s just the reality,” Jillson said.
David A. Gevarter ’19 said he was disappointed to hear the news. As a Romance Languages and Literature concentrator who speaks English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, and German, Schoenhof’s was his go-to bookstore.
“I’m a big language nerd, so I am very excited to be able to go into a store where they have a couple hundred languages available,” Gevarter said.
Gevarter also praised Schoenhof’s staff.
“I think the staff for sure was one of the best parts in addition to having such an amazing collection of books,” he said. “The staff there is incredibly knowledgable and very helpful. Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for, or if you’re just browsing, they are very helpful helping you find something that you’d be interested in.”
In the press release, Eastman said Schoenhof’s will maintain its online store as a way to continue to fulfill its mission.
“The mission of Schoenhof’s has always been to provide access to the larger world through language learning materials and literature in the original,” wrote Eastman in the press release. “Given the present political and social climate, that mission becomes ever more meaningful.”
Eastman said the website will offer a wide variety of foreign books at a low cost.
“We’d like to be able to take advantage, in a way, of having, say, the reduced expenses of our retail location, and invest that into having an amazing website that offers a complete experience, a complete customer experience as close to actually being in a bookstore without being able to be there, as well as offering the lowest possible pricing,” Eastman said.
Schoenhof’s has been a longtime member of the Harvard Square Business Association and is active in community events, particularly the Bookish Ball and Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration, according to Jillson.
“It has been so lovely because we clearly get visitors from across the globe, and for us to be able to send them to Schoenhof’s to get a book in Portuguese or a book in French or a book in Spanish is just a delight, and something that is very unique and really will be a loss for Harvard Square,” Jillson said.
Jillson emphasized the importance of going out and buying from local retailers.
“It’s how much they care, and if they care, they will think twice before they go to Amazon to buy something,” Jillson said. “If they don’t walk out of their dorm room or out of their home and into the Square and into a store to support that store—and I don’t care whether it’s a local, regional, national, or international—if you don’t do that, the vibrancy of the Square or of any business district is jeopardized.”
Though Eastman said he is sad to see Schoenhof’s brick and mortar location go, he said he has high hopes for its online future.
“We really appreciate the support that we received from the students at Harvard over the last, my God, over 90 years that we’ve been in Cambridge. And we just hope that they’ll continue to visit us online,” Eastman said.
–Staff writer Alison W. Steinbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.
—Staff writer Katherine E. Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is Portsmouth the U.S.A.’s Greatest Small Town?
A dash of colonial history, a taste of a local craft brew, and a peek at a sunset over the water—New Hampshire’s Portsmouth has all you need this summer.
A woman in a century-old straw hat, sitting with a needle and thread, warns me “the sun can crisp you up.” Nearby another woman, speaking at first in Hebrew, says, “My husband came from Ukraine in 1903. I moved here in 1904.” Afterward I chat with a cooper with sharply parted white hair. He’s proud of a recent deal he made: a barrel for two brooms.
No one ever tells you how to respond to this stuff. You know, these sorts of costumed role-players or living historians. Here at Strawbery Banke—a charming collection of a few dozen colonial-era buildings in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—I’m finding it’s rewarding to just play along.
Settled in the early 1600s, Portsmouth might be America’s greatest small town. The port town was built on the Piscataqua River for exclusively the king’s commerce. On the wharves, workers built British ships—ships later used against the colonies in the Revolutionary War. In the years since, it simply never expanded like Boston, or even Portland, Maine, just north. (The tidal river isn’t ideal for constant comings and goings, one local tells me.) Still, there’s lobster and sand, history and theater, New Hampshire’s best restaurants and lots of beer. And walking by 18th- and 19th-century town houses along its lively cobbled center, it’s hard to believe only 21,000 people call it home.
Opened in 1958, the Strawbery Banke Museum is considered the first urban renewal project in the United States to favor preservation over demolition. (“Its impact ripped through the preservation movement like a sound wave,” Linda Landry writes in her 2003 book, Classic New Hampshire.)
Frankly, I enjoy its colonial-era punch of the few dozen buildings more than I expected. The Shapley-Drisco House is a time-warp peek split evenly between its different incarnations: One side of the house is made up like a home in the 1790s, the other like the 1950s.
And in the Pitt Tavern here I learn about Portsmouth’s other big passion. A gray-haired man with white loafers and a crimson shirt laments to me how New Hampshire used to be “number one in beer consumption” (42.2 gallons per capita in 2013) but recently fell behind North Dakota.
“That’s only because of all the petroleum going on there,” he says with some bitterness.
Yes, beer is big in Portsmouth. A handful of breweries line the winding central streets (my hotel, the Ale House Inn, is a former brewery), while the bigger-name Smuttynose and Redhook breweries are within 20 minutes’ drive. One of my favorite spots for a pint in the center is Book and Bar, a used bookstore in the former U.S. Custom House that’s now licensed to sell microbrews.
On a back alley, Earth Eagle Brewings is a compact bar-eatery with playful artwork and nine tables that quickly fill with locals. The focus is experimentation by beer, mostly local microbrews. The Spruce Bringsteen is a sweet pale ale, while the Beltane, an amber gruit, has “a real barnyard quality, think blue cheese,” says my waitress.
I get her barnyard description once I try it, and their “figgy pig” special (a flatbread sandwich with Gruyère, bacon, porchetta, and fig jam) is my favorite meal I’ve had in New Hampshire so far.
Portsmouth’s a great walking town. On my first day, I walk down quiet streets with Georgian homes (five windows on the second floor, two on either side of the front door) and stop in Sheafe Street Books, complete with a “pirates” section. The owner, an upstate New York transplant, sends me to nearby Peirce Island, where I see people wandering the riverside trails.
In the morning I join a walking tour led by Jeff Thomson, a local from just across the river in Kittery, Maine. One stop leads us to something I missed on my first day’s ramble. A short walk from John Paul Jones’s old home, the African Burying Ground is the site of a slave cemetery only discovered during road construction in 2003, and it is now a moving memorial. Part of it features eight faceless figures. “I stand for those who feel anger,” one reads. “I stand for those who find dignity in these bones,” reads another.
Thomson notes, “We don’t always like talking about it, but we must remember slavery existed here too.”
Another big draw, of course, is the coastline. New Hampshire’s doesn’t last long—only 13 miles (21 kilometers)—but is lined with sand and rocky beaches that draw sunbathers and surfers. Quieter Rye, just outside Portsmouth, is home to mansions you can visit. For me, the best part of the coast is the lobster. You find it everywhere, at fish shacks on the beach and restaurants in town.
A friend of a friend, Robert Nudd, invites me for a lobster dinner at home with his wife, Sheila. His family has been here since the 1600s, and he’s been fishing, sometimes for 60 days straight, for four decades. His crew sometimes ribs him for holding onto pre-digital technology, he says, and he can’t imagine doing anything else. Today he’s caught dozens of lobster, and is cooking up way too many for our dinner.
Lobster is big up and down New Hampshire’s wee coastline. Shacks and sit-down restaurants boil up fresh catches.
Get that? Portsmouth is a lively colonial town that’s escaped most traveler radars. It has beaches and beer and theater, and its lobster is delicious.
HOW TO DO THIS TRIP
Stay: Ale House Inn has compact boutique rooms within walking distance of all the center shops, restaurants, theaters, and sites.
See: Strawbery Banke is a district of a few dozen homes with costumed role-players. The $19.50 admission lasts for two consecutive days. The bulk of the sandy beaches are in Hampton, within a 20-minute drive. They get busy.
Do: Discover Portsmouth hosts several themed walking tours. For $12, I got a lot out of the 60-minute daily walking tour. You can kayak by islands in the Piscataqua; Portsmouth Kayak Adventures rents kayaks and offers tours.
Willing to brave the brutal cold, snowy slippery streets or the crushing despair toward the world that most of us suffer with these days? If so, we picked up a few amazing collections over the past week. A large Classics library will start to come out today (there will be over 100 Loeb’s by next week). We also are starting to put out an amazing advanced Mathematics and Philosophy collection. Also picked up some nice art and literature books.
Founded in 1630, the venerable college town of Cambridge has long been one of the nation’s intellectual centers. Anchored to the banks of the Charles River by both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the city blends its storied past and erudite character with a rich serving of arts and culture. Today, the stamp of gentrification on Harvard Square and the gleaming biotech development flanking M.I.T., a.k.a. “Genetown,” make it harder to tune into Cambridge’s legendary countercultural vibe of used bookstores and punk rockers. Still, the outward-looking citizens, known as Cantabrigians, keep finding ways to express their funky, geeky flair, be it via political protests, copious bike lanes or science-driven cuisine and mixology.
1. BOOKISH BEAT, 3 P.M.
What better way to taste the brainy shock waves of Harvard Square, Cambridge’s commercial and spiritual epicenter, than to sample its indie bookstores? Stroll the loop of Brattle, J.F.K, Church and Mount Auburn Streets and you’ll find the Grolier Poetry Book Shop (the country’s oldest continuous poetry-only store), The Curious George Store (for children), Raven Used Books (literary and academic), The Million Year Picnic(indie and alternative comics) and Harvard Book Store (best all-around selection). Pop into Black Ink for eclectic and hipsterish gifts; Leavitt & Peirce, a circa 1883 tobacco shop, to stock up on pipes, pocketknives and chess sets; and in a building called the Garage, Boston’s own media and pop culture mecca, Newbury Comics.
2. HOPPING HOPS HOP, 5:30 P.M.
Tucked among Harvard Square’s Georgian and Colonial buildings are dozens of bars and patios. For a down-to-earth cellar haunt, try Shays Pub & Wine Bar for a beer on tap like Harpoon Seasonal ($7), hand–cut fries ($5) and a splash of sunshine on the dog-friendly patio. On pedestrian Winthrop Street, The Red House, in an 1802 clapboard shack, offers a full menu, but you might try starters like asparagus and smoked salmon fritters ($8) and two-for-$1 oysters on the outdoor terrace. In colder weather, slip inside and warm your feet by the fireplace.
3. SQUARE MEAL, 7 P.M.
Hungry for humble or highfalutin? For a lowbrow Harvard Square institution, dine at Mr. Bartley’s, whose walls, festooned with Ted Kennedy portraits and Red Sox ephemera, resemble those of a dorm room. Burgers are named for famous folk and political issues, like the Big Papi, a double burger with Cheddar and barbecue sauce ($18.25) or Fiscal Cliff ($14.25), with bacon, blue cheese and spinach. Wash it down with an ice-cream frappé ($6.99). For fancier fare, try the Parsnip Restaurant & Lounge, where dishes recently included citrus scallop crudo ($16), roasted duck breast with bacon and date purée ($34) and lime crémeaux ($12). End with a drink in the sleek upstairs Parsnip Lounge overlooking Winthrop Square.
4. NIGHT MOVES, 9:30 P.M.
Take in a late show at the Brattle Theater ($11), the legendary art-house and repertory cinema where offerings range from film noir to a Bugs Bunny Film Festival. At the third–floor Comedy Studio ($15), stand-up artists like Mike Birbiglia, Eugene Mirman and Louis C.K. cut their teeth. For live music, Harvard Square’s freshest nightspot is the Sinclair, with a bar, restaurant, rooftop patio and 500-seat performance space that hosts acts ranging from Okkervil River and Old 97’s to King Sunny Adé. Try a cocktail like the tequila-ancho chile-Campari concoction Feisty Snake Woman ($12).
5. CANOE WITH A VIEW, 9:30 A.M.
Avoid Cambridge’s parking-starved streets. Instead, take the MBTA’s squeaky Red Line subway, which bisects the city north to south and stops in other “squares” such as Central, Porter and Kendall, the latter home to M.I.T. Your morning can begin with a waterborne tour by renting a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard ($15 to $24 an hour) from Charles River Canoe & Kayak. Pilot your watercraft to the Charles River, then under the Longfellow Bridge and upstream to Harvard and beyond, with views of Boston landmarks like the Museum of Science and the Esplanade.
6. FROM EGGS TO FRITTERS , NOON
Jump into lunch mode at Clover Food Lab, run by Ayr Muir, an M.I.T. material scientist and Harvard M.B.A. grad; his super-fresh vegetarian fast–food joint has more than a dozen Boston-area locations, including four in Cambridge, with one in Kendall Square. Try the chickpea fritter ($7.70) or egg and eggplant sandwich ($7.70), and a side of killer French fries with deep-fried rosemary sprigs ($4.21). A second option: Commonwealth Cambridge, for a pulled chicken and Tater Tots sandwich ($13.50) on the patio by the Broad Canal and kayak dock.CreditAshley Pizzuti for The New York Times
7. M.I.T. TOUR, 1 P.M.
Many visitors tour Harvard Yard. But why not M.I.T.? Download a map or mobile app or campus public art map, and then wander the campus, whose buildings are referred to by number. Highlights include the Frank Gehry-designed Ray and Maria Stata Center (Building 32), which pays tribute to famous M.I.T. hacks, or pranks, such as turning the campus’s Great Dome into R2-D2. There’s also M.I.T.’s List Visual Arts Center (E15), and buildings designed by I.M. Pei (class of ’40), Alvar Aalto and Eduardo Catalano. Outdoor art includes Henry Moore’s bronze “Three-Piece Reclining Figure” in Killian Court, and Pablo Picasso’s “Figure Découpée” (“Cut–Out Figure”) near the Sloan School of Management.
8. TECHNOLOGY TIME, 3 P.M.
To study Cambridge’s innovative, D.I.Y. spirit, look no further than the MIT Museum. Exhibits include those documenting the history of artificial intelligence research and robots at M.I.T.; an extensive holography collection; and Arthur Ganson’s surreal kinetic sculptures — one depicts a tiny chair doing cartwheels over a cat.
9. POWER UP OR DOWN, 5 P.M.
Grab a coffee and a snack like garlic knots ($6) with pecorino and a red dipping sauce at Area Four. Or head over to the Meadhall gastro pub and beer hall. Perch yourself at its giant oval bar beset with banker’s lamps, and your jaw might drop at the 100 beers on tap, with new brews rotating in each week.
10. EATING EXPERIMENTS, 7:30 P.M.
Another less-traveled Cambridge neighborhood is Inman Square, near Central. The Druid, an Irish pub, is perfect for a pint and a tremendous fish sandwich ($11), as well as Irish music sessions each Saturday from 4 p.m. till around 9. Cambridge’s flaring culinary scene hit new heights with the arrival of BISq. Sitting at wood tables under amber globe lights, you might try outstanding small plates like roasted chicken ceviche ($10), cornbread blood sausage ($12) and a board of tiny pastries and sweets, called the “dessert charcuterie” ($6). For a culinary trip that feels like eating a science experiment, head back to Kendall Square for Café ArtScience. The ambience is lablike, and the food is wonderfully fussy, from smoked duck salad with foie gras “snow” ($14) to a perfect round of bison tartare ($34) to the strawberry lemongrass creamsicle ($15). The bartender’s “Le Whaf” cocktails turn liquids into breathable vapor, and the devices that hatch them, invented by a Harvard engineering professor, are also on sale.CreditAshley Pizzuti for The New York Times
11. NIGHT LIFE AND NERDOM, 9:30 P.M.
A bar hop based in grittier Central Square begins at Brick & Mortar, acocktail nook that feels secretive, but the drinks are city-known; try the Bootsy Collins “rum, funk, pineapple, crack” ($11). Alternatively, brave the cramped Irish pub and restaurant Plough and Stars, where patrons transition from food to live music. Then there’s the celebrated Middle East and Zuzu complex, whose four stages host national indie rock acts and D.J.nights. For the true local dive bar encounter, poke your head into the Cantab Lounge for cover dance bands and poetry slams. Or, get your nerd on at Pandemonium Books and Games, whose shelves and basement are Cambridge’s mother ship for genre books and gaming pursuits.
12. A BRUNCH RUNS THROUGH IT, 10 A.M.
At Harvest, a Harvard Square classic, a three-course prix fixe brunch menu ($35) recently featured dried fruit fritters, the Tom Waits Nighthawk Diner Breakfast (“eggs and sausage with a side of toast, hash browns, over easy”) and Taza Chocolate Pâté. Then work off your meal with a peaceful walk along the banks of the Charles River (in the warmer months, Memorial Drive is closed to traffic on Sundays).
13. FRAMES AND FLORA, 12:30 P.M.
After a $350 million rehab by Renzo Piano, Harvard’s Fogg, Busch-Reisinger and Arthur M. Sackler museums ($15), collectively known as the Harvard Art Museums, have been retooled under one roof; the spectacular collection includes works from nearly every period of art history. Another top draw is the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The gallery featuring its intricately made botanical models, the “Glass Flowers,” recently reopened after an extensive refresh. The adjacent Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is packed with giant totem poles, casts of Maya stelas and Penobscot birch bark canoes ($12 ticket admits you to both).
The Charles Hotel (1 Bennett Street; charleshotel.com; from $299) is a known haunt of Bill Clinton and Bill Gates when they come to Harvard. The rooms are classy and modern, and three restaurants, one bar, one jazz club, an outdoor bar in summer (and ice skating in winter), pool and fitness center, are all on site, making this the prime full-service home base in the heart of Harvard Square.
For a more B&B-like stay in a quieter, residential neighborhood, try the Mary Prentiss Inn (6 Prentiss Street; maryprentissinn.com; from $249), closer to Porter Square and a five minute walk to the Red Line. The gorgeously-renovated, former 1843 Greek revival home has colorful rooms furnished with four poster beds and antiques; two deluxe rooms off the garden deck have fireplaces and Jacuzzi bathtubs.