Right up until the 1990’s, The Red House, located at 98 Winthrop Street in Harvard Square, Cambridge, was a private residence. First built c.1802, this modest four-room cottage was home to the widow Susannah Cox, changing hands just a few years later to the widow Elizabeth Hicks. It is recognized by the Cambridge Historical Commission as the Cox-Hicks house, an historic landmark, and the oldest surviving example of low-income housing in the area. Located in the earliest settled section of Old Cambridge, The Red House is situated atop an ancient stone retaining wall that dates back to c.1634. The retaining wall shielded the home and its immediate surroundings from the tidal changes of the free-flowing Charles River, back before the locks were put in at the harbor.
In its initial years, as now, the house sat at the heart of a bustling neighborhood which included the nearby Market Place, the Jail House, several shops, taverns and a blacksmith shop. After its many years as a private residence, as the neighborhood became increasingly commercial, it was sold to Harvard University in the late 1980’s, and utilized briefly as office space. Thankfully, its historic status protected it from development, and Harvard sold it off to another commercial entity. After a few years as a boarding and storage space, the house was finally purchased by its current owner, Paul Overgaag, in the year 2000.
Paul, a Dutch native, and long-time restaurateur in Harvard Square, dreamed of restoring the house and transforming it into a European style restaurant with all of its original historic charm. For 15 years, Paul had owned and operated Giannino’s in Charles Square, and is also the present owner of Charlie’s Kitchen, just around the corner from The Red House. Both establishments had long been favorites among local residents of Cambridge and the surrounding area. Giannino’s has since closed, so Paul is now able to focus full energy on the red house, and its sister restaurant, Charlie’s Kitchen.
After purchasing the property in 2000, Paul began the three year process of designing the restaurant of his dreams, and putting in place all of the necessary permits to make his dream restaurant a reality. He lovingly restored both the interior and exterior of the original structure to its former beauty & simplicity. The original front room at 98 Winthrop Street are now used as space for dining room. This room features authentic period detail, working fireplaces & original wood work. The addition houses a small bar area and a brand new state-of-the-art kitchen; Also transformed is the outdoor area directly in front of the house where you will find a charming patio for seasonal al fresco dining.
If history is your thing, and you are interested in the storied past of Old Cambridge, and Harvard Square specifically, the fine folks at Cambridge Historic Tours do a wonderful job of opening the door to the rich history of the area in an informative & entertaining way. To find out more about them and their tours, click here