Thursday, November 30, 2017

Stone Cold Monuments

From Dave Brigham:

I've had my eye on this place since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. OK, maybe not that long. Perhaps it's only been about 17 years or so, since I lived in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood.

In business since starting in Quincy, Mass., in 1896, W.C. Canniff & Sons is a family-owned and operated memorial stone company, and has made memorials through the years for legendary Thoroughbred racehorse Seabiscuit as well as the Suffolk Downs horse track, according to The Historic Shops and Restaurants of Boston by Phyllis Meras (2007, New York Review of Books). In addition to its Quincy location and this memorial showroom in West Roxbury, the company operates one in Boston's Roslindale neighborhood, as well as Cambridge.

I love everything about this old building, from the plywood sheets on the small porch, to the hints of red paint, the "BRANCH OFFICE" sign over the door to the old-school phone number, "PARKWAY 3690," near the top of the facade. The building is situated directly across LaGrange Street from rival memorial dealer Thomas Carigg & Son, which opened in 1890. The Holyhood and St. Joseph Cemeteries are located just up the street.

The company's showroom in Cambridge is located in a former comfort station and waiting room for Mount Auburn Cemetery, for visitors who took the trolley, according to Meras's book. The trolley was replaced by trackless trolleys (aka electrified buses) a long time ago.

(W.C. Canniff & Sons Cambridge showroom.)

While I love both of the above buildings, I've saved my favorite for last.

(Canniff's showroom in Roslindale.)

Built in 1935, this memorial showroom and office located in a very urban setting looks like it shares an architect with The Alamo. The place is in somewhat rough shape on the outside, and I'm guessing the inside ain't so great either, but all of that mange is saved by the presence of this in the front yard.

The American Tank and Pump Company manufactured and sold pumps from 1909 until 1949, when the company was sold, according to a posting at This is the kind of relic that the guys on "American Pickers" love to stumble across.

For more cemetery-related posts, see below:

July 18, 2013, "Cool Stones."

March 5, 2016, "Shakin' All Over."

December 17, 2015, "Bring Out Your Dead."

January 13, 2012, "Peaceful Rest."

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Punk Farm?

From Dave Brigham:

The most obvious ulterior motive in my life manifests itself on this blog. I've taken my wife, my kids and even my mother along on explorations in service of the backside of America. A few Thanksgivings ago, I managed to roust a fair number of my extended family to trek along an old stagecoach route in my hometown (see February 4, 2016, "Stealing Back Into the Past of My Hometown"). On occasion I drive the long way to get places in order to snap photos of a piece of hidden history.

Sometimes, though, I head out for a hike just for hiking's sake. And yet my quest for the forgotten world wins out anyway.

Such was the case on a recent outing with my son, Owen.

After searching Google maps for a nearby conservation area, I decided on Rock Meadow in Belmont, Mass. I've hiked near this spot over the years, but had forgotten until Owen and I arrived at Rock Meadow that this was the entry point I'd used two decades ago when mountain biking with my wife and a friend to get to the abandoned Metropolitan State Hospital (see March 20, 2017, "Brigham in Waltham, Part III").

Owen and I saw numerous mountain bikers during the course of our short walk. The paths are well-worn and easy to traverse. We chatted about how things were going in school, said "Hi" to several dogs and their owners and enjoyed the cool autumn temperatures.

Returning to the small dirt parking lot, I saw through the woods something that I'd missed upon our arrival.

Originally part of the McLean Hospital farming operation, the building dates to around 1918 and was used as a dairy barn. Located across the street, McLean sold the land now known as Rock Meadow to the town of Belmont after the hospital's farming efforts petered out. The building is solid despite its appearance. There have been efforts by preservationists to resurrect the brick edifice, but to date nothing is planned.

The barn is quite stately, and I'm sure that with a lot of elbow grease and an even greater amount of money, it could be turned into a fabulous place for meetings, concerts (all-ages punk shows!) and other events. I hope this happens and will of course keep readers updated.

I understand, of course, why this building has been saved. But I'm not sure why the low outbuilding next to it hasn't been fully torn down and removed.

For more about barns and Belmont, read "Crouching Barn, Hidden Mill," a post I wrote in November 2012.

Monday, November 13, 2017

UPDATE: St. Philip Neri Church

From Dave Brigham:

You know a city has reached the acme of teardown fever when churches start getting razed.

This is the former St. Philip Neri Church, which was built in 1930 in the Waban section of Newton, Mass. Closed by the Archdiocese of Boston in 2007, it was used by a Korean congregation until 2014 (see June 3, 2016, "I Seek Newton, Part IV: Waban").

A developer put forth a few redevelopment plans for the church property before finally coming to an agreement with the city and neighbors. See this article for the plan.

And this is what the lot looked like as of mid-October.

What was once a peaceful, shady corner of Waban with a quaint, brick house of worship is being turned into yet another cookie-cutter assortment of houses that neighbors will for the most part disdain. I prefer when churches and synagogues are turned into housing, as has been the case in other parts of Newton.

The beautiful former First Church of Christ, Scientist on Walnut Street in Newtonville was converted to condos in 2004.

The condominiums below are in the circa-1910 former Newton Methodist Congregation Church on Centre Street in Newton Corner. The building was converted to homes in 2001.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

UPDATE: Your Standard Empty Plant

From: Who Else?

Nobody tells me nuthin'!

Just three months after I wrote about the empty Standard-Thomson factory in -- where else? -- Waltham, Mass., a Chicago real estate developer announced plans to transform the site (see November 21, 2015, "Your Standard Empty Plant").

According to this Boston Business Journal article, Hilco Redevelopment Partners purchased the 8.2-acre property in July 2015. The company plans to spend about $30 million to turn the former site of the automotive thermostat manufacturer into "three separate office and R&D facilities spanning a total of 130,000 square feet," per the article. The facility will be known as The Gauge, in a nod to Standard-Thomson's history.

Standard-Thomson closed the plant in 2009.

I recently noticed some site work going on, and hustled over to shoot some photos.

I'm so happy that this site is being redeveloped, using the existing buildings, rather than being torn down.