Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Not Exactly Camelot

From Dave Brigham:

I love misused quotation marks. In this case, "CHECK OUT OUR KITCHEN" on the sign above seems like a wink-wink, nudge-nudge joke playing off the fact that King Arthur's was known less for its wings and tips than for its legs and, well, you know where I was going with that.

The strip club closed in 2014 after a more than three-decade run providing wholesome, clean entertainment (cough, cough) to, among others: a) truckers going to and from the New England Produce Center next door, b) guys who showed up for the game room and were shocked -- shocked! I tell you -- to find naked ladies dancing on stage, c) high school and college dudes who may or may not have been old enough to be there, and d) off-duty cops who wanted to rumble. Let's learn more about that last bunch.

As you can see in the photo above (I hope), King Arthur's didn't just provide its customers with fine cuisine, a game room and, oh yeah, strippers, but it also operated a motel. Turndown service, mints on your pillow, a lap pool and a James Beard Award-winning restaurant - these are just some of the features that King Arthur's didn't offer. While not named after the mythical British king who defeated the Saxons, King Arthur's nonetheless reached legendary status in 1982. It was that year that a melee involving several cops, including one who was on duty, and numerous civilians at the lounge resulted in the death of one man, the conviction for second-degree murder of two cops and the subsequent conviction of other cops for falsifying reports. The incident was just the most high-profile in a long list of murders, stabbings, shootings, fights and god-knows-what-else. Read all about the case here.

In recent years an outfit called Phantom Ventures tried to reestablish a gentlemen's club on the site of the shuttered King Arthur's. Those good folks were shot down in November 2017 by the Chelsea Zoning Board of Appeals. It's unclear what may become of the site. Stay tuned....

For more about Chelsea, see my four-part series:

September 4, 2013, "Chelsea Stroll"

September 10, 2013, "Hollywood in Chelsea"

September 16, 2013, "On the (Chelsea) Waterfront"

September 24, 2013, "Urban Wild"

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mr. Gorbachev Tore Down This Wall (Not Really)

From Dave Brigham:

Yes, that's a piece of the Berlin Wall. This blew my mind when I saw it. Standing in the shadow of the Hult International Business School, located at the southeast edge of Cambridge, Mass., overlooking North Point Park, I was waiting for my son, Owen. He and I had split up on one our regular subway rides in Boston. As I waited, a Boston Duck Boat drove by, heading toward its Charles River splash-in point under a highway overpass. I heard the tour guide say something about the Berlin Wall. I walked across the quiet side street and there it was.

So what's a piece of the Berlin Wall -- which from 1961 to 1989 kept residents of Communist East Berlin from escaping to free West Berlin -- doing a nine-hour plane ride away from Germany? Well, as it turns out, pieces of the Wall have been scattered to the four winds and are placed in more than three dozen countries.

There are many chunks of the Wall in the United States, including one just a few miles away from this piece, at Boston's John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum & Library. That segment was donated by the German government. As for the piece outside the business school, I believe that Bertil Hult, the billionaire founder of the business school that bears his name, as well as the international education company Education First, whose North American headquarters is located next door to the Hult school, purchased the wall segment and had it placed outside his building. In this 2013 Boston Globe profile of the businessman, Hult, a native of Sweden, said his hero is Ronald Reagan, who beseeched former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down that wall" in Berlin. Hult said in the article that his company exists to dissolve walls. The tall, heavy concrete chunk with the odd graffiti “symbolizes what we do here,” Hult said. “Free trade and education, you have to have that for a prosperous society.”

Jawohl, Mr. Holt!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Power Move In South Boston

From Dave Brigham:

When I heard that this sexy beast was going to be redeveloped, I was dubious. This is the former South Boston Edison Power Station. It's massive and surely contaminated. Built more than a century ago, it was powered down in 2016 after decades of serving as the largest such station in New England. Now known as L Street Power Station, the complex covers 15 acres. The development team plans to "create activity and engagement with housing, retail, a 344-key hotel, two commercial buildings and space for the arts; all of which will be anchored by the preservation of the former power station’s century-old turbine halls, which are rich with cultural history," per the project's official web site.

The project will take many years and millions upon millions of dollars to accomplish. For a look at what the developers hope to accomplish, check out this filing. I fully support this project despite the fact that many cool architectural features -- the smokestack and some of the buildings -- will be lost. I'm always happy when new developments include historic structures. Still, a project of this size and scope can easily run into problems and cost overruns. I'm cautiously optimistic about the opening up of another new neighborhood in Boston.

Let's take a look at a little of what's in the neighborhood currently.

On the opposite corner from the power station sits 840 Summer Street, home to Shag, the salon run by the sorta famous Sandy Poirer. He cuts hair and was on TV. The ghost sign is for Condit Electrical. Here's the front of the Shag building, which is officially known as the the Cahill Building.

A few blocks away sits this beauty of a bar. You know you're in Southie with that bold color.

Just up the street from the old-school Shannon Tavern sits the defunct Thirst.

With the black awnings, fancy lights and beer tap in the logo, Thirst almost surely catered to hipsters. Well, those bearded, skinny-jeans wearing fools didn't show up, apparently, because it closed almost a year ago. I'm not sure how long it was in business. With the coming of L Street Station, there are sure to be more high-end bars offering fruit-infused beers and fancy, overpriced small plates before long.

A few more steps up K Street and you've got this view.

Here, the newer part of the old power plant is framed by, on the left, King Terminal, a former warehouse complex now home to artist studios and a movie casting company, and Ethel & Andy's Sandwich Shop, which looks like something out of the 1940's, and may well be.

Last, and certainly not least, is this old smoke stack.

Took me a while, but I found out that Linde Air Products once sat on this site, where now Accurate Fastners, Inc., operates. In 1918, Linde was granted the permission by the City of Boston to lay down railroad tracks at the intersection of 1st and K streets to transport freight. From a 1918 official document I found via Google Books, some cool details of the agreement: "Also upon condition that a flagman shall display a flag by day and a lantern by night whenever an engine, car or train is approaching and while it is passing over said tracks...."

Stay tuned....

Finding the St. Anthony Shrine

From Dave Brigham:

I used to walk by the St. Anthony Shrine in Boston's Downtown Crossing area regularly, but I never paid it much mind. Billing itself as a "prophetic Franciscan Catholic community welcoming all people through prayer and outreach," the shrine is beautiful on the inside, judging from the web site. The Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province hold dozens of masses each week. The chapel was dedicated in 1955.

On a recent jaunt into the city with my son, Owen, we turned the corner on to Arch Street and there was Jesus.

The fog in the background enveloped the taller buildings, but set the lower ones off nicely. I love the stark contrast of the yellow flags, red flowers and green statue of Jesus on the cross against the gray buildings and low clouds.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Going Afield in Dorchester

From Dave Brigham:

For a long time I focused on suburban and rural adventures for this blog, along with explorations of small old mill towns in Boston's suburbs. In recent months, however, I've gotten into wandering around Boston with my son when we go out on our regular subway rides. As with any other Backside of America mission, for these treks into the Big City I check out Google Maps and see what looks interesting that's within walking distance of a subway station. Recently we ventured to Fields Corner, the area in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood named after Isaac and Enos Field, who operated a general store in the area, according to the Dorchester Atheneum web site.

(Former O'Hearn Storage warehouse, now a post office. This building is actually made up of three buildings: a Federalist-style house built for Isaac Field, and two commercial buildings, including one that once housed the Dorchester Music Hall on the second floor, per a Dorchester Reporter article.)

(Just up the street from the storage warehouse is this ghost sign for a grocery and liquor store. I've looked online but have been unable to find out what the name of the company was.)

(The Luc Hoa Buddhist Center features a main temple/meditation hall, a kitchen, bedrooms, dining and office space and more. Places like this -- filled with hard-working immigrants and dedicated to the culture and religion of their country of origin, but woven into the local fabric -- are what make America great.)

(Wow. Just wow. An early '70s Buick Riviera.)

(Mary on the Half Shell. Variation of the Bathtub Mary; both are prevalent in Greater Boston.)

(I love the name and the sign. Didn't try the food, though.)

(I wish this sign were telling the truth, but I fear that it's not.)

(I've seen a handful of these benches-as-artwork around the MBTA. This is one is outside Fields Corner T station. Below are a few others.)

(Outside Lechmere T station.)

(Also outside Lechmere station. Plaque says: “Created for the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists by high school students." I'm guessing that's what all of these are for.)

(Inside the Malden Center T station.)

Aaaaaand....back to Fields Corner for one last shot.

(Prince's place in Boston.)

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Fire, Two Times, in South Boston

From Dave Brigham:

Really, all I have to do is keep my eyes up when I walk around Boston and I find things to shoot and research.

"During the siege of Boston by the American forces under General George Washington, an attempt was made on the evening of March 9 to plant a battery near this spot. The Americans were driven away by the fire from the British guns and five were killed."

There are plaques and memorials like this one all over this city, and surrounding towns. Wikipedia's account of this American Revolution battle differs a bit, calling it "Nook's Hill" instead of "Nook Hill" and indicating that four men were killed (scroll down to "Fortification of Dorchester Heights"). I shot this place on a recent jaunt through South Boston with my son (see November 17, 2018 "Southie to Lose an Institution").

Right across the street from the Nook Hill memorial is this building.

I bet you can tell what this used to be. I had my guess right away, and it was confirmed by a Google search: a firehouse. According to the web site for the Boston Fire Historical Society, the building "was first occupied as a firehouse on July 1, 1860 by Hose Company 9, which remained in service here until October 27, 1887. Hose 9 was disbanded and Chemical Engine Company 8 was organized on that date. Chemical 8 was in service here until the company was disbanded on July 2, 1917."

The City of Boston eventually sold the building, which is now occupied by Altec Plastics.

There Was No Way-fer Necco to Carry On

From Dave Brigham:

If you've ever eaten Sky Bars, Clark Bars, Mary Janes, Squirrel Nut Zippers or Sweethearts, then you may be mourning the loss of the New England Confectionery Company, or Necco. OK, Mary Janes aren't worth crying over. But the rest of them are. I think.

Oh yeah, and NECCO Wafers. Those are good.

Necco melted down this past July after a 117-year ride on the conveyor belt of American candy-making, the last several undertaken amid dwindling revenues and market share. In 1901, the company was formed "through the merger of several small confectionery companies located in the Greater Boston area, with ancestral companies dating back to the 1840s," according to Wikipedia. Round Hill Investments, which specializes in apartment buildings, student housing and light industrial assets, and whose principals likely travel the world in hermetically sealed hyper-drive tubes, bought NECCO for $17.3 million this summer, then promptly turned around and dumped the whole box of sweets on Spangler Candy Company for an undisclosed sum.

Spangler, which makes Dum Dums, Circus Peanuts, Candy Canes and other products, will continue to make Necco Wafers and Sweethearts, those chalky, multi-colored candies that my college girlfriend, upon receiving some from me for Valentine's Day, called "piss hearts." Sweet.

I recently visited the Revere, Mass., Necco plant, which closed with little warning this past July, in hopes of getting some great shots of what I hoped would be an old-school, Wonka-esque facility of sugar-coated wonder. Instead, I found this.

Originally located in South Boston, Necco eventually moved to a location along Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, as seen below.

The Necco factory, close by the M.I.T. campus, was converted to a Novartis pharmaceutical facility in the 1990's. See this link for a photo of the property's water tower when it was painted like a package of Necco Wafers, which I recall seeing when I first moved to the Boston area, and for several years after.

To see some shots of Necco's old haunt in South Boston's Fort Point neighborhood, see April 22, 2018, "Fort Point Channel -- It's Electric!"