Monday, August 21, 2017

Love of Tunnels

From Dave Brigham:

What is it about a tunnel? A little bit mysterious, perhaps dangerous. A route under the hustle and bustle, a cool escape. A graffiti canvas. A place to chug a beer on the way to work.

(Yerxa Road Underpass, Cambridge, Mass.)

Reconstructed in 2006, the Yerxa Road Underpass connects neighborhoods in North Cambridge, ducking under the MBTA's Fitchburg commuter rail line. The tunnel is adorned with sculptures and tiles created by Randal Thurston. I don't know when the underpass was built, but the fact that it needed to be rebuilt 11 years ago leads me to believe it had become neglected -- probably dark, smelling of piss, covered in grammatically incorrect graffiti.

About a mile east the Fitchburg line crosses over the Sacramento Street Underpass in Somerville. This tunnel has obviously not been renovated recently as has its opposite number in Cambridge.

Still, there are some nice murals done by local school kids.

People who live in these neighborhoods likely don't think twice about walking through these tunnels to get from their apartments to the grocery store, or from work to a lunch place. But for a guy who lives in your standard suburban neighborhood with exactly zero underpasses, I find it exciting to drag my son along to check out these types of spots.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Roster Change In the Fenway

From Dave Brigham:

New and old Boston, captured in one off-center photo.*

Fenway Gulf is located a few short blocks from the home of the Red Sox, in a neighborhood that has changed drastically in the last decade. Pierce Boston rises behind the "Gulf" sign, one of several high rises recently completed or under construction. For a look at what the future apartment/condo site once looked like, read this article from the Boston Globe and check out the picture at the top of the page. A D'Angelo's sub shop once stood here, as did other businesses, including one that rented studio spaces for bands.

So, what's to become of the erstwhile gas station property? And why do I care?

I have a personal connection with this place. You see, I actually bought drinks and snacks there with my son -- one time! We were on a Pokemon Go walk in the area and got, you guessed it, thirsty and hungry. So this spot means a lot to me. Or rather it did. On one occasion.

Anyway...for the cool price of $16.9 million, the corporate parent of Star Market bought the site earlier this year. A Boston Globe article at the time indicated the company planned to bulldoze the gas station to expand a parking lot for the adjacent grocery store. But with so many high-priced condos rising all around the area, I have to believe something more than a parking lot will end up here. The Star parking lot has been too small for decades, it's true, but with car-averse/sharing millennials moving in and working in the area I doubt there's enough need for increased parking.

As always, stay tuned.

*I hoisted my phone over a fence, so cut me some slack.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

This Old House of Blues

From Dave Brigham:

The crazy guy sitting behind the drums and bashing the cymbals with his acoustic guitar could have spit on me. I was that close. My friend Jeff and I were transfixed as Hasil Adkins belted out insane songs like "The Hunch," "She Said" (more famously covered by The Cramps) and "We Got a Date," in which he yowls about cutting his girl's head off.

This was the one time I saw a show at the original House of Blues in world-famous Harvard Square. Opened in 1992, the Cambridge, Mass., club was intimate and got pretty sweaty the night that Adkins, a rockabilly cult favorite, played. The place served good food, and in addition to great blues music, was known for a gospel brunch on Sundays.

Anybody who's seen a band at any one of the 11 current House of Blues locations might be surprised that the building in the above photo was the original club. I went to the L.A. one nearly 20 years ago, and it was nothing like the cozy space in Hahvahd Squayah. The original spot was shuttered in 2003. The company opened a new franchise in Boston, near Fenway Park, several years ago.

A steakhouse named Brother Jimmy's moved into the spot, but closed in 2008. An outlet of the Tommy Doyle's restaurant chain moved there afterwards. In late 2013, the Hasty Pudding Club, a Harvard-affiliated theatrical society best-known for its Man & Woman of the Year parades and ceremonies, moved its clubhouse into what is officially known as the Hyde-Taylor House.

From, about the house:

"In 1846, the current house was built by Isaac Hyde in the Greek revival style. In 1900, George Mendell Taylor purchased the house where he both lived and gave piano lessons, beginning the performing arts tradition that has continued to this day. The building took on a new persona in 1950 when Geneviève MacMillan opened the first French restaurant in the Square. The restaurant, Club Henry IV, was frequented by the likes of William Faulkner, Thornton, Wilder, and Joan Miró. Geneviève had interests that lay far beyond her restaurant. She dedicated her life to collecting African art, promoting diversity and learning about one another's cultures, and establishing fellowships and grants to further these goals. She began a legacy of philanthropy and education that, like Taylor's, has been passed down through the building's history. In 1965, the area's first discotheque, La Discotheque Nicole, opened in the basement of Club Henry IV."

Pretty cool.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Price of Gas: UPDATE

From Dave Brigham:

That right there is a damn shame. First of all, you should know that nobody was hurt when this massive apartment complex in Waltham, Mass., went up in flames in mid-July. Slated to open next year, the luxury development featured several buildings four or five stories tall. Constructed of wood apartments above a concrete ground floor, the buildings had yet to receive sprinkler systems, but had passed inspection the prior week, according to the Boston Globe.

I wrote about this site in early 2015, before construction began, before, in fact, I even knew what was going to be built here (see February 7, 2015, "The Price of Gas"). The former site of the Waltham Gas Light Co., this spot between Cooper and Elm streets was vacant and polluted for quite a long time. The Edison on the Charles complex is being developed by Lincoln Cooper Street LLC. It was one of several new developments in or near downtown Waltham to rise in recent years.

It's unclear whether the developer will attempt to rebuild. The cause of the fire hasn't been determined. Stay tuned....