About Us

Our Mission
Since 1870, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education has been dedicated to providing the widest range of high-quality, low-cost learning opportunities for the diverse adults of Greater Boston and Cambridge and surrounding areas. While embracing technology and an increasingly diverse array of learning formats, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE) remains deeply committed to place-based, person-to-person, experiential learning across a wide range of topics.


We offer:

  • Extraordinary dedicated, knowledgeable teachers
  • Experiential learning in small group classes
  • Affordable course fees ensuring that classes have a mix of individuals from all walks of life
  • A welcoming atmosphere that encourages connections, often shaping friendships that last a lifetime
Overview of the Organization and Programs
The Cambridge Center for Adult Education is a self-supporting non-profit organization providing community members with the opportunity to explore their interests and nurture their talents and potential in small groups and in an informal, affordable and social setting. CCAE is dedicated to experiential learning with gifted teachers committed to inspiring, challenging and supporting curious students. Housed in historic buildings in Harvard Square, CCAE and its welcoming staff promote a sense of exploration and discovery. At CCAE, students from all walks of life and a wide range of communities – from neighboring states and the world at large – come together around a shared interest, without regard to background, experience, age or income. These diverse combinations stimulate both a greater appreciation for our similarities and differences as well as fresh insights into a wide range of topics, from the visual arts to literature, from ESL to culinary craft, from dance to theatre, from music to entrepreneurship, and beyond.

The Cambridge Center for Adult Education was founded as the Cambridge Social Union in 1870. In 1889 the Social Union purchased and moved into the house of William Brattle at 42 Brattle Street, which was built in 1727. The Brattle House was the site where Loyalist, General-Major William Brattle sparked the Powder House Alarm, an important prelude to the American Revolution.  By 1831 the Brattle House was home to Margaret Fuller, an American journalist, critic, and women’s rights activist associated with the Transcendentalist movement. In 1938, the Cambridge Social Union became the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE). To this day, CCAE continues to honor the Cambridge Social Union’s original mission of “providing a means of social and intellectual improvement”. The Brattle house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1972, the Cambridge Center acquired the Blacksmith House (the former Window Shop) property. Blacksmith House includes the Dexter Pratt House, built in 1808. It is here that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow observed the village blacksmith at work under the Spreading Chestnut Tree. This blacksmith is the subject of Longfellow’s famous poem, The Village Blacksmith. In 1870 Mary Walker acquired the Dexter Pratt House when a local family, recognizing the discrimination she faced, bought the house and immediately turned it over to her. Mary Walker had been born into slavery, escaped her owner, made her way to Cambridge, earned wages as a caretaker and seamstress, and spent years trying, via ransom or ruse, to liberate her mother and two younger children. She reunited with her family only after the Civil War.

Immediately following the Second World War, The Window Shop, a Cambridge citizens’ an organization that assisted European refugees with training, counseling, and employment purchased the Blacksmith House. It offered people fleeing from Hitler good jobs in its clothing and crafts shop, tea room/bakery known for its Viennese pastries, and restaurant that became a gathering place for Europeans, including architect Walter Gropius.  The Window Shop also hired African Americans, one of the few businesses in Cambridge to do so in the early 1940s.