Inman Square: More Community Than Hipster Enclave

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Not long ago, a tragedy befell Inman Square. Our local neighborhood feline, Kiki “Inman Cat” was fatally hit by a car.

Everybody that lives or works around Beacon Street in Inman Square had seen Kiki. She did as she pleased, hunting mice or lounging in a parking lot. An aloof neighborhood cat if ever there was one. Kiki was very cognizant of cars and we all figured she would never get hit by a car. But Kiki, ever the huntress, pursued prey into the street and met her end.

A memorial to Kiki has sat undisturbed on Beacon Street for a couple of weeks. The memorial speaks to the people that live in Inman. It is a respectful neighborhood where people know each other and like each other. It speaks perfectly to the community that is Inman Square.

A neighborhood is not defined by things allocated in a particular area. For instance, I know I am in Kenmore when I see the giant Citgo sign and a throng of people going to Fenway Park. That does not mean I know anything about Kenmore. Neighborhoods are defined by people. People that live there, people that work there. A neighborhood is much more than a geographical region within a city. It is a community.

When people think of neighborhoods in the Boston area, the usual contenders come to mind. Southie, the North End, Back Bay, Kenmore, Charlestown, Harvard. All of have their own particular charm. Yet, when it comes to a unique neighborhood with a great community, one of the most overlooked spots in Boston is Inman Square.

When I tell people I live in Inman, many will give me a dead blank stare.

“Inman, you know? A mile from Harvard, a mile from MIT? A 10-minute walk to Central? Right on the Cambridge/Somerville line?”

We kind of like our overlooked status in Inman. We are far enough from the nearest T stop (Central) that we are not caught in the cross hairs of commuters. Yet, we are close enough to everything to make it relatively convenient to get to popular places like Davis or Porter Squares, Harvard, MIT or Boston proper. Without having to leave our own neighborhood, we have everything we need.

We have a grocery store (Johnny Fresh on Beacon), a pharmacy (Walgreens), health services and just about every type of restaurant you could want from traditional Indian (Punjabi Daba) to Irish (The Druid) to well done American raw bars (the infamous East Coast Grille). If you have a flair for Portugese, Inman has historically been a Portugese neighborhood and there is a Brazilian Barbeque as well as the high end Casa Portugal on Cambridge Street.

To get a feeling for the character of Inman, take an afternoon and sit at the popular 1369 coffee shop for an afternoon. You will see a mixture of hipsters and young professionals, techno-geeks from Kendall and quirky locals. 1369 was a popular jazz club in its glory days decades ago and the old time feeling is reflective of how Inman carries itself.

The greatest resources in Inman Square are the people. Spend long enough in the neighborhood and you will get to know them. There is Daniel, the young man that works the morning shift at Johnny’s and is always quick to smile. Leana at 1369 with her ready smile and quick wit. Jeanie, the 75-year-old live in manager of an neighborhood building, who can always be found walking up and down Beacon/Hampshire street, at Rosie’s Bakery or getting scratch ticket’s at Johnny’s.

I love the little things about Inman. The fact that I know that no recyclable bottle will ever make it past the people that collect them through the neighborhood, pushing their clattering shopping carts. That the clerk at the local convenience store knows I smoke Parliament Lights without me having to ask. That many of the local bartenders and servers know me on sight, if not always by name. That I can watch the commuter bike races in the morning and evening. That people have an affinity for feeding the pigeons in the square. That a memorial to our neighborhood cat can be left undisturbed for weeks.

Inman has been called a hipster enclave tucked in the corner of Cambridge. That is only partly true, even if you do spend most of your time in Inman at Bukowski’s. It is a community of vibrant people, diverse and special in their own right. People that would rather read a book than watch an episode of X Factor. It is great for a night out at Trina’s Starlite Lounge or a quiet time reading a book in the park.

If you have not spent any time in Iman, it is worth your time to go a little out of your way and visit out little community. Spend some time here, say hello.