Monday, December 31, 2018

From Organ Factory to Charter School

From Dave Brigham:

I apologize for the less-than-stellar photo, but the sun was tough on the day my son and I walked the area around the JFK/UMass train station in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. As soon as I saw this building I knew it had been a factory of some sort. Took a bit of research, but I tracked it down. Nearly 10 years ago, the Boston Collegiate Charter School acquired the former Aeolian-Skinner Organ Company building. The instrument maker was founded in 1901 as the Skinner Organ Company, and closed up shop in 1972, per Wikipedia. I'm not sure what went on in the building between 1972 and 2009. I'm guessing there was a storage/warehouse business, maybe some offices and probably at least some period of abandonment/homeless hijinks.

Last year, as part of a longer piece, I wrote a little about another former organ factory, in Weston, Mass., which was demolished several decades ago (see June 23, 2017, "A Walk Through Weston's History").

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Ghost Signs In, Uh, Some Boston Neighborhood

From Dave Brigham:

This is the backside of 90 Canal Street in Boston's North Station neighborhood, which doesn't officially exist, unless you're a realtor. According to city maps, this is the West End. Po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes. Erected in 1905, possibly for the Rapids Furniture Company, the building was renovated in 1987 and now comprises office space. The ghost sign is for Holt & Bugbee Co., a hardware flooring company founded in 1825 in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood. The company is still in business, with locations in Tewksbury, Mass., Elmwood Park, New Jersey, and two sites in Pennsylvania.

Around the corner sits 254-256 Friend Street. Built 1899, this small property is a residential/commercial mixed-used building. I believe there are some artist lofts. I'm not sure what else the building has been in its life. The ghost sign is for a liquor store, but I'm unable to figure out which one. Since this place is located next to the West Ender restaurant (which appears to be closed), I guess I should call the neighborhood the West End rather than North Station.

Why do I hesitate to use that name for the neighborhood? To quote myself, from "Last Building Standing," which I posted on January 25, 2014:

"Boston's West End was wiped off the map in the late 1950's and early '60's to make way for The Future, and it was a huge mistake.

"Once densely packed and relatively low-slung the way Boston's North End still is, the West End was considered a slum, and so it was bulldozed to make way for low- and middle-income high rises. Those tall, ugly, spread-out buildings make up Charles River Park, and are now home mostly to luxury dwellers, according to the West End Museum."

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Names Live On....

From Dave Brigham:

I don't have a lot to say about these buildings in Boston's Financial District:

Located at 77 Franklin Street, the former headquarters of the Columbian National Life Insurance Company looks like something one might find on Wall Street. The company was acquired by The Hartford in 1959.

Right across the street, the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company was founded in 1867, and officially disappeared in 2016 several years after being acquired by the entity now known as BNY Mellon.

For more random named building posts, see:

June 12, 2014, "What's In a Named Building (Part 4)?"

May 8, 2014, "What's In a Named Building (Part 3)?"

March 13, 2014, "What's In a Named Building (Part 2)?"

December 26, 2013, "What's In a Named Building (Part 1)?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Rise of the House of Usher

From Dave Brigham:

Built in 1893, the Usher Building in Medford, Mass., was named not for the singer known for "Nice and Slow," "Scream" and other touching songs about, well, touching, but rather, I believe, for Henry W. Usher, a captain in the Lawrence Light Guard, a military company formed in 1851 as the Winchester (Mass.) Light Guard and moved to nearby Medford four years later.

The light guard was mustered into federal service not long after the start of the Civil War, and members served until the end of the war between the states. Upon their arrival back in Medford, the troops were entertained by the Lawrence Rifles at their armory in Usher's Building, according to this very thorough article, which you should read for the full scoop on the Guard.

I assume the circa-1893 building in the photo above replaced the earlier Usher's Building. Perhaps there was a fire, as often seemed to happen in those days. Current tenants of the building include Two Sisters Antiques and a restaurant and bar, Bistro 5, on the ground level. I'm guessing there are offices, and perhaps apartments, in the upper floors.

The Fall of the House of Edgar

From Dave Brigham:

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston in 1809, but I don't think he'd be too crazy about this statue near Boston Common and the accompanying plaque (see below) if he were able to claw his way out of the Baltimore graveyard where he was interred at the age of 40. Titled "Poe Returning to Boston," Stefanie Rocknak's sculpture imagines the horror and suspense writer "finally coming home" with a "trunk full of ideas and worldwide success."

Poe left the Hub of the Universe at age 3 after both of his parents died and he was adopted by a wealthy tobacco merchant in Richmond, Virginia. Poe spent time in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, but did return to Boston on occasion, according to this New York Times article about the unveiling of Rocknak's statue.

Still, he didn't care for the Boston literary scene, according to everyone on the Internet. “Bostonians are well bred — as very dull persons very generally are," he was quoted in the above-linked article.

A few blocks away from the statue of Poe and a raven ("Quoth the Raven, 'Nevermore!'") is a small plaque on a quiet and quite lovely side street.

This is not where Poe was born. That building is gone, as is the street it was on, according to this Atlas Obscura post. I read a handful of Poe's stories when I was in high school. I have vague recollections of "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." The guy who wrote these stories, I thought as a teenager, was pretty messed up. Orphaned. Left out of his adoptive father's will. Cheated on by a girlfriend. Widowed and devastated at age 37. Dead at age 40 of mysterious causes. No wonder.

A Rare Show in Boston's Theater District

From Dave Brigham:

This sort of scene is increasingly rare in downtown Boston. These sorts of older, low-rise buildings are increasingly being torn down and replaced by glass towers. Located in the theater district, the Tyson Ticket Agency was incorporated in 1996, according to the Better Business Bureau web site. The company doesn't have a web site, but I'm guessing it sells tickets for shows at nearby theaters. If it's still in business.

The building between the ticket agency and the Subway shop is occupied by The 4th Wall, a restaurant and bar that opened recently, replacing the Intermission Tavern, which was open for about 10 years.

At the upper left you can see a ghost sign -- UNION SAVINGS BANK MORTGAGES NOW AVAILABLE -- on the former Union Savings Bank building, which dates to 1926 and is, I believe, part of nearby Emerson College.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Under / Over From Cambridge to Charlestown

From Dave Brigham:

For months, perhaps even more than a year, I've been asking my son to walk over this bridge with me. As I've mentioned before, he and I take regular trips on the subway into and around Boston and surrounding cities including Cambridge and Somerville. Whenever I would propose checking out this pedestrian walkway connecting Cambridge to Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, he had no interest. Finally, on a recent warm summer day, he relented.

The North Bank Pedestrian Bridge connects North Point Park in Cambridge to Paul Revere Park in Charlestown, crossing over railroad tracks and Millers River, and under Interstate 93, the Zakim Bridge and some off-ramps and on-ramps along the way. We started in Cambridge and made it under the highway, but Owen didn't want to continue on to Charlestown. Maybe some other time.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the new perspective on Boston and Cambridge. The bridge opened in 2012, 19 years after funds were allocated by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority as part of an agreement made during the construction of the Central Artery / Tunnel project (aka The Big Dig). Better late than never.

North Point Park is really nice; I look forward to checking out Paul Revere Park some day.

(A hopper car on a side track under an off-ramp.)

(Former Boston Maine Railroad Signal Tower. I think the MBTA uses this building now.)

(The walkway, left foreground, goes over Millers River and under the Leverett off-ramp and Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge (aka the Zakim, aka the ZBH) on its way to Charlestown.)

(Heading back toward North Point Park we saw loads of skateboarders at the Lynch Family Skatepark, also located under some on- and off-ramps. For more about the skatepark and the surrounding area known as Prison Point, see October 27, 2017, "Set Yourself Free on Prison Point.")

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Checking Out America's First Condo Complex

From Dave Brigham:

It was love at first sight for me with the Beaconsfield Terraces apartment complex in Brookline, Mass. Seriously.

Developed between 1889 and 1892 by Eugene Knapp along Tappan Street and Garrison Road just behind the Beacon Street Star Market, the complex was designed by the architecture firm of Fehmer and Page, per Wikipedia. "The houses were built of cream-colored brick and of gray stone and the design was independent of all the classic forms," according to this document on the Brookline Historical Society web site. "It was rather a combination of the English and German Mediaeval castles' architecture, modified to ensure all the modern conveniences in the interior arrangement of the rooms."

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Beaconsfield Terraces is considered America's first suburban condo complex. The development originally included a playground, a park, stables and a playhouse, according to Wikipedia. Only the apartment buildings remain. Developer Eugene Knapp was a wool importer who grew up poor and, after developing Beaconsfield, lost his fortune and eventually had to sell the development for $500,000. He lost that money as well in the Panic of 1903, according to this Boston.com article.

For a look inside one of the apartments, check this link.

I first noticed these buildings in the fall of 1990 when I moved to Boston's Brighton neighborhood, not too far from Beaconsfield. I would pass the development as I rode the trolley into Boston and then back to my apartment. My then-girlfriend (now wife), Beth, and I shopped at Shaw's a few times and I just found these buildings so fascinating. They looked like something out of a fairy tale and I imagined that only the fanciest, most magical people lived in them.

Around the corner on Beacon Street stands one more building that, while part of the original Beaconsfield Terraces complex, isn't part of that neighborhood's historic district. Rather, it is included in the Beacon Street Historic District.

As you can see, the materials and style are a bit different, but this building is still stunning.

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.