Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Anniversary Post #5: My Favorites from 2014

From Dave Brigham:

Welcome to the fifth installment in a series celebrating the 7th anniversary of the blog (for links to the prior four installments, see the bottom of this post). This post covers 2014.

I need to mention that Joe Viger has contributed some amazing photos and fantastic write-ups over the years, but I'll be linking to very few of them in this series. Why? Because Joe -- an amazing photographer who has served as a mentor of sorts to me in that regard, and a great friend I've known for nearly 30 years -- has changed the security settings on his Flickr account so that many of his photos that have run on this blog show up as broken links now. I will instead direct you to his wonderful online portfolio.

The year started out well, on January 3, 2014, with the blog's first -- and, to date, only -- photo from Hawaii. Lostlosangeles shared a great shot of an abandoned high school in "Maui Wowee."

Just eight days later, on January 11, 2014, I posted about a drive-in theater in Connecticut where as a teenager I'd seen wholesome films such as "Eager Beavers." "Fade to Black" found me astonished at how much of the old outdoor movie place was still intact.

(The East Hartford Drive-In, South Windsor, Connecticut.)

The good streak kept on rolling at the end of the month. On January 25, 2014, I published "Last Building Standing," about the lone architectural solider left standing after Boston's West End was demolished in the late 1950's.

February 17, 2014, brought us another great collection of Pete Zarria's photos. In "Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign," he shared lots of neat photos of old signs in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Iowa and Missouri.

On April 14, 2014, I published a post about a trip a friend and I took to Springfield, Massachusetts. "Coincidence?" features two black-and-white photos, one of which is of the YMCA where my father spent countless hours as a kid. I"d heard a lot about the Y as a kid, but had never seen the building until that. day just a few weeks before my father passed away.

(YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts.)

Mick Melvin's "Holy Resurrection!" from June 24, 2014, brought me back to childhood road trips to my cousins' house in Westchester County, New York. As we drove along I-84 approaching Waterbury, Connecticut, I'd look up on the hill next to the highway where Holy Land USA stood. There, I'd see the giant cross and wonder what the park was like. Mick didn't get inside, but he took some nice photos of the cross and the gates to the long-abandoned Christian-themed park.

(Holy Land USA, Waterbury, Connecticut.)

We finished up the year on December 26, 2014, with an ode to a closed restaurant. "What's Sadder Than a Closed BBQ Joint?" was specifically about Jake's Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, Massachusetts, but illustrates the general problem of keeping a family-owned eatery in business when health issues arise.

(A sad sight: the bar at the former Jake's Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, Massachusetts.)

Here are links to the previous three installments of this series:

"Anniversary Post #4: My Favorites from 2013"

"Anniversary Post #3: My Favorites from 2012"

"Anniversary Post #2: My Favorites from 2011"

"Anniversary Post #1: My Favorites from 2010"

Coming up next, my favorites from 2015, including an abandoned mansion in Maryland; the redevelopment of a former gas company site in Waltham, Mass.; some gorgeous shots of an old paper mill in Vermont; and a 200-year-old former law office along a very busy road in Weston, Mass.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Anniversary Post #4: My Favorites from 2013

From Dave Brigham:

Welcome to the fourth installment in a series celebrating the 7th anniversary of the blog (for links to the prior three installments, see the bottom of this post). This post covers 2013.

I need to mention that Joe Viger has contributed some amazing photos and fantastic write-ups over the years, but I'll be linking to very few of them in this series. Why? Because Joe -- an amazing photographer who has served as a mentor of sorts to me in that regard, and a great friend I've known for nearly 30 years -- has changed the security settings on his Flickr account so that many of his photos that have run on this blog show up as broken links now. I will instead direct you to his wonderful online portfolio.

On January 17, 2013, Heidi Waugaman-Page shared several cool shots of what I guess you would call outsider art, taken in Vermont and New Hampshire. In "Roadside Art," we see a giraffe, an eagle, some flowers and a tree, all crafted from old, and sometimes rusting, metal.

My favorite aspect of exploring for this blog is to stumble across something I didn't know I was looking for. Second to that, I suppose, is knowing roughly what I'm looking for, but still being amazed by it upon my arrival on the scene. Such was the case in my January 30, 2013, post, "Whimsical Woodlands." I'd read online about a magical place called Martini Junction and set out to find it in Needham, Massachusetts. I got turned around a bit in the woods, but when I found the spot, I was just about overwhelmed with joy.

(Scenes from Martini Junction.)

On February 7, 2013, I wrote for the second time about a mystery that has bugged me since I was 14 or 15 years old. In "President Little, Part II: From Myth to Man," I updated the story of an abandoned house in my hometown that I'd wandered through with friends when I was in high school. I learned a bit more about the man who'd lived there from some some folks who knew him. I also tried to get in touch with his son, who at that point was elderly, to ask him why his father had left everything he owned behind in his house when he died.

(What's left of the house where President Little once lived.)

On February 26, 2013, Kristen Smith shared with us a picture from an abandoned camp in New Hampshire, in "Abandoned, But Solid." Ah, the simple pleasure....

I take a fair amount of photos of churches and religious icons, but I've never seen anything like what James M. Surprenant shared with us in his March 25, 2013, post, "Jesus Saves," featuring a beautiful black-and-white shot taken in Eden, North Carolina.

In "Down On the Farm," from May 7, 2013, Pete Zarria shared some gorgeous photos of farms from Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin.

While we here at The Backside of America focus quite often on abandoned or forgotten or collapsing or rusted or graffiti-covered places, we also love old places that have been restored. On May 28, 2013, in "Small, But Useful," I wrote about a tiny building that started life in the 1840's as a private school, and which over the ensuing decades served as a train station, a summer house and an art studio.

On June 14, 2013, Pete Zarria posted numerous fantastic shots of ghost signs. "More Signs That Say 'Boo'" featured photos from places in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri.

Just three days later, on June 17, 2013, I published "Powda House," which is about the most significant historic structure in Dedham, Massachusetts, and most likely the smallest as well.

I've never trespassed inside a building in service of this blog. I have, however, done some external trespassing, although on a very small scale. Two and a half years after posting about the former O'Hara Waltham Dial Company, I revisited the site, this time checking out the backside. Not sure why I didn't think of doing that sooner. In the July 8, 2013, post, "What a Dump: A Different View," I found myself face to face with this sign:

I didn't go over the fence, but I felt that in simply walking around the area, I was potentially exposing myself to hazardous waste. I snapped a few pictures and moved on.

August 19, 2013, brought another post by Pete Zarria, "Backside Business," featuring cool shots of old hotels, markets and restaurants in Iowa, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Missouri.

On September 4, 2013, I published the first of a four-part series about Chelsea, Massachusetts, "Chelsea Stroll." I shot photos of a dive bar, a really old municipal garage, a run-down residency hotel and a Russian steam bath. I did not, however, venture to take pictures of King Arthur's Lounge.

I'm happy we can share at least one post by Joe Viger. On November 18, 2013, he posted a beautiful shot of a back alley in New York City, in "New York Escape."

In "The Big Reveal" from December 10, 2013, I got a rare picture of a mural that was painted on a school in my adopted hometown on Newton, Massachusetts, in 1981. The mural had been covered for years by a loading dock, but when construction workers began renovating the building, they revealed it for just a short time, before it was torn up.

To wrap up the year, on December 26, 2013, I posted the first of several posts about named buildings, "What's In a Named Building? (Part 1)."

Here are links to the previous three installments of this series:

"Anniversary Post #3: My Favorites from 2012."

"Anniversary Post #2: My Favorites from 2011."

"Anniversary Post #1: My Favorites from 2010."

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Anniversary Post #3: My Favorites from 2012

From Dave Brigham:

This is the third in a series celebrating the 7th anniversary of the blog (for links to the prior two installments, see the bottom of this post). This post covers 2012, which to date is the high water mark for The Backside of America with 92 posts.

I need to mention that Joe Viger has contributed some amazing photos and fantastic write-ups over the years, but I'll be linking to very few of them in this series. Why? Because Joe -- an amazing photographer who has served as a mentor of sorts to me in that regard, and a great friend I've known for nearly 30 years -- has changed the security settings on his Flickr account so that many of his photos that have run on this blog show up as broken links now. I will instead direct you to his wonderful online portfolio.

As regular readers of the blog are well aware, I've chronicled the former mill city of Waltham, Mass., quite a bit. I live in the next town over, so I find it easy to hit a few spots at a time as I drive through the city. Two weeks apart in January I posted about just such a two-bird-with-one-stone situation.

On January 13, 2012, I posted black and white photos (a rarity for me, and the blog) of Mt. Feake Cemetery in "Peaceful Rest." On January 27, 2012, in "Smoke On the Water," I told the story of Nuttings on the Charles, a boathouse that was used for roller skating, boxing, dancing and concerts.

(Mt. Feake Cemetery)

On February 25, 2012, a guy calling himself lostlosangeles shared "Gathering Nutrients" with us. A simple post, yes, but it seems so unreal, so Hollywood.

Kristen Smith takes great photos, and those she posted on March 1, 2012, in "Nice Little House" are no exception. A simple house, passed by countless times, finally lures one in. And a record is made for posterity.

It's no secret that I enjoy writing a good series. On March 22, 2012, I concluded a three-part write-up about Snow Hill in Dover, Mass. "Fresh-Air Salvation" is about an outdoor worship space, something that I, someone who does not practice religion, found very spiritual.

(Abigail Draper Mann Woodland Worship Center, the Dover Church)

Heidi Waugaman-Page posted a gorgeous photo of an old train by the roadside in Sunapee, NH, on April 14, 2012. In "Long Gone Train," she also shared a shot of a nearby garage.

The train is no longer there, nor is the spooky barn that David Burke shared with the blog in "Bakerville Barn" on April 28, 2012. That's why we shoot these places -- to document them for future generations.

(Bakerville Barn in New Hartford, CT)

The blog has lost touch with David Burke, which is really too bad, because he took some great photos. In his May 12, 2012, post, "Stanley Works," he shared an amazing shot of a shuttered Stanley Works factory in New Britain, CT.

Pete Zarria (a nom de plume; say it out loud) has benefited the blog in at least two ways: sharing fantastic photos, and covering a good portion of the Midwest, allowing us to fulfill a bit more of our nationwide mandate. On May 16, 2012, he posted a shot of a great old sign in Marshalltown, Iowa -- one of dozens he has shared with the blog over the years -- in "Advertising Ghost."

My May 18, 2012, post, "Aqueduct, My Friend," (yes, I enjoy writing headlines, and often use musical references) represents the most exciting type of Backside post for me, in that it is about a place that took me completely by surprise.

I'd driven past this stone marker numerous times before I finally pulled over and investigated. Click through the link above to see what I found.

On May 21, 2012, the blog ran the first installment of a week-long look at graffiti. That was the first and only time we offered up a series in that format. I'd like to do that again. "Graffiti Week, Part I" featured several shots I took at Cat Rock Park in Weston, Mass. Here again this represents something I love about exploring: I went looking for, and found, remnants of an old ski hill, but I found much more than I could ever have expected.

(Long-abandoned snack shack at Cat Rock Park.)

Pete Zarria takes a lot of photos of old service stations, some of them restored. He shared a few from Kansas and Illinois with the blog in his July 2, 2012, post, "Fill 'Er Up, Part II."

(Nicely refurbished gas station along Route 66 in Kansas.)

Those who have any familiarity with Cambridge, Mass., might be surprised to learn, as I was a few years ago, about the extensive canal system that once ran through the city that's home to MIT and Harvard University. In "Where's the Gondolier?" from November 5, 2012, I shot photos of the last remnants of that system, Broad Canal along Memorial Drive.

I have found countless spots to explore over the years by using Google Maps. Once such site was the "Old Rifle Range" that popped up one day as I looked online for places to wander. On December 4, 2012, I wrote about and shared photos of the range in Concord, Mass., that dates to World War I. "Concord, Part I: Old Rifle Range" was the first of a three-part series about the Boston suburb that was so important to the Revolutionary War effort.

Every year around Christmas on the Backside of America Facebook page I share the photo that David Burke posted on December 25, 2012, of a chimney in Canton, CT, with a Christmas decorations on it. You can see it at the "Merry Christmas" post, but not in real life. It was dismantled to make way for a shopping complex.

Here are the prior two installments:

"Anniversary Post #2: My Favorites from 2011"

"Anniversary Post #1: My Favorites from 2010"

Coming up next: my favorites from 2013, including a mural, long hidden from view, that surfaced temporarily before being dismantled; great stuff from the Midwest and Southeast by Pete Zarria; an amazing roadside religious icon; and a post about an important part of my childhood, revisited.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Land of Lincoln

From Dave Brigham:

I've trod across a lot of conservation areas in service of this blog, but I've never seen a sign like that one above. I have to admit, as simple as that sign is, I don't fully understand it. "WALKERS & RIDERS WELCOME," it says. "BUT CONTROL YOUR DOGS!" OK, got you so far. "KEEP OTHER DOGS OUT". Huh?

Located in Lincoln, Mass., the sheep pasture is part of a conservation area that turned out to be quite a bit bigger than I was expecting. A leafy suburb of Boston, Lincoln has many beautiful homes dotting a rather rural landscape. I recently checked out the Silver Hill Bog/Pigeon Hill/Browning Fields area, which is close by the Stony Brook conservation area on the Lincoln/Weston line (see February 17, 2017, "Stone Cold Surprise").

I'd come in search of some stone ruins that I'd seen online while researching the Stony Brook post. I parked next to what's called the riding ring. Lincoln is a very horsey town. I believe the riding ring is a public feature.

(Colorful logs awaiting warmer weather and the chance to serve as obstacles for horse jumping.)

(A small jump.)

(This looks like a decoration, but I have a hunch it's more than that.)

Beyond the riding ring you quickly enter the woods, which is dotted with stone walls. I had no idea where to search for the ruins. I had a feeling which way I needed to go, but I didn't follow my nose right away. I was aware that often when I'm wandering in the woods -- or a cemetery or an old mill town -- I find much more than I thought I would, and something better than my original quarry.

So I wandered through some boggy lands and alongside the sheep pasture. I didn't see any fleecy ewes or rams, or dogs or horses. Hell, I think the only member of the wildlife community I saw was a squirrel. Once in a while I see deer on my outings, but usually it's birds and squirrels.

Eventually I hit a dead end and had to turn back in search of the ruins I knew were in this area. I wandered back through the woods, took a few different paths than I'd walked along on my way in, looking for something -- anything -- to take pictures of. Other than stone walls, and large homes through the trees, I saw little.

As I strolled along I tried to get logical about my search, rather than just walking aimlessly. No more than ten seconds after I thought, "The ruins will probably be on a hill," I looked up through the trees and saw what I'd come for.

This is the Pigeon Hill area, about which I've been able to find exactly zero information.

The stone ruins appear to have been a small house. There is a chimney at one end, a few doors and windows, and evidence of partying.

I'm not sure the era of the structure. There is cement mortar holding some of the stones together. Above is a close up of a nail in the notch of the wood beam you see in the first photo of the structure above.

I'd love to hear from anybody with a good guess as to the age of this place.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Anniversary Post #2: My Favorites from 2011

From Dave Brigham:

Welcome to the second installment of my look back at the past seven years of this blog. Launched on March 1, 2010, The Backside of America has published more than 400 posts covering three dozen states, written by more than a dozen authors/photographers.

The first installment in my look-back, "Anniversary Post #1: My Favorites from 2010," covered the first 10 months of the blog. This post will cover the entirety of 2011. Future posts will deal with the years 2012-2016, and with some of the challenges of running this site, as well as exciting changes coming to The Backside of America.

I need to mention that Joe Viger has contributed some amazing photos and fantastic write-ups over the years, but I'll be linking to very few of them in this series. Why? Because Joe -- an amazing photographer who has served as a mentor of sorts to me in that regard, and a great friend I've known for nearly 30 years -- has changed the security settings on his Flickr account so that many of his photos that have run on this blog show up as broken links now. I will instead direct you to his wonderful online portfolio.

Without further ado, here are the highlights, as I see them, from 2011, the first full year of the blog.

I brought my then three-and-a-half-year-old daughter with me to take pictures of a long-abandoned section of Route 128 in Milton, Mass. She danced happily along the moss-covered roadway while I snapped away for my January 24, 2011, post, "End of the Road."

The blog has featured other abandoned roadways, as well as some that were built but never put into use. Search the site....

On January 30, 2011, we published the inaugural post by Kristen Smith, a great photographer who'd been recruited by Joe Viger, one of The Backside's original contributors. "Demolition -- Par for the Course" chronicled the demise of a miniature golf course in New Hampshire.

I was extremely excited by David Burke's February 20, 2011, post, "Lose, Place or Show." This marked the first and, to date, only time the blog has run something about an old horse track. Surely there must be other abandoned tracks like this. Maybe you or someone you know would like to take pictures of them....

I would absolutely love to get inside the former O'Hara Waltham Dial Company in -- where else? -- Waltham, Mass.

On February 27, 2011, I posted some photos and background about this building just over the line from Newton's town dump -- see "UPDATE: What a Dump." I returned a second time for a look at the backside of this backside building. I'll probably post that link in a future installment.

In her March 14, 2011, post "Lost Bomber," Kristen Smith showed readers a World War II-era crash site of a B18 bomber in the woods of New Hampshire. I was absolutely floored by her photos, as well as by the idea that such a site existed.

On March 24, 2011, the blog published the first post by Michael Cevoli. Titled "Working In a Coal Mine," the post featured gorgeous shots from Pennsylvania coal country. I had hoped we might feature a lot more of Cevoli's work, but I believe we only published one or two other of his posts. You can see his work at his web site.

"Mysterious. Odd. Mournful. Ramshackle. Puzzling. Even whimsical. Yeah, I’m talking about those weird little shacks on the side of the road that make you go 'hmmmm.'" That's how Kristen Smith introduced her beautiful shots of abandoned cabins in Vermont, New Hampshire and Montana, in her June 10, 2011, post "Roadside Attractions?"

Discovering new places to explore is great, but I find that when the stories we post here on the blog have a personal angle, I like them best. Mick Melvin went back to his adopted hometown in New Jersey and took photos and wrote about childhood memories in the June 23, 2011, post, "The Gut." Spoiler alert: "As it turns out, the families we met in the Gut will be friends of ours for life," Mick writes.

Folks like those of us here at the Backside of America who enjoy taking pictures of the dilapidated, abandoned and forgotten parts of this country sometimes get accused of exploiting the poor and downtrodden and trafficking in "ruin porn." I maintain that we are documenting the past and, sometimes, providing a forum for reminiscence to those who recall certain places and times.

Still, sometimes I make assumptions about places that I know nothing about.

The Reef was a bar in Waltham, Mass., that closed down several years ago, and has since been replaced by an apartment building. I never went to The Reef, and when I wrote about it in my August 25, 2011, post, "Goodbye Reef, So Long Bill," I was somewhat dismissive, writing, "I picture lots of skinny, old guys wearing tank tops and smoking in and around the door. I hear old country music leaking out the grimy windows. I smell pickled eggs on the bar."

This post received numerous comments -- a rarity for the blog -- from former customers who missed the bar, but also mourned the former owner, Bill. "It might have looked scarey (sic)," one person wrote, "but there where a lot of awesome people who hung out inside."

I learned not to judge a book by its deteriorating cover from those comments.

Mick Melvin made personal connections with his return to a place he once lived. I, too, have profiled a few places in my hometown of Simsbury, Connecticut. The most personal was the ruins of a home that I'd walked through as a teenager, not long after it had been abandoned with every personal possession intact.

The house was torn down decades ago, but I was amazed to see upon my return that there was plenty left behind in the mud. As I wrote in my September 20, 2011, post, "In Search of President Little," "I had no reason to expect that anything would be on the site. I'm not a spiritual guy whatsoever, but I feel like something drew me here to discover the remnants of a forgotten place."

Finally, on November 20, 2011, I published the second of a three-part series about long-abandoned waterworks in and around Newton, Mass., where I live. "History Flows On, Part II" covered the old structures of Cutler Park, specifically the section in the town of Needham, just east of Route 128, and the graffiti-covered tunnel running under the commuter train tracks.

Make sure to check back for the third part, covering all of 2012. Highlights will include photos of the remains of an old boathouse on the Charles River in Waltham; a spooky old barn in New Hartford, Conn.; and the remnants of a World War I-era rifle range in Concord, Mass.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Brigham in Waltham, Part III

From Dave Brigham:

Damn, Waltham, you ain't got no end!

This is the third and final installment of my review of the backside of Waltham, Mass. (see January 5, 2017, "Brigham in Waltham, Part II," and November 9, 2016, "Brigham in Waltham, Part I").

I've written plenty of times about single features of the former mill city, and surely will again. Because I live in the town next to Waltham, and pass through several times a week, I figured I'd gather as many photos and do as much research as I could on the things that interest me. But there's so much!

I thought I was done with this post, but then I thought, "Hey, why don't I give a quick look at the old Metropolitan Parkway site, and the conservation area not too far away on Trapelo Road?

That resulted in many great finds, so that's where I'll start. I'll let you know upfront: there are LOTS of pictures in this post.

I drive by the Metropolitan Parkway every weekday, on the way home from my son's school in Sudbury. The road now leads to an apartment complex, but once was the way in and out of Metropolitan State Hospital, a mental hospital built in 1927 and closed in 1992. I did some mountain biking in the area in the mid-'90s, when most, if not all, of the buildings were still standing. I was dumbfounded and fascinated by the abandonment of so many identical brick structures, but didn't own a camera at the time and wasn't as much into the backside of the world then as I've become in more recent years.

To read about Met State and see some photos of the site, check out this Opacity post. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post and click on the links for additional photos, which document both inside and out.

After parking my car, I walked along a path with a stone wall on one side and overgrown brush on the other, and before long I was staring at this building.

I've featured this building before on the blog (see August 23, 2010, "You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Live Here, But It Helps," the most insensitive headline I've ever written....). It was the administration building for the hospital, and sits just steps away from an apartment complex. I figured after six years this place would have been gone.

I have no idea why it hasn't been torn down, although it probably has something to do with asbestos and money. I don't know if there is a plan to demolish it.

As I was working on the research for Met State after taking these photos, I realized that I wasn't quite done with this final installment. You see, I discovered that not too far away from this building sits the cemetery that was used jointly by Met State and the nearby Fernald School. So I had to go back....

Just steps from the parking lot abutting the old admin building, I found this site. It stands just off a side path on the way to the main trail toward the cemetery. These steps don't seem to have been part of the old hospital grounds. There are other older features in this area; not sure what their stories are.

The cemetery features approximately 310 burials from 1947 to 1979, per the sign at the front of the graveyard. The site is split between Protestant and Catholic burials.

In the middle of the cemetery is this altar/shrine.

I found just one grave with a name on it.

After reflecting on the sorrow so many families must have felt knowing that their loved ones not only died at Met State but also were buried in such a way that nobody would know who they were, I set to wandering. I found some remnants of the old hospital's infrastructure.

I also stumbled across this:

This sofa bed must have been pulled out of one of the old hospital buildings. This whole area has a lot of paths, some of which are obviously frequented by mountain bikers. I suppose those who hang out in this area might have chilled on this couch at one point. I didn't see evidence of partying in the woods, but I'm sure it goes down.

With so many paths to choose from, I selected one that I knew would take me toward the site of the former Gaebler Children's Center, a facility that once stood on the other side of a hill from Met State. I direct you again to my August 23, 2010, post "You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Live Here, But It Helps," which is about both the Met State admin building and the former psychiatric institution for adolescents. Read the comments under the post; they are heartbreaking.

There are no more buildings on the Gaebler site, which may get developed at some point. I did find these old wagons, which may have been used for hay rides.

I then made my way up the hill toward the water tower, which I recalled from my mountain biking days.

Finally, on my way back to the car, I stumbled across what appears to be an old chimney or outdoor cooking area, near the stone steps I'd seen on my way in.

This area of Waltham was once quite different. Rural and remote but not too far from Boston, the sites along Trapelo Road -- Met State, Gaebler Children's Center and the Fernald School, which I mentioned in part two of this series -- housed the mentally ill and other children and adults who society deemed unfit to live in their own communities. Now these sites have been commercially developed or turned into conservation land.

A little further west along Trapelo Road once stood Middlesex County Hospital, which operated from the 1930's to 2001. This site, too, was developed into condominiums. I didn't get a chance to check out that area before the hospital was torn down, but I recently explored a great wooded area just down the hill that was an unexpected suburbex goldmine.

James Falzone Park is a soccer field with a secret. After driving by this recreation area dozens of times, I realized there was a path leading into a large wooded area that surrounds this place on Trapelo Road. Research ahead of time yielded no clues as to what lay in this conservation area, but I had a hunch. That suspicion paid off bigly, as Donald Trump would say.

If an old pump house and yet another stone wall were all I found in the Falzone conservation area, I would've considered this little jaunt a success. A mild success, but still something worth doing. But then I saw this.

God that's a beautiful site, isn't it? While many people walk past these steps and wall and think little or nothing of them, this is the kind of ruin that sets my heart racing. I have so many questions: How old is this ruin? What did the house look like? Was it a farm house? Who lived here? How long has this place been abandoned?

The front yard of what I'm assuming was a farm house is now a soccer field. A few steps west down the path is another remnant.

There was a community of sorts here. There may be more evidence of homes and other buildings on this section of land on the Waltham/Lexington line. I plan to get back and explore some more.

While nobody lives in the houses I stumbled across, I did find evidence that people are living or at least hanging out here.

The remainder of this last installment will focus on ghost signs, a mural, some old commercial properties and a cool map.

This great map is located at the corner of Harvard and Main streets, on the outside of the former Waltham Super Market, which is now Hannaford Supermarket. Landmarks on the map are Waltham City Hall (c. 1926), Waltham Super Market, Waltham Hospital (c. 1887), a sanatorium (which must be Met State), roadways, rivers and ponds, wooded areas (including a Girl Scout camp that still exists), Brandeis University (c. 1948) and the Boys Club of America (c. 1937).

The artist is the late Leon Nigrosh, who grew up close to Waltham, in Cambridge and Belmont. Nigrosh published ceramics textbooks as well as art reviews for numerous publications.

Located a short distance from the Hannaford, Bubbles Laundromat has replaced its sign since I snapped this picture.

Quick Stop Variety is located on Main Street, not too far from Hannaford, in a cool old building that also houses The Common Cafe.

Further east on Main Street, on the corner of Newton Street, sits the shuttered A to Z Auto Service station, next to an empty lot where Stephen's Liquors once stood. This corner has been neglected for quite some time now but I assume something will get developed here before too long.

Located on the back wall of Michael J's Pub ("Waltham's Best Dive Bar"), this Coca-Cola ghost sign may at one time have been larger. I'm happy the building's owner kept it. Side note: I once drove past this bar and laughed my ass off at the sandwich board sign out front that read, "Soup of the Day -- whiskey!" I haven't seen the sign since, so perhaps the city told Michael J's to take it down.

For the final segment, I move on to Moody Street. Known in recent years for its wide variety of restaurants, Moody Street was once home to department stores, shoe stores, bakeries, hardware stores and some adult bookstores. For a look at the street's past, check out this Brand New Watch blog post.

The sign for Amelia Upholstery Shop caught my eye because that's my daughter's name. I then spotted the faded sign for Spencer Shoes, which is name-checked in the Brand New Watch blog post. Spencer is no longer open, and I don't believe the upholstery shop is either, since the longtime owner, Joseph Amelia, died last year.

I also spied the name "Amelia" on this building on Moody Street. A little research online brought this article to light. This building is owned by Ralph Amelia, brother of the late Joseph. This building once housed a beauty school upstairs, but now comprises seven apartments.

When walking through a parking lot on the backside of Moody Street, I hardly expected to find this amazing painting along the driveway back out to the shopping and restaurant area.

This girl is just one of the beautiful faces depicted by artists Caleb Neelon and Katie Yamasaki. For more on the mural, which was completed in September 2011, see this Brand New Watch article.

See, not everything on the backside is rusty and falling apart.

Along another side street I found this ghost sign for a fountain shop. You can make out part of the Coca-Cola logo.

Finally, the backside of a building on Felton Street, which is just off Moody.

A post-and-beam warehouse/industrial space, 22 Felton Street might have been home to a grain distributor way back when. An online search pulled up two company names in this industry: J. Gushing Co. and Mayflower Grain Products. Certainly looks like the letters "AIN" up there, doesn't it?

Well, that's it for now. I'm sure to post more about Waltham in the future, but this should hold you over for now.