Thursday, February 22, 2018

If the Bakery Is A'rocking...

From Rock N. Roller:

I've shot this building before, but only recently did I see it from the right angle to pick out the "C.F. Hathaway" ghost sign. I mean, look at that sunlight just knocking me upside the head and telling me to take a picture.

The first time I took pictures of this building on Elm Street in Waltham, Mass., was in early January 2013, I was strolling around this 'hood , which is just a stone's throw from the old Elm Street Music Hall, which I featured in the first post of a three-part series about Waltham (see November 9, 2016, "Brigham in Waltham, Part I"). On that jaunt five years ago, I noticed this ragged, hand-made sign:

I don't know if the powers-that-be at Woolly Mammoth Sound have put up a better sign since I snapped this picture. They probably don't need to. The recording studio is run by Dave Minehan, a Greater Boston rock legend.

Minehan founded the Neighborhoods, a mainstay of the Boston rock scene from the late '70s through the early '90s. The band toured with the Ramones and Cheap Trick, among others, before breaking up in 1992. The band re-formed a decade later and still plays today. In 2013, Minehan joined the Replacements for several gigs that the Band Formerly Known As the Most Drunk Band Ever played over the next two years. Minehan had big shoes to fill in the minds of Replacements fans: Slim Dunlap's (1987-1991), who played lead guitar on the band's last two studio albums, Don't Tell a Soul and All Shook Down, and who suffered a stroke in 2012; and Bob Stinson's (1979-1985), the band's founder and most colorful, yet ultimately tragic, member. Replacements singer Paul Westerberg booted Stinson from the band in 1986 due to his alcohol and drug problems. Stinson died in 1995 at age 35.

(Did some petulant rock star throw this TV out of a Woolly Mammoth studio window five years ago?)

Here's a Neighborhoods video:

And here's the Replacements featuring Dave Minehan:

Let's get back to the building itself, and C.F. Hathaway.

In addition to Woolly Mammoth, the building at 180 Elm Street is home to a bindery service, a furniture repair company, a woodworking business and an upholstery shop. Built in 1900, according to real estate web site LoopNet, the building is a converted mill.

As I do with just about everything I photograph and write about on this blog, I headed to Google for more information on "C.F. Hathaway." The first results got me very excited. "C. F. Hathaway Company was a private manufacturer of shirts for men and boys, located in Waterville, Maine," said the Wikipedia entry I found. "It was founded in 1837 and made uniform shirts for Union soldiers during the American Civil War."

"Wow!" I thought. "What a cool connection to this nation's history!" I dug deeper and found a 2002 New York Times article about how the company closed its factory in Maine, "the last major U.S. shirt plant." I read the article and realized that at no point did C.F. Hathaway make shirts in Waltham.


But all was not lost. Just a little further into my online research, I found links at the Cambridge Public Library web site to Cambridge Chronicle articles that discussed C.F. Hathaway & Son, a North Cambridge bakery with a factory in, you guessed it, Waltham. Established in 1875, C.F. Hathaway & Son by 1910 had moved into the company's third location on Richdale Avenue in Cambridge, having outgrown the two prior bakeries in the city. The company is no longer in business; its North Cambridge location is now home to Hathaway Lofts.

According to this 1899 Chronicle article, Charles F. Hathaway set up shop in Cambridge as University City Bakery after working in bakeries in the area, as well as in Maine (hmm...Maine. Maybe there's a connection here?). In 1897 he bought a Waltham bakery (unnamed in the article), which employed 20. It's possible that the Elm Street building is older than 1900, but it's conceivable that the Waltham operation was run elsewhere and moved into that building later.

I'm not sure when the name of the company was changed to C.F. Hathaway.

Accompanying this Chronicle article from 1911 is a graphic that, if you enlarge it, shows the Waltham bakery. The article indicates that the Waltham bakery had the capacity to turn out 20,000 loaves of bread a day, and that its specialty "as in Cambridge is ice cream bread." I've never heard of ice cream bread, but I bet it's damn good, and that the rockers who hang out at Woolly Mammoth would enjoy it as well.

OK, might as well finish up on a rock 'n' roll note:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

No Farms. No Food. No Dice?

From Wile E. Coyote:

Nestled in the northeast corner of Waltham, Mass., and including a small slice of Watertown, the former Arrigo Farm has a centuries-long history and connections, through past owners, to significant American events. The City of Waltham for years has considered acquiring the long-fallow site and returning it to its purpose. After researching this issue online, I've been unable to determine who owns the farm and what might become of it.

As you can see, Arrigo Farm has known better days. The 4.2-acre site is the last farm left in Waltham. Hemmed in to the north by an industrial park and in every other direction by residential streets, the farm began producing before Marie Hedwig Auguste of Sulzbach was even born. Can you imagine?! According to the Waltham City Council's application for funding under the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act, the site "has been continuously farmed since 1650, and perhaps as early as 1635, when, according to oral tradition, Watertown founder, John Warren, purchased the land from the Watertown community."

Warren's son, Daniel, built the first house on the property when he married in 1650, per the Waltham City Council's application. He subsequently fought in King Phillips War. Daniel's great-grandsons fought in the American Revolution, two of them being injured at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The City's CPA application makes many such historic connections to bolster its case for funding to acquire the farm. How many shillings are we talking about? Oh, $3,296,250....

In the first half of the 19th century, a Warren descendant married Capt. Samuel Barnes, who tore down the house and in 1837 built the house that is the main portion of what we see on the property today, per the blah blah blah....This couple's sons fought in the Civil War.

By 1900 the Barnes family had sold off all but 4.217 acres of the farm. I'm not sure how large the property was in the 1600's when John Warren purchased it. The last Barnes descendant died in 1922. The next year, Placido Arrigo bought the farm (literally, not metaphorically) and tilled the soil until his death in 1991!

His son, John, farmed the land until his death in 2011.

(A rough-looking room added on to the original circa-1837 structure.)

(Relax, sign maker. I had no intention of going inside.)

I can't be positive, but I believe I saw signs of occupation here subsequent to 2011. Either way, in 2013 the City of Waltham began the process of trying to acquire the land.

After reviewing documents online detailing the Waltham City Council's decision to enter into negotiations with the Arrigo family to buy the property and return it to farming, I'm unclear on whether a deal was struck, and if so, why nothing has happened at this property, or if not, why the parties couldn't come to terms. At some point, the Waltham Community Preservation Committee recommended using some of the funds to demolish the farm house, which seems to have put a hold on the proceedings as of late 2013.

For a complete history of the property and the negotiations, check out this file.

As always, stay tuned....

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Casual Abandonment

From Bust Duster:

You would be forgiven if, at first glance, you thought this place was a preschool or an art gallery. I suppose in a way it's both.

Located at 482 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston's Kenmore Square, this circa-1899, 4,210-square-foot apartment building was assessed at $1.3 million in fiscal year 2017. It sits on a 2,625 square-foot lot. So why, with so much development in recent years around Kenmore Square, and the city of Boston in general, is this place plastered with graffiti and murals, instead of overflowing with Euro-trash Boston University students?

Good question! I'm not sure I have much of an answer, though. But let's see what we can cobble together/make up.

First, given what the outside looks like, let's try to imagine the interior of this place, which has been this way for perhaps 20 years, based on what I've found in online forums. Obviously people have been inside over the past two decades, because homeless people, urbex types, drug addicts and other curious folks always go into places like this. So that means people have done all the gross things that people do: gone to the bathroom (Nos. 1 and 2); had sex; ate and drank and spilled and vomited; burnt incense; read porno mags; shot up; jazzercised -- just everything bad you can think of.

Second, think what creatures enjoy the fruits of all bad human behavior: cockroaches, centipedes, rats, raccoons, lawyers. Per the City of Boston 311 web site, there have been numerous complaints over the years for graffiti, unshoveled sidewalks and rodent sightings at this address.

Now imagine being a real estate developer looking at the exterior of what was most likely once a very nice building where very nice people lived, loved and did all the gross things that people do (see above). You don't want to deal with hosing out the detritus of human existence, or risking a nasty case of scabies.

So you just let it sit there, with its celebrity-themed murals. Coco Chanel, Biggie Smalls, Michael Jackson, some other guy who could be Snoop Dogg or William Shakespeare. And like the rest of us, you may ask yourself: Well, how did I get here? And you may ask yourself: How do I work this? And you may ask yourself: Where is that large automobile?

Sorry, got a bit off track. Maybe I should be quoting from "Burning Down the House" instead.

"I think the last I've heard is that it's tied up in probate or something" -- some guy whose quote I found online.

OK, now maybe we're getting somewhere.

Nearly 10 years ago, TexasJake987 asked on the Ask MetaFilter web site: "This building @ 482 commonwealth ave has been boggling my mind. Its your typical brownstone, but its been abandoned and boarded up. On the boards, there's a bunch of artwork and murals done by some JP students. What gives? what is this place? Why is prime realty abandoned in kenmore square? Anybody know anything about it?"

So you see, it IS part art gallery and part preschool. Or some sort of school. Probably high school, but you know, kids back 10 years ago were so immature compared to the geniuses of today with their smart phones, that it was like preschool. Sorry, digressing.

In answering Jake's question, a guy named "Phil" (Collins? Silvers?) provided us with a tantalizing clue in 2008: "And continuing the cyber-sleuthing... I assume "MARGOLIS CALVIN ETAL" is actually "Margolis, Calvin, et al." Whether it's the past fashion designer or not, I have no idea. (But he does seem to be from the Boston area.)." This is in relation to the building's owners on the City of Boston web site.

Calvin Margolis co-founded a fashion retail chain called Designs in 1976. Based in Massachusetts, the business eventually grew to include 29 stores in the Eastern United States. Margolis retired as chairman and CEO in 1993, and died a year later, according to this Funding Universe history of Casual Male Retail Group, the company that Designs, Inc. acquired in 2002 and subsequently changed its name to.

Unfortunately, the online trail goes cold here. Margolis passed away in 1994, and this Kenmore Square address has been an eyesore since at least 1999. So who bought the property and then just let it go to seed?

Currently the property is owned by Four-82 Commonwealth Avenue, a trust overseen by a woman named ______ __________ (I don't want to drag somebody into this without knowing the full story). So, in the spirit of David Letterman's old "Brush With Greatness" schtick, in which audience members would relate the tale of meeting someone famous and then be asked to embellish the story, I present to you what I suppose happened with this building:

Harold Madison, Jr. was born in Worcester, Mass., in 1951. By all accounts (read: Wikipedia) he loved music from an early age. By the mid-'70s he had moved to Boston, where he studied at the illustrious Berklee College of Music. A drummer and guitarist with a big personality, he played gigs at infamous Kenmore Square club The Rat, as well as the late, lamented Channel Club in South Boston. He lived on the streets, enjoying the hospitality of friends and fellow musicians.

His father had dubbed him Butch, and eventually around Kenmore Square he became known as Mr. Butch. A tall dude with shoulder-length dreadlocks, Mr. Butch was gregarious and friendly. I saw him many times in the '90s as I made my through Kenmore Square to eat, drink, shop for records or go to nearby Fenway Park for Red Sox games. He was instantly engaging and non-threatening, despite his leather jacket that said "Goddamn Motherfucking Mr. Butch" on the back. He loved to drink and smoke weed, by all accounts.

So Mr. Butch was a fashionable guy, as evidenced by his bespoke leather jacket. In YouTube videos from the '80s and '90s he is seen wearing natty sport jackets, stylish purple down vests and a Superman t-shirt, all while rattling off original poetry.

(Editor hands this writer an embellishment and instructs him to write down what it says.)

One day while panhandling and entertaining the crowds passing through the square, Mr. Butch bumped into Calvin Margolis, the fashion retailer and designer whose stores specialized in Levi's jeans. Margolis had seen Mr. Butch around. Margolis owned a building just steps away from the busy hub of Kenmore Square where Mr. Butch hung out.

"I like your scarf," Margolis said to the bard of Kenmore Square.

"Thanks, my good sir," Mr. Butch replied.

And so was born a friendship. The couturier and the rocker were spotted eating Lord Worsley sandwiches at Cornwalls or a slice at the Pizza Pad, and were even seen once harmonizing at The Rat while the Ramones thrashed away on stage. Nobody was more heartbroken than Mr. Butch when Margolis died. But the dreadlocked one's heart was lifted when the fashion mogul's will was read, and Mr. Butch realized that his friend had bequeathed him a brownstone in the square.

Mr. Butch didn't take up residence at 482 Commonwealth Avenue, but he opened the doors to anyone and everyone for parties and raucous sleepovers. Bands turned their amps to 11 for the blowouts, artists covered the walls -- inside and out -- with crazy murals and graffiti. And supermodels and socialites flew in from London, Ibiza and Krakow for Mr. Butch's soirees. The children of the artists and musicians and the supermodels baked cookies in Calvin Margolis's old stove and scribbled on the floors and ceilings.

Ah, but it couldn't last, this grand good time. It never does, does it? Unless you've entered into cryogenic suspension, or you're one of the Gabor sisters.

The neighbors complained, the cops showed up and the party moved on -- to the Gabors house. Mr. Butch vacated Kenmore Square and took up residence on the streets of Allston, Boston's rock and roll address. The building got tied up in legal scraps over title, ownership, probate, clean-up, squatters rights, you name it.

As for Mr. Butch, he lived happily in Allston for many years until he died in a scooter accident in 2007.

Rest in peace, Mr. Butch. Rest in peace, Calvin Margolis. Let the world figure out what to do with your crazy preschool/art gallery brownstone.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Not at the Museum

From History Isbunk

"In our next exhibit here at the Boston Society of Natural History, you see two dioramas of our fair city." Those are the words you would hear if you were actually in a museum, rather than an office building in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, while enjoying these little time capsules.

Located in the lobby of The Newbry building (formerly the New England Life Building) on Boylston Street, these dioramas "were commissioned by the Boston Society of Natural History in 1863 and created by Sarah Ann Rockwell," according to Atlas Obscura. "The backdrops were painted by Henry Brooks. The level of detail is amazing and they give an intriguing picture of everyday life at the time."

There are four scenes in this publicly accessible office building (enter from the Newbury Street side):

*The home of William Blaxton, the first European settler of modern-day Boston and Rhode Island, according to Wikipedia. In the background is a painting of Trimount, which means "three hills" and once comprised Beacon, Mt. Vernon and Pemberton hills.

*The Boylston Street fishweir, a Native American fishing structure thought to date back roughly 2,000 years and discovered in 1913 during excavation for a subway tunnel.

*The filling in of Back Bay, a process that expanded Boston's footprint from 1804 until the late 1880's.

*The Boston Society of Natural History building, with MIT's Rogers Hall under construction. Built in 1864, the BSNH building is now a Restoration Hardware. Prior to that it was home to Louis Boston, a high-end men's fashion retailer that relocated to Boston's Seaport district a few years ago. The BSNH eventually evolved into the Museum of Science.

(The BSNH and Rogers Hall diorama.)

The Atlas Obscura article doesn't make it clear how the dioramas ended up in The Newbry, or how long the exhibits have been there.