Sunday, March 24, 2019

Weston By Musket and Sextant

From Dave Brigham:

This trestle was on my mind for years before I finally made the opportunity to meet it. I've been drawn to railroad tracks since I was a kid walking on the rails of the New York, New Haven & Hartford system that ran through my hometown of Weatogue, Connecticut. My friends and I would gather beer, soda and liquor bottles that teenagers and hobos (?) tossed down the slopes alongside the tracks, line them up on the rails and smash them with rocks. We traversed the tracks to get to a nearby convenience store and old-timey candy shop. We also tromped around by Boot Pond, which ran along the west side of the tracks, and crawled through the tunnel that drained the pond into a swamp on the east side. My first suburbex mission, when I was perhaps 14 or 15, was exploring a house near the swamp that had been abandoned with all of the owner's possessions inside (see September 20, 2011, "In Search of President Little" and February 7, 2013, "President Little, Part II: From Myth to Man").

Sometime in 2016 I realized that there were abandoned railbeds wending their way through Waltham, Watertown, Weston, Wayland and other towns near where I live (see August 1, 2016, "I Rail Against Trails (Not Really, But I Don't Every Abandoned Set of Train Tracks Converted for Cyclists and Roller Bladers"). I traced the right-of-ways on Google Maps and then sought out and explored some of them (January 5, 2017, "Brigham in Waltham, Part II"). I saw on Google that a long-abandoned trestle over Route 128/95 in Waltham led to an old right-of-way that cut behind a plywood supply company and in front of an office complex, leading to a bridge over the MBTA's Fitchburg commuter line and on in to Weston and beyond.

I kept this trail and bridge in the back of my mind for the next few years as I explored, researched and wrote up plenty of other things here. Finally, one day last fall I made time to check out the trestle. I wasn't sure, however, exactly how to get there. I drove across Route 128/95 and a little ways west on Route 20, to the complex where both Monster, Inc. and Biogen have their headquarters. There didn't seem to be any public parking there, even though the location is quite close to the trestle and a new rail trail. Then I doubled back to Route 117 and drove past the plywood supply company and the office complex mentioned above. Again, no obvious public parking. So I drove a little west on 117 and down a residential street that dead-ended near the bridge and the rail trail, but again no obvious place to park and hike in from.

So I parked near the former train station that I'd checked out as part of a long blog post about the Kendal Green historic area of Weston (see June 23, 2017, "A Walk Through Weston's History"). I should have just gone straight here, as I had a feeling this is where I was gonna end up.

(The former Weston train station. I'll come back to this at the bottom of this post.)

From the train station, I hoofed it about three quarters of a mile and finally saw the trestle that I'd seen from above on Google Maps, and that I'd dreamt about (literally) for quite some time. And it looked great.

(The trestle for the former Massachusetts Central Railroad -- also known as Central Massachusetts -- as it goes over the commuter rail tracks in Weston.)

(Looking west from the trestle at the rail trail. The trail does not continue east toward the highway. I had to step around a fence to get to this point. Yes, I know, I live dangerously.)

Having finally reached this trestle, I thought about walking back to the old train station, getting in my car and calling it a day. But I knew there was no way I was doing that. Immediately to the north of the rail trail is the Weston Transfer Station and a field with solar panels, so I knew I couldn't veer off in that direction. To the south, however, stood a small, wooded area raised above the tracks, separating the trail from a small pond on the Monster/Biogen complex, which I remembered is on the site of a former quarry. I had a hunch I'd find something up there.

It didn't take long.

I'm not sure what these rusted pipes were for, but I sure as hell figure they were related to the quarry. The rock-mining operation was run by Massachusetts Broken Stone Co., which was incorporated in 1908. The company operates quarries in Holden and Berlin, Mass. I'm not sure when the Weston hole was shut down, or when it opened, but Mass. Broken Stone began looking to redevelop the site as far back as 1986. In 2001, the company sold the land to a developer. I guess the tire came off a vehicle from the rock hole as well, many years ago.

As for this bench, which is bolted down, I suppose quarry workers took lunch and smoke breaks up here. I don't know why else it would be here. Other than thrill-seeking teenagers with their vaping paraphernalia, and yours truly, I don't think too many folks have been up here lately.

(View of the transfer station solar panel complex, as seen from the long, narrow, steep hill I explored above the rail trail.)

After skittering down the hill and back to the trail, I got this view of what's called Weston Station Pond.

(Weston Station Pond, which separates the rail trail from the Monster/Biogen office complex. I'm not sure whether this is a natural element, or something left over from the quarrying days.)

My next stop as I walked back toward the old train station was Land's Sake Farm, located just steps from the rail trail. The town of Weston purchased the farm from Harvard University in 1985. Prior to that the land was part of the Case family estate.

(Saplings at Land's Sake Farm.)

(Bee hives at Land's Sake Farm.)

(Close-up of bee hives at Land's Sake Farm.)

(Old something-or-other at Land's Sake Farm.)

I'd seen the farm, of course, on my way out to the trestle, and knew I wanted to explore. My next mini-excursion, however, was a pleasant surprise.

I love WASPs, as you know (search the blog; I'll wait. OK, all set?) I particularly love old-money blue bloods when they donate land in perpetuity for conservation. Maintained by the Weston Garden Club, the Forbes Conservation Land just off the trail was donated in 1985 by Celeste and Mac Forbes. At 2.5 acres, the site is small, but nicely maintained with paths, maps and bridges.

So who were Celeste and Mac Forbes? I have no idea. But with that name and the fact that they were in a position to donate a few acres of land, you know they were doing alright.

On the opposite side of the trail is the Sears Land.

I didn't explore this area, but I wish I had. Accessible off Crescent Street, which is how one also reaches the Land's Sake Farm, the Sears Land -- on which sits something called the Melone Homestead -- the Sears Land is small but contains some nice walking paths, dams, dried-up canals, old spillways, bridges and ruins of a factory that once made school furniture (!). Here's a video that shows you what to expect if you hike here. I plan to get there soon!

Go for a Walk! Sears Land from Weston Media Center Inc. on Vimeo.

Finally, I was back at the old Weston train station.

Built in 1881 and closed in 1971, the station was once part of the Massachusetts Central Railroad and was located on a spur that split in nearby Waltham. This building is also privately owned, and may have been a home at one point. It's not very well maintained.

For more about Weston, see February 17, 2017, "Stone Cold Surprise" and September 5, 2015, "Bigelow's Little Office."

Here's your headline explainer:

Friday, March 22, 2019

All of the Sullys Will Miss Sully's

From Dave "Sorta Irish" Brigham:

Another bar for reg'lar folks bites the dust. Well, actually it happened last June, but I just found out about it a few months ago. An acquaintance who lives in Quincy, Mass., asked me if I knew that the beautiful neon sign outside Sully's Bar & Lounge in the city's center was soon to be taken down. I've never heard of the place, I said, but I want to take a picture of it. So I managed to get there before it was too late.

Opened in 1934, Sully's was the longest-operating family-owned bar in Quincy, according to this Patriot Ledger article about the closing (make sure to watch the video embedded in the page). After 84 years, however, things had changed, demographically and economically, according to third-generation owner Billy Sullivan. "After that downturn with the economy, there, things just never came back, to tell you the truth," he says in the video.

Sullivan sold the building to Quincy Mutual Fire Insurance, according to the article. The insurance company, which has its offices around the corner from the shuttered bar, in 2015 joined Gate Residential in an agreement to build a development called East of Chestnut where the small strip of buildings that includes Sully’s is located. East of Chestnut is supposed to be, you guessed it, a mixed-use building of retail, housing and offices, per the article.

I've mentioned bars on the blog before, but just once have I covered the closure of a working-class joint: August 25, 2011, "Goodbye Reef, So Long Bill," in which I learn from the many comments below the post just what a great place this dive bar in Waltham, Mass., was.

As for that beautiful sign, maybe Dave Waller will buy it and restore it. Waller, who I interviewed several years ago, not for this blog, collects old neon signs and restores them (see March 22, 2010, "Gettin' My Kicks"). I also wrote about his display on Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway (see August 9, 2018, "Backside, Out In the Open").

Here's your headline explainer...the relevant part starts at 2:45, but you should watch the whole thing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Going Mobile

From Dave "Electric Book-a-loo" Brigham:

The New England Mobile Book Fair is a Greater Boston institution. Founded in the 1960s, the warehouse-sized book store in 2017 moved out of the above location on Needham Street in Newton, Mass., and into a new, smaller space just up the road. Unfortunately, the new location is sited in a shopping plaza that is slated for redevelopment in the near future. All signs point to the book store needing to seek out yet another location some time this year. For pictures of the old mill site at Oak and Needham streets that occupies part of the redevelopment zone, see March 1, 2018, "I Seek Newton, Part VIII: Upper Falls (Section 1)."

I took the above picture while the store was winding down operations at its former location. Here's what the site looks like as of late 2018.

So what's to become of the site?

Located at 82-84 Needham Street, and built in 1930, the building is currently available for lease for retail use.

I think somebody should install a Tommy Bahama or a Quiksilver store. Seems ready for that, don'tcha think?

OK, for those of you who didn't figure it out, here's the inspiration for the title of this post:

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Where Am I? Somertown? Charlesville?

From Dave Brigham:

Stepping off the Orange line train at Sullivan Square station, I thought I was in Somerville. This isn't uncommon. Traveling around the Boston area as much as I do with my son, Owen, I'm not always sure which of the city's neighborhoods I'm in, or, in this case, which municipality. Turns out I was in Charlestown, Boston's oldest neighborhood. We got into Somerville for just a little bit on this quick trip.

If you're like me, your first thought upon seeing the sign on this building on Cambridge Street was, "Why on Earth does Wile E. Coyote need bookbinding?" While maniacally chasing down the Roadrunner, Mr. Coyote availed himself of all sorts of gadgets and gear from Acme Corporation, ranging from giant rubber bands to jet-propelled tennis shoes, invisible paint to an instant icicle maker. Maybe the bookbinding is to keep his mortal enemy locked into one place, between the pages of Mr. Coyote's favorite tome.

Acme Bookbinding is located in Charlestown in the shadow of Interstate 93. Founded in 1958 in Waltham, Mass., Acme has acquired numerous competitors over the years, and in 2012 merged with The HF Group out of Ohio.

Here's the building at 100 School Street in Waltham that served as Acme's first home:

(100 School Street, Waltham, Mass., first home to Acme Bookbinding.)

After just one year in business, things were going so well, according to this history of Acme, that the company moved into a 7,000-square foot space on the fourth floor of 300 Summer Street in Boston (see building below).

(300 Summer Street, Boston, second home to Acme Bookbinding. A future post here on the blog will cover this building and many others in what was once the center of Boston's Wool Trade.)

With its acquisition in 1983 of Northeast Library Binding, Acme connected with a company founded in 1821 as J.G. Robert in downtown Boston, at 6 Water Street.

(6 Water Street, Boston, one-time home of J.G. Robert, which was acquired by Acme Bookbinding in 1983.)

With that deal, Acme claims to be the oldest continuously operating bookbinding company in the world. Here's an interview with Paul Parisi, president of Acme Bookbinding, from a March 2017 Boston Globe article. I like this article because I can sense the love of the craft that Parisi brings to his business.

Not gonna lie to you: when I took that picture that's at the top of this post, I never figured I'd be providing my wonderful readers with that much information about this company.

Here's the backside of the Harcourt Bindery, part of Acme's business, located next to Acme's building.

And here's a photo of the front of the Harcourt building.

I took the shot because I found the words "REPAIR" and "BIBLE" next to each other kinda funny, in my usual sacrilegious way. Then I thought perhaps they were referring to a book, you know, a "Repair bible" for some line of products. I really have no idea. Any help is appreciated.

OK, moving along.

Located directly behind the Acme/Harcourt complex is the former Crosby Steam & Gage building (go here for old pictures/drawings of the building). Maker of steam whistles, clocks, gages of all sorts and much more, Crosby merged with Ashton Valve Co. in 1948. Now home to Raybern Decorative Hardware and wedding photographers Hitched Studios, the building dates to 1904, I believe.

Acme isn't the only company in this area that deals with dead trees.

Built in 1920, this manufacturing facility appears to have closed up shop. Boston Paper Board's web site has been, well, papered over. I've been unable to find out anything about when the company started or when it went out of business. I'd love to get on this property.

Right across the street from Boston Paper Board is the backside of the Puritan Garage.

Built in 1920, the garage is currently home to Uno Auto Center, which does repairs and sells used cars. Here's the front.

Based on a bit of online research, I've learned that the garage is also a practice / recording space for local bands, including Jessica Rabbit Syndrome, Quilt and, per my buddy Jay Breitling's blog, Hallelujah the Hills.

A little further down Washington Street, over the line in Somerville, sits this colorful little place.

United Divers calls itself Boston's oldest dive shop. It specializes in classes and equipment.

Heading back to the train after our short walk -- as usual this past fall, the weather was cold, cloudy and a bit rainy -- I spied this beautiful piece of graffiti, back in Charlestown.

Parked on freight tracks adjacent to the MBTA's Orange line, these cars have probably been there quite some time.

Heading back into the train station, I couldn't resist shooting the Encore Boston Harbor casino, in neighboring Everett.

Slated to open in June, the casino is being built by Wynn Resorts, and will be the first full-blown casino in eastern Massachusetts. I recently visited the area around the casino; stay tuned for a long write-up and tons of photos.

Last, but certainly not least, is another great work of graffiti.

It's the Power Puff Girls!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Step On Up (or Down)!

From You Know Who:

It's a funny thing to have a set of quarried-stone steps named in your honor. Sure, it means you were important - not just every guy or gal gets a memorial staircase. But it also means people are walking all over you and your reputation. These are the Guild Steps, which connect Beacon Street to the Boston Common at the intersection of Joy Street.

"BUILT TO COMMEMORATE A LIFE OF SERVICE TO COMMONWEALTH," the steps say. So who is the person so honored?

Curtis Guild, Jr. was born in Boston in 1860 to an old Yankee family, with roots on one side to the founding of nearby Dedham, Mass., in 1636, and on the other to before the Revolutionary War. Guild was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, as well as to the governorship. Additionally, he served as ambassador to Russia. After that role ended in 1913, he assumed leadership of the Commercial Bulletin newspaper that his father had founded. Guild died in 1915. He was married but had no children.

In addition to the steps and the plaque (in photo below), Guild was honored with a memorial tablet, paid for by private subscription, that was installed in the Massachusetts State House in 1916, per Wikipedia. Additionally, the Curtis Guild Elementary School in East Boston is named for the former governor, and the Massachusetts National Guard Base Camp Curtis Guild is named in his memory, Wikipedia tells us.

On the opposite pillar as this one with Guild's likeness is this memorial:

This is the coat of arms of the State of Massachusetts. The quote translates to "she seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty," per Wikipedia. Often, the phrase is loosely translated into English as "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty," says Wikipedia. The Native American pictured on the coat of arms is an Algonquin. The fact that his arrow is pointed down signifies that he comes in peace.

Yes, that's a muscular arm brandishing a sword above the native's head. As you can imagine, this image is controversial. I'd never seen the coat of arms and the state flag that features the same image before researching this post. I don't find it shocking that the seal portrays the dominance by Europeans of Native Americas. After all, the state seal has featured some version of this image off and on since the early 17th century. But I do think the state should adopt a new, more inclusive image.

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Short Walk Through Longwood...and Mission Hill

From Dave Brigham:

I'm going to dispense with my usual introductory information and just get right to some random photos of Boston's Mission Hill and Longwood neighborhoods, along with some descriptions.

(These two beauties are part of the Mission Hill Triangle, an architectural conservation district bound by Huntington Avenue and Tremont, Worthington and Smith streets. Seventy-one of the 74 buildings in the district were built in the late 19th century.)

(Located at the corner of Wigglesworth and Tremont streets, Flann O'Brien's pub is named after the Irish novelist, playwright and satirist whose real name was Brian O'Nolan. The sculpture over the door is pretty damn impressive.)

(Around the corner heading west on Huntington Avenue is Carman's Beauty Salon. According to Yelp reviews, this is a "Dominican spot" that offers great haircuts and styles at reasonable prices.)

(Reversing direction on Huntington, on the same side of the street, we see this faded beauty, with just a hint of a ghost sign. Opened in 1885 as The Helvetia, this was an apartment hotel, per Wikipedia.)

(Hopping across Huntington Ave. takes you to the Longwood area of Boston, which is thick with hospitals, medical schools and other such facilities. Above is a statue of Sidney Farber, found of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Einar Gustafson, the young patient who in 1948 helped launch the Jimmy Fund [Jimmy was the name used to protect the boy's privacy], in front of a research facility named for the late Red Sox owner Thomas Yawkey. Erected in 2013, the statue recognizes the strong bond between cancer research and Boston's baseball teams, the Red Sox and the one-time Braves.)

(A short distance away from the Jimmy Fund statue is the former Boston Lying-In Hospital. Established in 1832 as one of the nation's first maternity hospitals, the Lying-In merged with the Free Hospital for Women in 1966 and eventually became part of Brigham & Women's Hospital.)

(This is as close as I'm ever going to get to Harvard Medical School. Through that wonderful arch you see in the background is a regulation tennis court, just one of the many amenities for all the smarty pants folks who live here. Other fitness options include an indoor basketball court, two singles squash courts, two weight rooms, a cardiovascular room, a climbing wall, a spinning studio, and a group fitness room, per the school's web site for Vanderbilt Hall, which dates to 1927 and is the nation's oldest medical school residence.)

(Last, but certainly not least even in and among the hallowed medical halls it is surrounded by, we have Sami's Vanderbilt Food Trolly, known as Sami's. Offering falafel, hummus, shawarma and kebobs since 1979 - minus the two years between 2012 and 2014 -- the sort-of food truck unfortunately recently announced that it's closing. "Sami's fed all of us after leaving the clubs [in the late '80s,]" says one sad commenter on Universal Hub. "Doctors, nurses, punk rockers from Kenmore, all in line together to enjoy the comfort food of Sami's!!")

R.I.P., Sami's