Friday, December 14, 2018

Eastie Ramble

From U Know Hu:

This is another one of my quick-hit neighborhood reports from a recent trip through Boston with my son, Owen.

This time I present a small slice of East Boston, specifically the area just north of the Airport MBTA subway station, near Bremen Street Park.

(I debated whether to shoot this building in Bremen Street Park, as I wasn't sure whether it was historic or not. It looks like an old train station, but after some research, I believe this is new construction intended to honor the history of this area as a rail yard.)

(Located directly across from an entrance to Bremen Street Park, Gino's Auto Body has a classic look. And it's so clean! I assume it's still open.)

(Just down the street sits Braz Motor Repair, which is trying to disguise the age of its building with some vinyl siding. I'm guessing this place has been around a century or so. Notice the steel girder sticking out the front wall.)

(I have a thing for churches in non-traditional buildings. This Spanish house of worship is translated as Biblical Church Beacon of Light, I believe. Any translation assistance welcomed.)

(Magrath Funeral Home has been at this location since the late '50s, and in business since 1910. This is the first funeral home I've seen [this is the backside, of course] with indoor parking.)

(The only information I can find online about Dolphin Bait & Tackle is a positive review from March 2009. I'm guessing it's been out of business for a while.)

For more about East Boston, see:

November 3, 2018, "Pictures of Eastie Pride"

June 30, 2018, "Losing Bet at Suffolk Downs"

September 16, 2016, "Like a Virgin"

July 27, 2011, "Look, Up On the Restaurant"

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Old Davenport Place

From Dave Brigham:

I don't post a lot of black and white photos here, but this shot of The Davenport Building in East Cambridge, Mass., just seemed right.

Dating to 1905, this complex, I believe, was built for the furniture maker A.H. Davenport & Company. The company, which was founded in 1886 when Albert H. Davenport bought the Boston Furniture Company, where he'd worked since 1866, certainly used the multiple buildings here for manufacturing. I'm not positive, however, that the project originated as a Davenport property. Wikipedia tells me a lot, but not everything.

A very successful outfit, A.H. Davenport by 1905 was making high-end, custom pieces for the likes of architect H.H. Richardson and his multitude of high-profile projects; architect Charles Brigham (possibly a distant relative of mine) and his annex to the Massachusetts State House; and the White House.

Mr. Davenport died in 1905. Nine years later the company he founded merged with Irving and Casson. That entity went belly up in 1974.

In the 1980s the building was converted to offices.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Casting About in Lancaster, Mass.

From Dave "Least Heat" Brigham:

Any town with a house friendly to hobby horses is a nice town.

Lancaster, Mass., was incorporated in 1653, thereby making it the oldest town in Worcester County. A quiet town with many lovely old homes and a now-vacant college campus (see August 26, 2018, "You Have Been Un-Matriculated"), Lancaster has a population of around 8,000. I visited one recent day and here's what I found around the town center.

As I said, Lancaster is lousy with beautifully restored old houses. This is the Abby Carter Lane House on Main Street. Built around 1870, the house was occupied by Mrs. Lane for some time, before becoming a funeral home called Queen Chapel, according to Digital Commonwealth. It is a private home now, and likely has been for quite some time.

This place, known as the Dr. J.L.S. Thompson house, was built in the late 1840's and was damaged by a fire several years ago, according to the 2011 Annual Report of Officers and Committees, Town of Lancaster.

A short distance away sits the Mary Whitney House, circa, 1851, named for a lifelong Lancaster resident and former town librarian.

I love the stories old houses like these have to tell. There are of course the family histories in each of them, but also tales of former lives. The house above that was formerly a funeral home. The doctor's house that surely saw its share of patients. And the one below, which, if you are able to zoom in on the sign by the front door, was in a previous life Matthew Woods Store.

Directly across from this place is a barn.

Did Matthew Woods maintain this as a warehouse for his store? Or for equipment, animals and products from what must have been a fair amount of farmland? Both? The location is perfect, as both the store and the barn are adjacent to railroad tracks.

Both the Boston & Maine and Worcester, Nashua & Rochester railroads sent trains through Lancaster back in the day, connecting the town to Worcester to the south and Portland, Maine, to the north.

Lancaster's quaint town center is anchored by a complex that includes the town hall, a community center, the Thayer Memorial Library and the First Church of Christ, Unitarian.

Built in 1816, the church is the fifth meeting house to stand in or near the town center. The first two were destroyed during Indian raids in 1676 and 1704, according to the First Church's web site. The third church -- Massachusetts law in the 17th century decreed that a town could not be established without a church and a minister -- went up in 1706, and a fourth replaced it in 1743, per the church web site. The current house of worship was designed by well-known architect Charles Bulfinch (the Massachusetts State House, the Old Connecticut State House, remodel and enlargement of Boston's Faneuil Hall).

Behind the church sits this beautiful carriage barn:

I've been unable to find out when it was built. These days it's used for storage.

This monument on the town green to horticulturist, scientist, humanitarian and native son Luther Burbank has just the right amount of patina, I think. "He developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants over his 55-year career," per Wikipedia. "Burbank's varied creations included fruits, flowers, grains, grasses, and vegetables. Burbank's most successful strains and varieties include the Shasta daisy....the 'July Elberta' peach, the 'Santa Rosa' plum, the 'Flaming Gold' nectarine, the 'Wickson' plum (named after the agronomist Edward J. Wickson), the freestone peach, and the white blackberry."

Last, certainly not least, and arguably the most well-known aspect of Lancaster, is the former Rowlandson property.

From Wikipedia:

"Mary Rowlandson....was a colonial American woman who was captured by Native Americans during King Philip's War and held for 11 weeks before being ransomed. In 1682, six years after her ordeal, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson was published. This text is considered a seminal American work in the literary genre of captivity narratives. It went through four printings in 1682 and garnered readership both in the New England colonies and in England, leading it to be considered by some the first American 'bestseller'."

I walked just a few yards up the dirt road. While it is private property, history buffs and others are welcome to walk on the land. Metal detectors, littering and motorized vehicles, however, are not allowed.

So there you have just a little bit of Lancaster, Mass. I've compiled profiles of other towns in this general area of Massachusetts -- between highways 190, 290 and 495. Here's a list:

From November 8, 2015, a feature about Maynard, "This Town Ain't Big Enough...."

From November 30, 2015, a post about Sudbury, "Walking Dead Tracks."

From December 9, 2015, a look at Hudson, "Scenes From An Old Shoe Town."

From December 17, 2015, a peek at a cemetery in Harvard, "Bring Out Your Dead."

From December 29, 2015, a short piece about a former church in Stow with an uplifting name but a confusing pedigree, "Gravity Can Lift You Up."

From January 27, 2016, a review of Clinton, "Finding Hope, But Losing a Mainstay, in Clinton."

February 17, 2016, a fascinating trek to a former ammunition bunker complex in Sudbury, "Bunker Buster."

March 30, 2016, a post about Littleton, "Big Walk in Littleton."

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Gone In a Flash

From Dave Brigham:

I find it odd that a bar/restaurant in downtown Boston that closed five years ago hasn't been replaced. And why did the owner leave the sign behind?

I went to Flash's once and have really no memory of it, so maybe that tells you something. With so many bars and restaurants opening across the city in recent years, from the Seaport District to Downtown Crossing, is nobody willing to take a shot at this spot? There may be complications such as rental rates, availability of a liquor license or building ownership issues. Stay tuned....

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Gone Garden Garage

From Dave Brigham:

I don't normally shoot photos of things like ugly parking garages in the process of being demolished. But the pace of redevelopment in Boston these days is so frantic, I feel the need to document any and all old structures that I can before they disappear. This is (was, actually, as since I began writing this post, the place has been totally leveled) the Garden Garage, next door to the TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins, and host to concerts, circuses and other events. Developer Equity Residential plans to build a 44-atory apartment tower on this spot. The complex, which will include at least 469 apartments (numbers differ depending on the source) and underground parking, is slated to open in 2021.

Other buildings are being built immediately adjacent to the Garden, on the site of where the original Boston Garden stood before its demolition in 1998. All of this was set in motion in 2004 with the demolition of the old elevated trolley that ran by the Garden, and the placement underground of the Green line subway.

Across the street from this former garage is one building that is holding its own amid the massive changes (see January 25, 2014, "Last Building Standing").

Get the Lead Out

From Dave Brigham:

Damn, that is one impressive building! I used to work in downtown Boston and walk all over the place, but I don't recall ever seeing this place before. This is the former Chadwick Lead Works building, which was built in 1887. Joseph Chadwick formed his lead works company in 1862 in nearby Roxbury. He moved to High Street in Boston in 1873, per this web site. After a merger, the company moved elsewhere in the city, and from 1901-1981 the building was used as a warehouse and office space until it was renovated, according to the above web site.

Here are some not-so-great photos of the front and rear of the building.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Leavitt & Peirce: For All Your Hoity-Toity Tobacco Needs

From Gentleman Dave Brigham:

When I walk into Leavitt & Peirce in world-famous Harvard Square, the WASP in me comes out just a little bit. Located directly across from Harvard Yard, the shop has sold tobacco, chess games, barware, cologne, cigar cutters and much more to Harvard students, their families and others with too much walking-around money since 1883.

I love the cigar maiden hanging over the door, the pendant lights hanging inside and the "FAMOUS CAKE BOX MIXTURE" sign in the window. As great as the outside looks, the inside smells. I don't smoke cigars or pipes, but my nose and I enjoy the smells of those tobacco products that have seeped into Leavitt & Peirce's wood walls, floors, ceilings and display cases. I like to think, for a few minutes, that I'm a blue-blooded toff just popping in to purchase 8 ounces of Whiskey Cavendish pipe tobacco, a small vinyl chess mat and a Schnitzelbank Stein.

Truth be told, I have only purchased a few things in this store, and none of them was as glamorous as what I just listed off. I stopped in here before my wedding, 21 years ago, to buy some gifts for my two groomsmen: my brother and my best buddy from high school. I believe I bought them fancy pens.

I feel a connection to Harvard Square, not only because I've hung out there countless times in the last three decades, at places ranging from the Wursthaus (R.I.P.) to Newbury Comics, 33 Dunster Street (R.I.P., replaced by John Harvard's Brewery & Ale House) to the movie theater (now shuttered, but it might be revived), but also because my ancestors once lived there.

Thomas Brigham, considered the first Brigham to emigrate to these shores from England, settled in Cambridge in 1635. He is buried in the Old Burying Ground on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Garden Street in Harvard Square, although his grave is unmarked after all these years. At his death, he owned approximately 180 acres of farmland, with the main house situated on the outskirts of what is now the square, at the intersection of Ash and Brattle streets. So I like to think that in some alternate universe, my branch of the Brigham clan inherited that land, right near Tory Row, sold it to Harvard University and made enough money to keep me in Whiskey Cavendish and wide wale pants for the rest of my life.

For more about my WASP hang-up, see March 22, 2018, "WASP Wanderings and Wonderings".

Sunday, November 25, 2018

American Church, British Style, Napoleon-Inspired Name

From Dave Brigham:

Walking around the Longwood neighborhood in Brookline, Mass., one can be forgiven for adopting a British accent and hungering for tea and crumpets. Developed in the first half of the 19th century by prominent Boston merchant, philanthropist and landowner David Sears II, Longwood was named after Napoleon's estate on the British island of St. Helena, the site of his second exile from 1815 until his death in 1821, according to Wikipedia. Sears built homes that evoked British estates, and modeled Christ's Church after St. Peter's Church in Colchester, England, according to the Brookline Historical Society. St. Peter's is the Sears family's ancestral church, according to a history of Brookline at Community Walk. Christ's Church was built "as an ecumenical, non-sectarian house of worship in 1860-61," according to that history.

Now home to the Unity Boston congregation, Christ's Church is surrounded by very British-seeming estates, gardens, fences and shade trees. It's all very peaceful. For a look inside the church, check out this link.

For more on the Longwood neighborhood, which is south of Beacon Street near Park Drive, as well as the Sears-developed Cottage Farm area north of Beacon Street, check out this previously linked Brookline Historical Society web page.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Little Further Into the North End

From Dave "David" Brigham:

I've lived in and around Boston for more than half of my 53 years, and feel bad about not spending more time in the city's North End. I've only eaten at a handful of the dozens upon dozens of Italian restaurants. I've only attended one of the numerous annual Italian feasts. And I've only walked around the neighborhood a few times to shoot photos for this blog (see June 14, 2018, "A Prince of a Building" and July 11, 2018, "North End Stroll").

But, like Middle-Aged Man says about his gut, I'm working on it.

While today the North End is considered the Little Italy of Boston, the neighborhood has been home to immigrants from England, Ireland, Portugal, Africa and Europe since the 1600s. And I'm sure Native Americans knew a little something about this area, too. For a quick, but informative history of the North End, read this.

One of the things that draws so many tourists (and locals) to the North End is the old-world feel of the place: narrow streets; locally owned cheese shops, bakeries, restaurants, barber shops, convenience stores, etc.; buildings that crowd the sidewalks without blocking the sun. And while the one-square-mile waterfront neighborhood isn't as Italian as it was a generation ago (more below about gentrification), the place still has an overwhelming feel of the country of the boot.

When I took the two photos above I had no idea who I was shooting, just that the two banners obviously commemorated the same event. A quick bit of research (I may or may not have searched online for "religious guy holding baby") led to the discovery that Saint Anthony of Padua is second only to Mary depicted in artwork holding baby Jesus.

Among the many feasts in the North End each year is the St. Anthony's Feast, considered the largest Italian religious festival in New England. It is held in late August.

While this photo depicts another North End doorway, unlike the other two, this one doesn't have a St. Anthony & Jesus banner. This is the home of the Knights of Columbus, Ausonia Council #1513. The council announced earlier this year a plan to redevelop the building and its site, adding affordable apartments for the elderly, a community room and a new headquarters for the council.

You'll notice, perhaps, that over the doorway it says "GEORGE ROBERT WHITE FUND." Who was George Robert White, you ask? The head of Potter Drug and Chemical Company who made a fortune and who was an active philanthropist. The fund was established in 1922 in his will, in which he bequeathed $5 million to the City of Boston as a permanent charitable fund.

I apologize for the bad angle on this photo. This is the McLaughlin Building, which is the oldest cast-iron building in New England, according to this web site. Formerly home to the McLaughlin Elevator Company, the 1875 building is now condominiums. Which leads me to....

Gentrification. As I said earlier, the North End maintains Italian influences, but they're not as heavy as they once were. Sure, there are still tons of Italian restaurants and bakeries. But the population of the neighborhood is no longer so heavily Italian, a shift that has taken place gradually over the last four decades. Just as in other traditionally working class areas such as South Boston and Kendall Square in Cambridge, young professionals have moved in to the North End as the local economy has boomed with tech jobs (keep your eyes peeled for posts about each of those neighborhoods in the near future). For a look at the beginning of this trend, as well as a shot of the McLaughlin Building before its conversion to housing and offices, read this article.

The final two buildings in this brief feature are, in my mind, quite incredible.

The Segel Building was built in 1896. Just look at that facade! Built with Jewish financing, the building must have been stunning in its heyday, and likely included retail or office space on the ground floor, with apartments above. The Segel was erected during the prime years of Jewish immigration to the North End, which was heaviest between 1870 and the early 1900's and which resulted in the Jewish population growing to about one-third of the North End, according to this article.

Finally, the Vermont Building.

Built in 1904, the brick-and-marble building was funded by Redfield Proctor, U.S. Senator from Vermont, and one of the owners of the Vermont Marble Company, per Wikipedia. Formerly a warehouse, office and retail space, the building has been condos for a while.

That's it for now. I promise to visit the North End again and post more history.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Southie to Lose An Institution

From Dave "Sorta Irish" Brigham:

South Boston ("Southie" to locals) has undergone a major transformation in recent years, from a place run by Whitey Bulger and his gang to one overrun with yuppies in condos. OK, that's simplifying things a bit, but you get the point. New buildings have risen along the main thoroughfare, West Broadway, containing restaurants, bars, apartments, condos and probably some dog spas. So I imagine it's hard for landowners to resist the opportunity to cash in. Such is the case with the folks who run Amrheins, which opened in 1890 and may still be in business, but not for long.

"The owner of Amrheins, which has held down the corner of West Broadway and A Street since 1890, has put the classy neighborhood joint, and its prized parking lot next door, up for sale," according to an August Boston Globe article. "The half-acre site could fetch $20 million or more, real estate experts say, and the new owner almost certainly will replace the brick and wood buildings that house Amrheins with something along the lines of the mid-rise apartments that have transformed Broadway’s Lower End."

Boo.

Look at that place. It's beautiful, isn't it?

I'm sure some perfectly lovely and "fun" bar catering to millennials will replace Amrheins. And serve as yet another way to antagonize locals. I know, progress....

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Bridge Not Too Far

From Dave Brigham:

This is the Northern Avenue Bridge, which spans the Fort Point Channel connecting downtown Boston with the sprawling and bustling Seaport District. At left in the photo is a long-abandoned floating firehouse for the city's fire department. I took this photo from a party boat on which, once we got out into Boston Harbor, I saw the excellent alt-country/rock band Cracker.

I walked over this bridge a handful of times back in 1990-91 when I worked in the Seaport District, which back then was known as "the place where commuters parked in muddy lots and artists took over entire warehouses and there were actually working piers." Or something. But the bridge has been locked in the open position for four years, so nobody can walk, ride or drive over it. Something about safety, or the lack thereof.

For many years there has been talk in government, architecture, civic, retail and development circles about just what the hell to do with this old bridge, which dates to 1908 and once carried not only cars but also trains. The latest idea, from the City of Boston, calls for the bridge to be renovated/rehabilitated and raised up with dedicated lanes for pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars. The span, which would incorporate the old bridge into a new structure, could be covered, and piers could be built to extend over the water. Cafes, shops, and public art could also line the bridge, according to this column from the Boston Globe.

The city has pledged $46 million and is looking for partners to chip in $35-40 million for commercial rights. Public discussions are under way; once a final design is chosen, construction could wrap up by 2022.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

An Artist Haven In the Shadow of Fenway Park

From Dave Brigham:

"Fenway Studios: A rare Boston example of the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement on architectural design, this innovative structure has been in continuous use for artists' studios since it was built in 1905. Designed by Parker & Thomas, the layout conformed to artists' standards for north light and working space. Painters and sculptors from Boston's art community, some of national influence, have been tenants here, including artists of the Boston School in the early years. In 1981, the building was sold to a resident artist's cooperative committed to maintaining Fenway Studios for visual arts." -- from a plaque on the building, situated a 6-minute walk from Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Thanks, Nice Lady

From Dave "Sacrilicious" Brigham:

"Should I go in?" I asked myself as I stood outside the shrine to Our Lady of Fatima in Boston's Brighton neighborhood. A sign on the unlocked door invited any and all to enjoy the peace and quiet of the shrine, which commemorates the supposed appearance of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to three children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Construction of the shrine began in 1968, and was completed at the end of the following year.

I am not Catholic. I am not a religious person whatsoever. But I have an affinity for churches and religious icons. Nobody was around, so I went in.

I felt like such a heathen! And I was afraid that somebody -- a nun or priest or devout worshiper or Ralph Reed -- would come in at any second, ask just what in the name of all that is holy I was doing there, and kick me out. But I remained alone for the five minutes or so that I was in the shrine.

I took my leave and went off to explore more of the grounds of the former St. Gabriel's Monastery on which the shrine sits. For more about the monastery, which is slated to be included in a massive redevelopment soon, see September 22, 2018, "Modern-Day Monastery, No Celibacy Required." According to a Boston Herald article, the shrine would be moved to a new building when the monastery project commences.

Now, for something completely different:

And something even different-er:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

How Do You Feel About Felt?

From Dave "Rat Pack" Brigham:

Most recently home to the Felt nightclub, this building at 533 Washington Street in Boston's Downtown Crossing/Theater District area, has, like many buildings in the Hub, a varied and interesting history. Shuttered for more than six years, this beautiful edifice rose in 1866 as the home of the Weed Sewing Machine Company on the upper floors, and various men's clothing stores at street level, per this 2016 project notification form filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Felt, from what I've been able to glean from the Internet, sought to bring Vegas-style glitz and cheesiness to downtown Boston, with pool tables, a lounge, international DJ's, cushy banquettes and an invitation to the ladies to "Let your hair down. Hike your skirt up." I'm not sure how long it was open. Various other clubs operated here dating back to 1960, according to the Internet.

Not long after its closing, which came about because of murkiness around ownership, the owners indicated that no fewer than five parties expressed interest in replacing Felt with a new club. Then, in 2016, a new owner of the building announced plans to build a 30-story "pencil tower," retaining the four-story original facade. The building would have featured 94 apartments, a restaurant and non-profit incubator space.

Would the architect and builders of this edifice have imagined, back in the 1860's, when 533 Washington Street went up as an annex to the well-known Adams House hotel, that one day it would raise up more than 300 feet and house the extremely well-to-do?

Probably not. But that rhetorical question may be moot, as the latest I've found about the project indicates that the owner will "perform interior updates to revitalize former home of the Felt nightclub to more modern uses. Permit application calls for the addition of a bar and restaurant in the basement and 1st floor as well as a creative office space."

I like the sound of that much better.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Pictures of Eastie Pride

From Dave Brigham:

Engaging children in civic pride is never a losing proposition. These murals in East Boston -- Eastie to locals -- are great, aren't they?

Located on the McLean Playground on Bennington Street, next to Excel Academy, which is located in the former St. Mary's Star of the Sea school, the murals tout a variety of attractions and activities, including the Suffolk Downs race track (soon to close for good -- see June 30, 2018, "Losing Bet at Suffolk Downs"); Santarpio's Pizza, which has been around as a bakery and pizza joint for more than 100 years; the MBTA's Blue line rapid transit branch; and bike riding, boating and reading books.