Thursday, March 29, 2018

Udderly Monstrous

From Dave Brigham:

The wind was cold one recent day when I walked my son down a desolate strip of roadway toward this bleak mastodon of a building. He didn't want to go, which I understood. "They're locking you up for your own good," I told him, tears rolling down my cheeks. "You're too good. They want to toughen you up and get you ready for the Trumpocalypse."

OK, this is too morbid. This isn't a prison, and I wasn't turning my son over to The State in advance of a nuclear war.

But holy cow! Doesn't this place absolutely scream Victorian penal institution? Straight out of a Charles Dickens fever dream, or perhaps a late '70s Pink Floyd video?

The Calf Pasture Pumping Station -- the name tells you everything you need to know. But let's talk some more about it anyway. Located in Boston's windblown and perhaps-on-the-rise Columbia Point neighborhood, this incredible hulk was built in 1883 to help expel the city's waste out to Moon Island. The city closed the station in 1968 when the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority completed the Deer Island waste treatment facility (see February 27, 2015, "Digesting Deer Island," for a bit of history and some of my photos of the non-island.)

The Calf Pasture Pumping Station is so named because, well you know why, but let me tell you anyway: it was a calf grazing area for the residents of Dorchester for a few centuries. For decades after Boston built the pumping station, the city added fill to the original 14-acre peninsula, until the land mass was more than 350 acres, and featured Day Boulevard, Morrissey Boulevard and Columbus Park, according to this UMass Boston timeline of the facility, which now sits on the college's campus. For more information about the pumping station, read this and/or this. To learn more about Columbia Point and how the campus of UMass Boston was sited on a former dump, read this Boston Globe article.

For the past 50 years the granite complex -- which once included more buildings than the three currently standing -- has sat empty, haunted by the ghosts of so many lowing cows. For much of that time, I'm led to understand, there has been talk among city officials, college muckety-mucks and developers with slot-machine jackpots for eyes about what to do with this behemoth.

(One of the pumping station's satellite buildings. You can see a residence hall under construction in the background.)

So what's going to happen to this -- I hate to use the word -- eyesore?

UMass Boston acquired the pumping station from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission in 2012, after a dozen years of discussions and negotiations with the city, which didn't want to give up Calf Pasture because that would mean building a station elsewhere (the site was still used as occasional back-up. I'm unsure whether a new pumping station was built somewhere). Five years ago, the college posted an article, "Deciding the Future of the Calf Pasture Pumping Station," on its blog. Among the issues raised about the difficulty of renovating and repurposing the colossus: environmental remediation is required; a structural assessment needs to be done (and perhaps was); great financial resources are required to rehab the building, which has been nominated for the National Historic Register; and just what the hell do you do with a building that looks out of place amid the modern campus buildings, and brings to mind visions of sewage and rot and looks like a mental hospital or a prison for the mentally deranged?

Nobody seems to have any answers, at least none that are available online. After lying delinquent for so many years, the pumping station continues to deteriorate. My guess is that it will eventually be torn down, but since UMass Boston is a bit strapped for cash these days (look it up online), I imagine even that fate is several years off. As for the Columbia Point neighborhood, things are looking up. Sort of. UMass Boston is selling the land where the former Bayside Expo Center once stood (look for a future post about this), and I have to imagine that many of the parking lots in the area will get developed before too long. A Red Line subway stop is close by, as is the John F.Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Also, there is a plan afoot to turn the former Boston Globe HQ on nearby Morrissey Boulevard into a "tech-centric office space," according to this article.

(The backside of the backside.)

Stay tuned....

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