Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Train Wreck???

From Mick Melvin:

I was driving in New Britain, CT, one day and I did a double take.

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I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw a train sticking out of a house. It was actually a big red caboose, which is in fact, attached to the house. Well, it's actually attached to the house and another room is attached to the side of the train.

Some folks from New Britain told me the place was called Reno's Cafe. The records show it was established in 1990 and incorporated in Connecticut. I searched reviews for the place, and the last mention of the restaurant was in 2013. The review said the place was nice and it was more of a bar than a café. They actually applied for a liquor license in 2013-2014, but I could find no other mention of the place.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Washington Walked Here

From Dave Brigham:

It's always better to get out and walk. Seems obvious, no? Driving is faster, sure, but you miss so much. People sometimes ask me, "How do you find all these places to write about and take pictures of?" All you gotta do, I say, is walk around a bit.

After driving through the intersection of Main Street/Rte. 20, Weston Street/Rte. 117 and South Street in Waltham, Mass., numerous times, I found myself focusing on two stone monuments on the grounds of the former Banks School. So one day when I had a few minutes, I parked in the school lot and walked up to see what these big slabs are all about.

This one commemorates the so-called Henry Knox Trail, the path that the general took in late 1775/early 1776 from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to Boston to deliver 59 cannons to Gen. George Washington. Other markers along the trail are located in New York towns and cities including Glens Falls, Hudson Falls, Schuylerville and Albany, and Massachusetts towns and cities including Palmer, Marlborough, Framingham and Cambridge.

Here's a detail from the marker.

This marker is for the George Washington Memorial Highway.

The highway -- aka Route 20 -- was created in 1932 to celebrate the bicentennial of Washington's birth, and the route that he took on his way to Boston to assume command of the Continental Army. "There were parades from Agawam to Cambridge," at the time, according to Bryan Farr, founder of The Historic U.S. Route 20 Association, quoted in the MetroWest Daily News in June 2014. "They had a guy dressed up like Washington ride a horse along the route. The streets were lined with people."

The state, however, declined to officially name Route 20 after Washington.

Here's a detail of the marker.

You never know what you'll learn when you go for a little jaunt.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Ones That Got Away, Part IV

From Dave Brigham:

It's ironic that Anthony's Pier 4, the venerable waterfront restaurant in Boston that was once the place to see and be seen, is being torn down as the neighborhood around it has risen to become the hottest spot in the city.

I went to Anthony's once, to celebrate when my girlfriend (now wife), Beth, graduated from law school. I'd heard of the place from Beth's family, and knew somewhat of its reputation as a special occasion destination and place where celebrities hung out when they were in town.

We took pictures on the back deck, which overlooked Boston Harbor and had great views of the city and the airport. The food was good, not great, but I reveled in looking over the dozens of photos in the hallway leading from the front door into the restaurant: owner Anthony Athanas with Liz Taylor, Judy Garland, Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson and many other A-listers.

Athanas opened his restaurant in 1963. He died in 2005 but the restaurant lived on for eight more years. In its later years, Anthony's Pier 4 fought for customers with a crowd of high-end restaurants in downtown Boston, as well as more options along the waterfront, which was christened the Seaport District in recent years.

I wish I'd taken some photos of the place in its heyday and in more recent years as it sat waiting for its fate. I didn't, but the Boston Globe recently ran some photos from the salad days of Anthony's Pier 4 -- including one of the former passenger liner that was used as a cocktail lounge until it sunk during the blizzard of '78 -- as well as images of the place stripped, unfortunately, of its glory. You can see them here.

Demolition crews began ripping the restaurant down yesterday.

Here are three previous nods to ones that got away:

May 2, 2010, about the former Metz Automobile Factory in Waltham, Mass.

June 1, 2010, about the former Whalom Park in Leominster, Mass.

June 5, 2015, about Veronica's Spa in Waltham, Mass.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sweet and Junky

From Dave Brigham:

Somerville, Mass., was once the car-theft capital of America, according to Wikipedia, and, more importantly, my friend Jim who grew up there in the 1960s and '70s. The city was much grittier back then, with the Winter Hill Gang in cahoots with the infamous Whitey Bulger, and factories and small industry dominating much of the business landscape. In more recent years, the city, a tightly packed mixture of blue collar workers, hipsters, college students and professionals tucked between Cambridge, Medford, Boston and Arlington, has become a mecca for bars, restaurants, clubs and funky shops and start-up companies.

It was while checking out one of these newer companies -- Taza Chocolate -- a while back that I stumbled across a part of the old Somerville that I suspect not many of the newer residents know about.

Located in a large factory building that once housed companies including Consolidated Bag & Foil Corp. and Sugarman Brothers, according to the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, Taza offers regular tours of its operations -- and free samples! As my kids and I drove down Windsor Street toward the factory, we passed by a junkyard, with stacks of cars and trucks on both sides of the roadway looming behind corrugated metal fences.

We enjoyed learning how the confections are made, as well as eating the free samples of dark chocolate mixed with all sorts of fruits, peppers, nuts and other ingredients. Well, I liked them anyway.

I made a mental note to visit the area again to take photos of the junkyard, and finally got around to it a few months ago.

The place -- Nissenbaum's Quality Used Auto Parts -- made an even bigger impression on me the second time. Around since 1910, the company is operated by fourth and fifth generations of the founding family, in the same location, I believe.

This gives you a sense for the history of the place, which is the favorite junkyard of the "Car Talk" guys.

And this gives you a sense of how tight things are in this neighborhood, which is very close to a set of train tracks, and which formerly hosted slaughterhouses and meat packing companies.

But this being Somerville, a community increasingly filled with eco-conscious folks, the junkyard backs up to a community garden.

Below are views of the front and back of the junkyard.

In addition to at least one other junkyard in this area, there are auto parts stores and repair shops. Here are two shots of Columbia Auto Parts.

I highly recommend checking out both the chocolate factory and the junkyard. And there are countless great bars, restaurants and shops a short distance away, as well as the Slumbrew tap room.