Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Chelsea Stroll

From Dave Brigham:

This is part one of a four-part series about Chelsea, Massachusetts.

Chelsea calls itself an "inner urban suburb of Boston," which is a mouthful that means this city of 35,000 sits in the shadow of the capital of Massachusetts, while enjoying great views across the harbor and struggling with the attendant problems that all small cities battle.

In the 19th century, the city thrived as an industrial and naval center. In 1908, however, nearly half the city was destroyed in a fire. In 1973, another massive fire burned 18 blocks.

By 1991, Chelsea was placed into state receivership, a result of deepening economic decline, fiscal crisis and political stalemates (thanks, Wikipedia!).

The city is densely packed, and bisected by the Tobin Bridge, which carries Route 1 north from Boston to Revere and beyond. I'd driven over Chelsea before, but never set foot there. When I decided recently to explore somewhere to take a bunch of pictures before having hip surgery that would sideline me for several weeks, I scanned Google Maps and picked Chelsea.

I've visited dozens of places in recent years taking pictures for this blog. For a while, I was into locations in my hometown, Newton, Mass., and nearby towns such as Waltham and Watertown. Then I expanded westward and northward to old ski hills and other places out in the woods such as old dams.

Considering that I live close to Boston, you'd think I'd have taken more pictures in the city. I'll get around to that eventually, but for now I'm into smaller cities.

I recently snapped some pictures in Everett, another gritty place just north of Boston (see June 25, "Roll the Dice").

I had no idea what to expect in Chelsea, but I wasn't disappointed. I knew the city had a large Hispanic population, and that there's a massive produce center there that distributes fruits and vegetables throughout New England. As with any city of any size, all you have to do is get out of your car and the pictures are there waiting for you.

Here are some pictures I took as I wandered around the city. I've got three other posts planned about my trip to Chelsea, so you'll see other aspects of the city in coming weeks. And I'll surely get back there to take other shots in the future.

Old Pals / Parrotta's Alpine Lodge

(Old Pals Piano Bar / Parrotta's Alpine Lodge -- Chris Trapper, front man for '90s Boston band Push Stars, has this to say about Old Pals on the band's web: "[W]hen my friends and I go there, we're the only ones in there who are under 70 years of age, and yet they always make us feel welcome. The piano is situated in the middle of the bar, and the pianist is amazing. They don't know any songs after 1965." As for the adjacent Parrotta's, Yelp reviews aren't quite so glowing, with one woman calling the place "a pretty good time if you're in the mood for a serious dive -- and a little 'life's not so bad' pick-me-up," and another guy saying, "There is absolutely no reason to go to this bar, and that is what makes it awesome.")


(The Tobin Bridge is a fact of life in Chelsea.)

Winnismet Garage

(I bet the Winnismet Garage has seen a lot since 1925, and looked terrific when it opened. It doesn't look so great these days, though.)

Hotel Stanley

(This is the back of Hotel Stanley. The front isn't much better looking. There wasn't much going on around it, but I suspect it's seen its share of shady characters. I hope it has a colorful history.)


(I was taking a picture of a piece of heavy equipment related to a movie that was being made in Chelsea during my visit when I noticed this place. I love that it's called Dillon's Russian Steam Bath and that it's been in business for more than 125 years. As I was walking away, a guy with a towel around his neck was heading towards the parking lot.)


  1. Dave--
    Have you seen King Arthur's Lounge?

  2. I drove by but was afraid to get out and take pics! Thanks for educating me about the place. I'm sharing the link you provided:

  3. I grew up in Chelsea. I know the area well, much like the back of my hand. While I no longer live there, the one thing that always surprises me is Dillon's. I just went on Yelp now, and the place has great reviews. I should try it sometime! Thank you for writing this and snapping photos of this city. While it's had an unfortunate bad rep back in the mid-to-late 90's and even a bit beyond, I do feel -as an outsider- that the City has improved exponentially thanks to new big businesses anchoring the area economically as well as infrastructure & housing development that's occurred & is occurring.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the photos and write-up.