Friday, October 27, 2017

Set Yourself Free on Prison Point

From Dave Brigham:

When I'm walking along, minding my own business, and spy a building that says "Prison Point Pumping Station" on it, you know I don't have a choice but to take a boring picture of it and commit myself to finding out the story.

On one of my regular trips along Boston's subway system with my son, I requested of him that we check out the Lynch Family Skatepark. Located under an Interstate 93 offramp in the easternmost section of Cambridge, the skatepark opened last November after years in planning and development, and has become quite popular.

Check out the Creating Skate Space video from Leslie Tuttle to learn how the park came to be, hear from the people who sculpted it out of a former wasteland, and listen and watch as the young'uns who use it describe what it means to them.

After watching the skaters for a few minutes, we turned to walk toward Lechmere MBTA station to continue our journey. Just a few steps from the skate park we saw the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pumping station, pictured above, behind a chain-link fence. It's not much to look at, but that name.

Why is this area called Prison Point?

Let's take a quick look at the larger area where Cambridge meets Boston down by the river Charles, shall we? Many of you are likely familiar with Boston's Museum of Science. Directly across the busy four-lane road from the museum sits the Lechmere viaduct, on which MBTA Green line trolleys run. Under the viaduct the Charles River is squeezed through a lock before opening up a bit on its way toward Boston's Charlestown neighborhood and on to Boston Harbor. If you were drifting by on a boat and looked to your left, you'd see North Point Park, a lush area popular with sun worshippers, dog walkers and the baby stroller crowd. The park in its former life was an industrial dumping ground and staging area for the construction of the massive Big Dig highway project. Moving a bit more northeast, you find yourself at Boston Sand & Gravel, which, like the above-mentioned skate park, sits under highway ramps. Finally, another quick jaunt to the northeast, under Interstate 93, and you're at Bunker Hill Community College, situated on the former site of -- wait for it -- Charlestown State Prison.

Opened in 1805, the prison was in operation for a century and a half. This area of Charlestown/Cambridge was filled in long ago, but when the prison was built the Charles River flowed right on by. Eventually railroad tracks, industry and housing were sighted nearby. The prison closed in 1955 and inmates were moved to a new big house in Walpole. By 1973 the imposing brick institution had been razed, replaced by the community college.

Check out this blog post from And This Is Good Old Boston for prints, maps, photos and history of the hoosegow.

I plan to return to the skate park, as it's fun watching people perform stunts I could never dream of doing. I also want to walk across the North Bank pedestrian bridge that connects North Point Park to Paul Revere Park in Charlestown.

I've enjoyed watching the evolution of this whole area of Greater Boston. In the coming years, plans call for the development of what is called NorthPoint, a 45-acre site that could eventually feature 5.2 million square feet of commercial, residential, hotel and mixed-use development. Some buildings have already been completed. I will surely keep an eye on this.

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