Thursday, October 12, 2017

Closed Circle: UPDATE

From Dave Brigham:

On my regular subway trips around Boston with my son, I regularly walk past the site of the former Circle Cinema in Cleveland Circle. Located on the border of Boston and Brookline, the movie house opened in 1965 and closed in 2008. The theater sat empty for a number of years while developers worked with both city governments and residents to hash out an acceptable redevelopment plan (see January 5, 2015, "Closed Circle").

National Development recently installed the old cinema sign -- round, 7-foot-tall letters -- on the top of one of the new buildings, a 92-apartment independent living community for seniors. A second building will be a 162-room hotel operated by Marriott. The site also contains underground parking and a few retail slots.

I like this project, although of course I haven't seen the inside yet because the new buildings aren't slated to open until next year. I like that the new buildings aren't just more high-priced condos (although I suspect the senior community ain't gonna be cheap). I think siting a hotel on this spot (where there once also stood a restaurant, most recently an Applebee's, before that a Ground Round and a Howard Johson's) is smart, as it sits next to not one, but two, branches of the MBTA's Green line trolley system, providing relatively quick and inexpensive access into Boston.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

On Thin Ice

From Dave Brigham:

By the time you read this, the quaint warming hut abutting Bullough's Pond in Newton, Mass., will be gone. I'm not sure how old the building is, but I'm guessing it dates to the 1920s or '30s, when ice skating was at its peak on the pond.

Situated close to the imaginary line separating Newtonville from Newton Centre, the pond is surrounded by lovely homes and has benefited greatly from the stewardship of the Bullough's Pond Association. According to the association's web site, "People have been ice skating and playing hockey on Bullough’s Pond since, at least, the early 1900’s." Digital Commonwealth, a priceless online archive that contains photos, manuscripts, books, audio recordings and more from Massachusetts, features a photo of what is called a bath house at Bullough's Pond circa 1925. I'm not positive, but I'm guessing this is the same structure.

The city of Newton discourages ice skating on the pond, due to the fact that the water doesn't freeze as easily as it once did. This is because of silt build-up, according to the association web site.

(This is where skaters would walk to get from the warming hut to the ice.)

More than 350 years ago, John Spring dammed the Smelt Brook and built a grist mill on what became known as Spring's Pond, according to the Bullough's Pond Association web site. Up through the 1850's, the pond, which became known as Pearl Lake before being named Bullough's Pond, was much larger. Due to an expanding population after the addition of a rail line nearby, Newtonville began to grow and Walnut Street was extended south and bisected the pond, per the association. Eventually the southern portion of the pond " filled in and put into culverts, with remnants reappearing years later as the City Hall ponds and the library retention pools," according to the BPA web site.

One might look at the warming hut in the above photo and think, "That place looks great!" Well, I thought the same thing. Great minds....

But as you may be aware, the name of this blog is The Backside of America. So I needed to walk around the building....

(The first sign of trouble.)

(I would love to know what this place looked like in its heyday. Not sure why it looks so great on the outside but hasn't been maintained on the inside.)

Although no longer as large as it once was, the pond is still scenic enough to attract the attention of Hollywood. Per the association's web site, the pond has been used as a backdrop for TV shows and movies, including 2008's "The Women," directed by Diane English and starring Meg Ryan and Annette Bening, and featuring one of my favorite actresses, Debi Mazar.