Sunday, November 11, 2018

An Artist Haven In the Shadow of Fenway Park

From Dave Brigham:

"Fenway Studios: A rare Boston example of the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement on architectural design, this innovative structure has been in continuous use for artists' studios since it was built in 1905. Designed by Parker & Thomas, the layout conformed to artists' standards for north light and working space. Painters and sculptors from Boston's art community, some of national influence, have been tenants here, including artists of the Boston School in the early years. In 1981, the building was sold to a resident artist's cooperative committed to maintaining Fenway Studios for visual arts." -- from a plaque on the building, situated a 6-minute walk from Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Thanks, Nice Lady

From Dave "Sacrilicious" Brigham:

"Should I go in?" I asked myself as I stood outside the shrine to Our Lady of Fatima in Boston's Brighton neighborhood. A sign on the unlocked door invited any and all to enjoy the peace and quiet of the shrine, which commemorates the supposed appearance of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Construction of the shrine began in 1968, and was completed at the end of the following year.

I am not Catholic. I am not a religious person whatsoever. But I have an affinity for churches and religious icons. Nobody was around, so I went in.

I felt like such a heathen! And I was afraid that somebody -- a nun or priest or devout worshiper or Ralph Reed -- would come in at any second, ask just what in the name of all that is holy I was doing there, and kick me out. But I remained alone for the five minutes or so that I was in the shrine.

I took my leave and went off to explore more of the grounds of the former St. Gabriel's Monastery on which the shrine sits. For more about the monastery, which is slated to be included in a massive redevelopment soon, see September 22, 2018, "Modern-Day Monastery, No Celibacy Required." According to a Boston Herald article, the shrine would be moved to a new building when the monastery project commences.

Now, for something completely different:

And something even different-er:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

How Do You Feel About Felt?

From Dave "Rat Pack" Brigham:

Most recently home to the Felt nightclub, this building at 533 Washington Street in Boston's Downtown Crossing/Theater District area, has, like many buildings in the Hub, a varied and interesting history. Shuttered for more than six years, this beautiful edifice rose in 1866 as the home of the Weed Sewing Machine Company on the upper floors, and various men's clothing stores at street level, per this 2016 project notification form filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Felt, from what I've been able to glean from the Internet, sought to bring Vegas-style glitz and cheesiness to downtown Boston, with pool tables, a lounge, international DJ's, cushy banquettes and an invitation to the ladies to "Let your hair down. Hike your skirt up." I'm not sure how long it was open. Various other clubs operated here dating back to 1960, according to the Internet.

Not long after its closing, which came about because of murkiness around ownership, the owners indicated that no fewer than five parties expressed interest in replacing Felt with a new club. Then, in 2016, a new owner of the building announced plans to build a 30-story "pencil tower," retaining the four-story original facade. The building would have featured 94 apartments, a restaurant and non-profit incubator space.

Would the architect and builders of this edifice have imagined, back in the 1860's, when 533 Washington Street went up as an annex to the well-known Adams House hotel, that one day it would raise up more than 300 feet and house the extremely well-to-do?

Probably not. But that rhetorical question may be moot, as the latest I've found about the project indicates that the owner will "perform interior updates to revitalize former home of the Felt nightclub to more modern uses. Permit application calls for the addition of a bar and restaurant in the basement and 1st floor as well as a creative office space."

I like the sound of that much better.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Pictures of Eastie Pride

From Dave Brigham:

Engaging children in civic pride is never a losing proposition. These murals in East Boston -- Eastie to locals -- are great, aren't they?

Located on the McLean Playground on Bennington Street, next to Excel Academy, which is located in the former St. Mary's Star of the Sea school, the murals tout a variety of attractions and activities, including the Suffolk Downs race track (soon to close for good -- see June 30, 2018, "Losing Bet at Suffolk Downs"); Santarpio's Pizza, which has been around as a bakery and pizza joint for more than 100 years; the MBTA's Blue line rapid transit branch; and bike riding, boating and reading books.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Cashing Out

From Dave Brigham:

I've walked through the neighborhood close by the Lechmere MBTA station countless times over the years on train trips with my son, Owen. I've taken pictures of all sorts of things, from social clubs to cool old row houses, restored factory buildings to an apartment with model planes prominently displayed in the window. I considered shooting pics of the Citizens Bank building at the corner of Cambridge and Third streets, but didn't do so until it was almost too late.

Built in 1917 as Lechmere National Bank, this building at 225-227 Cambridge Street in East Cambridge was acquired three years ago by a company called Mark Lechmere LLC, which also acquired a small apartment building and former bakery next door. The developers originally applied to demolish both buildings, but were sent back to the drawing board by the Cambridge Historical Commission.

The developers came back with the concept of incorporating two of the bank building's walls into a CVS pharmacy to be built, with the rest of the site to be used for a parking lot. This plan appears to have been approved, which is why the photo above shows a crack in the wall in advance of it being shored up and incorporated into the design, I guess.

Goodbye, old bank.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Will the Green Line Extension Make It Rain?

From Dave Brigham:

This site in East Cambridge, Mass., has "redevelopment" written all over it. Twelve years ago the pet store on the second floor was torched, allegedly by the owner and two young accomplices. I haven't been able to find out if any of the three was ever convicted. This site is just a stone's throw from Superior Nut, which I wrote about a few months ago (see May 5, 2018, "Can Superior Nut Stand the Heat?").

This whole area has been undergoing change of late, and there is more to come, as I mentioned in the Superior Nut post. The neighborhood will one day be serviced by a long-planned, but much-delayed, extension of the Green Line trolley system. The service will run right behind these lots, with a spur connecting to nearby Union Square, and the main line continuing to the Mystic Valley Parkway in Medford.

A Holiday Inn Express hotel opened up along this route several years ago, and this fall, a new development called Point 262 Condominiums is slated to open next to the hotel, directly across from the former pet store site. Several apartment and condo complexes have recently risen in what is known as Cambridge Crossing. Union Square, just over the line in Somerville, is ripe for redevelopment as well. I plan to explore that neighborhood in the near future

Between the old pet store and the Sav-Mor Spirits liquor store sits an old car wash.

I think these snacks are free.

So, will the Green Line extension bring money and redevelopment to this rundown spot along Monsignor O'Brien Highway? Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Literary Icon, a Naval Celebrity & A Stern Warning About Micturation

From Dave Brigham:

Kind of a cool stone building, isn't it? Definitely stands out amid the old Colonial homes and wood-framed shops of Cape Cod. I'm not sure I would've stopped to take a picture of this place, however, if it wasn't lying under a pin on Google Maps saying, "Kurt Vonnegut Saab Dealership."

I use Google Maps a lot to find new places to explore, and to get directions. In advance of my annual Cape vacation this past July, I consulted the online atlas. Scanning a bit further east than I've roamed on previous Cape outings, I saw that this former dealership was located on Route 6A, about half an hour from the house we rent.

According to lore (and a few sources I found on the Internet), Kurt Vonnegut -- author of Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Bluebeard and other books -- owned a Saab dealership in this building from 1957-1961, before his writing career really took off. I read Slaughterhouse-Five in high school, along with a few of Vonnegut's short stories, including my favorite, "Harrison Bergeron." That's why I sought this building out.

After checking this place out, I poked a bit more around West Barnstable.

At first I thought this sign for Ed Nemec's TV-Radio Service was something that a collector had put up on an old cottage on their property. But after, what else, a Google search, I learned that Mr. Nemec ran this shop out of his home for more than 50 years, before he passed away about a month before my visit. His shop was enough of an institution that it has been memorialized on canvas.

I also stumbled across the former Prince Jenkins Antiques.

If it were open, I'd have gone in. I haven't been able to find out anything about this place, other than some provenance references at auction web sites.

A few steps away from the old antique shop is the West Barnstable Cemetery.

This is the Bursley family crypt. Just a short drive away is Bursley Manor, a bed and breakfast run out of a circa-1670 house that was once the center of a dairy farm.

This impressive stone was set for John "Mad Jack" Percival, a naval officer who served his country during the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War and "the campaign against West Indies pirates," according to Wikipedia. Perhaps the most amazing story from Mad Jack's life is his piloting the USS Constitution around the globe in 1844-45.

I finished my quick tour of West Barnstable at, where else, a train station.

West Barnstable Station, headquarters of the Cape Cod Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, was built in 1911 and contains "working railroad tools and equipment, lanterns, switch stands, a baggage cart and a small motor car," per the group's web site. Below is either the motor cart or the baggage cart.

Below is a caboose from the Delaware & Hudson railroad, which called itself "the Bridge Line to New England and Canada."

Last, and certainly not least, a sign that's difficult to read, for which I apologize.

The white sign underneath the humorous yellow one is even funnier. "This ain't a bathroom. Don't pee here," it says. I guess public urination here is, um, a sticky issue. Under the warning are graphics of a guy peeing, a woman calling the police, and a guy peeing again, this time with a picture of handcuffs under him.