Thursday, April 23, 2015

Named Buildings of Newton

From Dave Brigham:

I defy you to find a town or city in these United States that doesn't have a building with a permanent name on it, or historical records showing that there used to be such a thing. Back when architects, builders and businesses believed in permanence, they carved names into stone, presuming that, like Stonehenge, these edifices would stand for eons. Speaking of hewing things into the living rock....


Spinal tap - Stonehenge by samithemenace

Anyway, as regular Backside readers know, I've been on an on-and-off quest to document named buildings in Greater Boston. I could pursue this forever, and perhaps I shall. As for now, I'm highlighting a few buildings in Newton, where I live. Backside fans can expect a greater focus on Newton in the coming months. I plan to feature each of the city's 13 villages -- information about their history, links to old photos and of course my photos of what I found scurrying around the edges.

For now, here are some of the named buildings of Newton:

(Newtonville's Orr Building, longtime home of Armenian/Middle Eastern restaurant Karoun. Go for the food, stay for the belly dancing. I have no idea who or what this building is named after, but I plan to find out what I can as I work on the Newtonville component of my above-stated project.)

(The side entrance to the imposing Masonic Temple in Newtonville. Home to the Dalhousie Lodge, the building was erected in 1896.)

(Former Claflin Grammar School in Newtonville, now apartments. Built in 1891.)

(Stevens Building, Newton Highlands. Built in 1888.)

See the four previous parts of my ongoing Named Buildings series: #1, #2, #3 and #4.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

From Motel to Mall

From Dave Brigham:

After a few days hanging out in garish Panama City Beach (see March 17, 2015, "Take Me Down to Panama City"), I was ready for something a little more down to Earth. In pamphlets about things to do in the area, I saw mention of "historic St. Andrew's" in Panama City, which is a separate town from the beach community that has been in the news lately for some awful goings-on during spring break. We ate lunch at a great place in the St. Andrew's neighborhood called the Shrimp Boat and then drove around a bit before heading back to our hotel.

I took note of lots of places I wanted to take pictures of, and made a plan to return early the next morning. The one building of interest to Backside of America readers is the old Cabana Motel.

On this web site you can see what the motel looked like when it opened in 1960. The facility closed many years ago, but in 2008 there was a plan to develop the site into the Cabana Hotel, which would have transformed the motel into a sleek, chrome-trimmed destination (scroll down on the above web site). I'm assuming that the economic downturn put the kibosh on that plan.

Here's what the Cabana looks like now:

When I saw its condition and the sign advertising the Cabana Courtyard Mall, I thought, "There goes another cool old motel." But I was wrong. The owner of the Shrimp Boat is saving part of the old motel as part of a plan to convert the building to retail shops.

Here's a local news report (sorry, the embed feature on this didn't work).

I hope the redevelopment works out for this cool little section of Panama City, which also features some funky shops and restaurants, a strip club (Tan Fannies) and a museum dedicated to the area's publishing history.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Signs of Old Times

From Dave Brigham:

I've wanted to take this photo for a long time. I know, I know. Not much to look at. But I suspect there's significant history behind this simple sign.

I pass this apartment house at 117-123 High Street in Waltham, Mass., on a regular basis. After numerous trips, I spied this sign, but didn't think about it too much. Repetition pounded my head and eventually I thought, "What the heck is with that sign?"

Through online searches, I've learned that the building dates to 1900, and has 20 rooms. High Street connects one of Waltham's primary commercial thoroughfares, Moody Street, with neighboring West Newton. As such, it represented a vital route for the Waltham & Newton Street Railway service, which launched in the late 19th century.

This apartment house is located on the corner of High and Newton streets. I'm guessing this sign marked this building as the Newton Street stop for street railway passengers. But what was the building in 1900? Was it a hotel? A train station? I'll keep digging.

Meanwhile, more recently I spied two other signs in Newton that are railroad-related.

This wonderful old house features a "NEWTON CENTRE" sign that I presume came from the nearby Green Line trolley station of that name. There is a cool station building there (now housing the Deluxe Station Diner) that dates to 1890, the days of the Boston & Albany Railroad.

This sign is also on a great old house in Newton Centre. The Green Line trolley runs directly behind this house, which sits between the Newton Centre and Newton Highlands stations. The Grand Trunk Railway was headquartered in Montreal, but included subsidiaries operating in most of New England. The residents must be pretty big train geeks.

The Grand Trunk has come up twice before here on the Backside:

October 13, 2014, "Portlandia," in which I posted a picture of a former Grand Trunk headquarters in Portland, Maine.

June 20, 2010, "The Truth Behind Beautiful Ruins," in which Joe Viger mentioned that his father worked for Berlin (NH) Mills Railway, which connected paper mills to outside carriers including Grand Trunk.