Friday, February 24, 2017

Backside Hunting in Boston

From Dave Brigham:

As longtime readers of this blog are aware, my son, Owen, and I take a lot of trips on Boston's Green Line trolleys (see August 30, 2010, "Going Underground," July 18, 2013, "Cool Stones" and June 27, 2016, "Bridge Project Afoot?").

Any time we're above ground, I look out the windows of the trolleys for cool features of the city. I spied a few along Huntington Avenue in the Mission Hill and Fenway neighborhoods, and recently returned on foot to shoot a few pictures.

The Sparr's sign catches my eye every time we ride by on the Green Line's E branch. Situated in the Longwood medical area, the store appeared to me to be open, but after some online research I think it's closed. Owned by the nearby Harvard School of Public Health, the building hosts community art exhibits, but for decades Sparr's was the go-to place for medical and surgical supplies, as well as daily necessities and a meal at the lunch counter. Read more about the store at this link.

To see a photo of what the store looked like in earlier days, check this out.

In addition to hospitals and medical labs, Huntington Avenue is home to numerous colleges and universities. Mixed in with the numerous newer dorms are older buildings that look humble now but perhaps once had grand ambitions.

I love named buildings like these. Unlike apartment buildings and corporate offices of today, with boring typefaces and focus group-approved company names, these old places had their monikers chiseled right into their often ornate facades. For more named building-related posts, see Parts I, II, III and IV of my Named Building Series.

I couldn't find any information about the origin of the names of the Ormonde and Elsie buildings.

Finally, a small milestone marker hiding in plain sight.

This is one of many such markers between Springfield, Mass., and Boston, according to this Boston Globe article about a Massachusetts Department of Transportation effort to restore the milestones.

The markers indicate the distance from certain points, to the city of Boston. This one reads "Boston 4 Miles 1729 PD." In addition to Boston, markers are located in towns and cities including Brookline, Cambridge, Leicester, Shrewsbury and Warren.


  1. Good article, as always Dave - I too have loved (and photographed) the Sparr's sign back in the day when I worked at HMS... I miss Boston... Harvard? Not so much!