Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Lowdown on the High-Speed Line

From Dave Brigham:

Most folks in Greater Boston are likely at least somewhat familiar with the MBTA's four subway/trolley lines -- the Blue, Green, Orange and Red lines -- regardless of whether they ride them or not. How many people in the metropolitan area, however, know about the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line, unless they ride it everyday or are train lovers?

Regular readers of this blog know that my son, Owen, and I often ride the subway in and around Boston. We've been doing this for more than 10 years, as what once used to be a special occasion has turned into something we do most weekends. We do many of the same things on our trips, from eating pizza at Regina Pizzeria at South Station to riding mainly on the Green line, but we seek out new areas of the city fairly frequently, so I can take pictures of things to write about here.

In the last decade we have taken a handful of rides on the Ashmont-Mattapan line, and it's always a pleasure (regular riders may beg to differ with me, as I know the line, like all MBTA branches, has its issues). A little background: the line is an extension of the Red line, which terminates at Ashmont Station in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. The loop at Ashmont looks like this:

"Those cars aren't red," you're saying to yourself. That's correct. These cars, known as PCC streetcars, date to around 1945, according to my in-house MBTA expert, and were at one time painted green, before being restored "to their original Boston Elevated Railway paint that they were originally delivered in," according to this article at the Boston Streetcars web site.

The Ashmont-Mattapan line exists along what was formerly the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The other end of the line is in Boston's Mattapan neighborhood, but the middle section runs in part through the town of Milton, as well as Cedar Grove Cemetery. The line as we know it today opened in 1929.

In addition to the cool old train cars, the line also features an old station.

I'm not sure when Mattapan Station was built, but I believe it was the mid-1920's. Check out this photo and also this one, each of which date to 1924.

"So what's in the station now?" you ask. When I took this photo a few months ago a place called Kuizinn Lakay Plus, which offers pizza and also CD's and DVD's, per the sign. I believe "Kuizin Lakay" is Czech for "Food & Discs."

The cozy place next door is a Spanish restaurant, RestauranChito, that I believe is still in business. It was hard to tell. I'm guessing this place has been around for a long time as different hole-in-the-wall eateries, but not as long as the old station.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Backside, Out In the Open

From Dave Brigham:

I'm so used to the solo pursuit of shooting abandoned railroad tracks, historic buildings and cool neon signs that it just seems weird to take pictures of these things I enjoy so much, alongside members of the general public who normally don't pay them much mind.

But thanks to a summer-long display at Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway, seekers of the backside of America, and those who just happen to be strolling along this beautiful space near the city's waterfront, can enjoy eight vintage neon signs from the collection of Dave Waller, a local businessman.

I interviewed Waller several years ago for a publication put out by the Society for Commercial Archeology. I chatted with him in his home, a converted firehouse, and took pictures of many of the signs in his collection. I posted a few photos way back when on this blog: March 22, 2010, "Gettin' My Kicks."

I highly recommend checking out the signs this summer.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Marine Barracks to Be Saved

From Dave Brigham:

This photo of a former Marine officer barracks in Brighton, Mass., isn't great, but the building itself, along with one other on the site at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Warren Street, will serve a good purpose: to house low- and middle-income military veterans.

The Brighton Marine Health Center is now part of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, but I assume it was run by the military at some point. I believe the buildings on site date to World War II.

The health center established a partnership with WinnCompanies several years ago to build apartments for vets. After gaining approval from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the project hit a snag when Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin objected to the plan to tear down all four barracks, in his role as head of the state's historic commission. Long story, short: everybody involved arrived at a compromise of keeping two of the barracks, which once housed officers and doctors (since I took these photos, the other two barracks have been torn down). Nice to see these buildings which, while they aren't historically significant, are solid reminders of the Greatest Generation, will be saved.

For a peek at what the finished development will look like, go here.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A Sign of Hope?

From Dave Brigham:

I have passed by the North American Indian Center of Boston many times in recent years, on subway trips with my son. For nearly 50 years, the center has "provided cultural, social, educational, and professional related services to the New England Native American* community," according to its web site. Recently, I noticed the group's sign had been removed from its headquarters on South Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain, and that the building looked a bit roughshod.

I worried that, like other older buildings in the neighborhood, the NAIC would fall to the wrecking ball in favor of a boutique hotel or an all-inclusive apartment complex. The nearby lot where I shot the photo for "Matt Foley's Van?" on October 2, 2015, was developed last year into the Walter Huntington Apartments.

Well, I'm happy to report that the Indian Center has a new sign (covering a window), so I assume the place is still in business. I imagine, though, that this site will be sold before too long, as so many other lots like this across Boston have been in the last decade.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Shining a Light On Brighton Center

From Dave Brigham:

It seems as though just about everyone under the age of 30 who has spent any amount of time living in or around Boston at some point did a hitch in the city's Brighton neighborhood. I lived there for three years while my girlfriend, now wife, was in law school a quarter-century ago. As such, I spent a fair amount of time driving through different sections of Brighton on the way across the Charles River to Harvard Square or to see friends in Somerville, or to Newton to see my future in-laws.

With some frequency, we ate at the Greenbriar Pub in Brighton Center with my girlfriend's parents, sister and grandfather. I still pass through the neighborhood on occasion, but I hadn't walked through Brighton Center in quite a few years. So I decided to do so recently. Here's what I found.

(This basketball and hoop at the Rogers Park Playground looked quite sad waiting for kids to get out of school.)

(Rogers Park was one of several in the city to benefit from a 2011 program coordinated by former Celtic Rajon Rondo and high-energy drink peddler Red Bull to refurbish basketball courts.)

(Near the playground sits this shuttered former funeral home. Several years ago a developer, Washington Victory Apartments Limited Partnership, received approval from the City of Boston to turn this property at 460 Washington Street into four apartments and to add 24 units in a new building. Additionally, there would be a parking garage and ground level parking. More recently, however, the property has been listed for sale. Boston Realty Advisors says on its web site that the former funeral home property represents "a tremendous opportunity for a developer to hit the ground running with a premier project in a transformative submarket.")

(Built in 1940, this former service station near the funeral home appears to be an apartment now.)

(A short distance up Washington Street, on the northwest corner of Foster Street, sits the former site of the Noah Worcester House. Worcester was a Unitarian minister, a founder of the American peace movement and a postmaster, among other things. In 1817 he became the postmaster of Brighton, and established the town's first post office on this spot. That's more or less what this plaque says.)

(A short jog away from the service station-turned apartment sits another former gas station. This one was turned into Bangkok Bistro. Here's what it used to look like.)

(I hope that you can see the sign in the middle of this photo. I was excited when I spotted it. It says "IMPERIAL". This building opened in 1908, I believe, and is known as the Washington and Imperial Buildings, according to the Brighton Allston Historical Society web site.)

(Another view of the Washington and Imperial Buildings.)

On the opposite side of the Washington and Imperial Buildings from the sign posted above are these great murals for Imperial Pizza.

The neighborhood favorite unfortunately closed four years ago after nearly 50 years in business. While the sign is still on the shop, there are no pies coming out of those ovens. Not sure what may go in here, and why nothing has in the last four years.)

For more about the history of Brighton Center, check this out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Livin' On the Edge

From Gonzo Dave Brigham:

There are thousands of buildings like this spread across Boston's neighborhoods, from East Boston to West Roxbury, Dorchester to Brighton. But this one in Allston is different. You can tell by the small green sign to the left of the front door.

Yes, the Bad Boys of Boston -- Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Joey Kramer, Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton -- lived in this unassuming building at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in the early 1970s, when they were just starting out. In 2012, the band played a show outside the building, and the City of Boston put up that plaque.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

North End Stroll

From Luigi Brigham:

I head out just about every weekend into Boston with my son. I try to pick out a neighborhood or building or cemetery that I want to explore and take pictures of, and he's generally agreeable as long as we get plenty of subway time. Recently we strolled through a bit of the North End, the part closest to North Station. There's so much to see there, so I plan to get back to take more pictures.

(Eastern Bakers Supply Co. on North Washington Street closed last year, the last of its kind in the neighborhood. Something shiny will surely rise in its place, as is the case throughout the city these days. The business has moved to the suburbs.)

(Next door to Easter Bakers is Boston Brass Andiron Co. Established in 1965, this business is currently open but I'm guessing the hipsters moving into the neighborhood aren't looking for fancy fireplace log holders, so its days may be numbered.)

(Around the corner from the restaurant and andiron supply companies, on Thacher Street, is Sal's Lunch. I've never been there and I have no clue how long it's been open, but I'm guessing the food is good and that this place has been there more than a few decades.)

(Across North Washington Street from Sal's is this billboard. Peter Limone spent 33 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. He was released after a federal judge ruled that the FBI had deliberately withheld information in the trial of Limone and three others. Limone died last year.)

(If I'd shot this in black and white, you'd think it was 1918, not 2018. Well, except for the modern cars.)

(This is one of my favorite ghost signs in Boston. The Scotch 'n Sirloin closed in 1991, but the sign lives on. Located close to what was then the Boston Garden, the restaurant and bar was evidently a favorite with the Celtics, as you can see below.)

(Finally, the very well-preserved Waitt & Bond building. Located on Endicott Street, the building was home to the cigar manufacturer from some time in the late 19th century until 1913, when Waitt & Bond moved its operations to Columbus Avenue in Boston.)