An iconic storage facility in the heart of Cambridge, MA and routinely described as resembling a medieval castle is closing next month, ending a 120-year reign as the king of storage for area residents and for students and professors at the nearby campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The long-time owner of Metropolitan Moving and Storage Warehouse said that MIT, landlord of the 220,000-square-foot building over the past 43 years, informed him this past summer of the university’s intent to convert the red-brick, fortress-like structure into a new school complex, likely including dormitories, student centers and perhaps some ground-floor retail.

Neal Mizner, owner of the storage business, initially gave customers until mid-fall to clear out belongings, but extended that deadline until January 29, 2016. He’s offering customers paid storage space at another firm facility in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester.

 A rendering of MIT's vision for the future of the historic building.
A rendering of MIT’s vision for the future of the historic building.

Unpacking the past

In recent months, customers have been slowly emptying out the facility’s approximate 1,400 storage units, many of which have been rented by the same customers dating back to before World War II.

“We have an extraordinary number of customers in their second, third and fourth decades of storing at Metropolitan,” Mizner wrote in a recent online message to customers. “Our oldest customers date back to the 1930’s and 1940’s. “

According to recent media reports, customers have carted out everything from a rare wine collection to pianos to old doctorate-research materials, not to mention every day belongings, from furniture to actual vehicles. The facility is so cavernous that some tenants even used storage units as offices and for practicing musical instruments.

 The storage warehouse represents a medieval castle, complete with a square corner tower and small slit windows.
The storage warehouse represents a medieval castle, complete with a square corner tower and small slit windows.

Community landmark

For out-of-towners, it’s hard to convey how big of a presence the Metropolitan facility plays in Cambridge’s Kendall Square neighborhood.

Built in 1895, the five-story storage building, whose walls are two-feet thick in some places, is located only blocks away from MIT’s famous “great dome” over the university’s Barker Engineering Library in Building 10.

The Cambridge Historic Commission once described it as one of the oldest buildings near MIT.

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Jay Fitzgerald