Friday, October 12, 2018

Do Tell -- Motel?

From Dave Brigham:

I really, really want this to be an old motel. Over the years of riding the train, walking and driving by Whittier Place Boston, I imagined that this building -- a fitness center at the condo development that is actually owned by nearby Massachusetts General Hospital -- once hosted secret trysts, hard-drinking door-to-door salesmen, con men on the lam and just regular old people visiting Boston. But this doesn't seem to be true.

I did all sorts of Google searches and reviewed old photos online of this area, which was Boston's West End until the late 1950s, when urban renewal wiped this old-school neighborhood (it once looked like the nearby North End) off the map. Nothing in that research told me that there was ever a motel here. I guess that when Whittier Place was constructed, the developers put up a pool and accompanying building with dozens of cabanas specifically designed to fool little old me.

Perhaps the architect designed it to look like a motel because in 1970, when the complex was erected, motels were still at least somewhat in vogue, and perhaps he or she thought this design would offer low-to-the-ground familiarity to offset the tall residential buildings going up all around it. I'm just grasping at straws. Straws that rich people use to stir their fancy smoothies from Jugos that are offered at the club.

To read more about actual motels, see:

July 26, 2015, "Cavalier Attitude About Motels"

April 25, 2015, "From Motel to Mall"

August 5, 2010, "Dark Side of the Motel"

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Scratching Around the Flea Market

From Dave Brigham:

Venturing out to do something different during my annual vacation to Pocasset on Cape Cod this past summer, I checked out the Sandwich Flea Market (aka the Sandwich Bazaar). I may just have stumbled on a new favorite type of place to shoot photos. And while I didn't buy anything, I can see myself hanging out more at these types of events.

I loved the incredibly wide variety of stuff people had laid out on tables and blankets, from old baseballs to military knives, beer steins to LPs, books about Hitler to costume jewelry. And I loved the community, as many of those selling their wares obviously know each other well, in addition to many of the folks perusing the offerings. I felt the need to buy something, but I didn't. I spent so much time last year getting rid of junk in my basement in advance of a home renovation project, I just couldn't see adding more stuff to that space. In fact, I'm still culling through old toys, books, games and other household clutter. Maybe next year when I'm back on the Cape I'll actually buy some stuff at the flea market, most likely albums, coins or a guitar.

OK, let's get to what I found interesting.

My father had a shoe shine kit like this. I always found it quite exotic, for some reason, with its mix of brown and black polishes, buffing cloths and brushes. On the rare occasion when I had to wear shoes, I felt privileged to be able to open up the case and take care of my shoes, just like my father did. You can pick one up like this online for $25-30.

Man, this one brings me back to my childhood, too. There was a time in the mid-'70s that my dad played tennis just about every Saturday with my Uncle George. So we had rackets in our basement, and they looked like this, with covers that you secured with wing nuts. My buddy Andy and I tried to play tennis with old rackets in high school, but we found it too hard. Instead, we invented the game of tennis jai-alai with a few other buddies. We were the best in the world! You can pick up a racket like this for $20 or so online.

I'm a numismatist, although I don't honestly know the correct way to pronounce that word. I collect coins and, to a lesser extent, paper money. Well, collect is a bit strong. I collected when I was a kid, gaining most of my loot from my dad's store of European coins he gathered when he was in the service, and from my grandmother, who used to send me old pennies. Still, once a coin dork, always a coin dork. When my father passed away in 2014, one of the things I asked my mother about keeping was something I'd never seen before: his official, uncirculated $2 bill issued on the first day of availability, April 13, 1976.

Oh boy, this is a sweet spot. I love music and these vintage record players melt my heart and bring back fond memories. My brother, sister and I listened to a LOT of 45's and albums on a pop-up record player like these when we were young. I seriously thought about buying one of these, but I already have a more modern turntable. These are candy, art, music and nostalgia all mixed together.

Not only was I a coin dork as a kid, but I was also a clarinet dork. At Henry James Junior High School I was in both the coin club and the band/orchestra. It will not surprise you that girls did not flock to a clarinet-playing numismatist who wore braces and glasses. Anyway....I played clarinet from 5th through 8th grades, but had no desire to be in my high school marching band, so I quit after junior high. I took up guitar, which I've stuck with to this day. When my daughter announced in 4th grade that she wanted to play clarinet in school, I was thrilled. I still had the one I used as a kid, so I thought it would be really cool if she used it. Turns out that after decades of sitting in its original case in my basement, my clarinet had "pad bugs," which you can look up on Google if you want. Would've cost waaaaay too much money to have the old instrument cleaned, so I tossed it out and we rented her a clarinet. She didn't particularly enjoy playing, and gave up after one year.

I'm not sure if this container was for water, coffee or something else. I just like the look of it, and the fact that it's from "DOTTY'S CATERERS" in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Another flashback to childhood. I didn't collect beer cans, although I had friends who did. No, I was into beer bottle caps. I still have a handful. The cans in this box all appear to be in pretty good shape. One of my favorite local restaurants, Brewers Coalition, has a pretty great can collection.

I'm a big fan of the Man in Black. But I didn't buy this album.

A box of nice antique glass insulators.

Ceremonial sword and belt from the Masons or a similar group. And a beer stein that reminds me a little of one that my parents used to have, which I think my father brought back from Europe in the 1950's. I've looked high and low for their stein in recent years, but I fear it was sold or given away more than a decade ago, before they moved from the house where I group up.

While I think flea markets are cool places to find some rare items, I wonder who would want any of the stuff in this photo.

Dave Maynard was a beloved radio and TV personality in Boston for nearly five decades, beginning in 1952. He started as a rock 'n' roll DJ and during his career worked as a talk radio host and a newsman. He was also the host of "Community Auditions," a talent showcase on WBZ-TV for two decades. Evidently he had a statue of a giant rabbit in his front yard, hence this sign.

Perhaps the rabbit was an homage to Harvey:

Aren't those Gaiety Theatre playbills awesome? The Broadway playhouse opened in 1909 and was torn down in 1982, per Wikipedia. "The office building that housed the theatre, the Gaiety Building, has been called the Black Tin Pan Alley for the number of African-American songwriters, who rented office space there," according to Wikipedia.

I took a lot of pictures at the flea market, but didn't buy anything. The only seller who asked what I was taking pictures of, was probably the youngest vendor. He actually wanted to find something cool for me to shoot. I wasn't interested in the commemorative spoons and costume jewelry, but when he opened the 1926 N.Y. Whist Club Scoring Rules book, I got excited. "Not sure what it is - alligator, maybe?" he said.

Nerds beware!

At first I thought this was a chastity belt. Well, not really, but I couldn't imagine what the heck else it could be. One of my Instagram followers made an educated guess that this is a ceremonial belt from the Masons or a similar group.

I took this photo because of the wooden metronome in the rear middle of the table. This is very similar to one my mother has on her piano. I believe it was her father's and he passed it along to her. My grandfather taught my mother well, and he was no slouch himself. He played in a group with Henny Youngman in Brooklyn back in the 1920's, according to family lore.

Here's how the metronome works:

I was very tempted. Very.

A physician's ledger and some U.S. military pins.

Well, that's it. I hope to visit other flea markets in the near future and shoot more photos. And perhaps actually buy something.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

"Can You Get Me Some Cling Peaches?"

From Dave Brigham:

Nestled in snug next to its neighbor like a little brother looking for love, 37 Queensberry Street in Boston's Fenway neighborhood is about as odd a work of architecture as you'll see in the city. Like two tiny houses stacked on top of each other, this four-bedroom, single-family home is known as The Pantry. Constructed in 1920, according to a listing on Redfin, the building was renovated in 2005. The house sold for $835,000 in 2009; Redfin estimates a selling price today of just under $1.5 million, were it to hit the market.

I think it's obvious that during the renovation the top two floors were added and the ground floor was changed significantly. The second story, I imagine, is largely unchanged on the outside. But what is this place? The building next door, 35 Queensberry, rose in 1899, according to Redfin. So 21 years later somebody tacked this skinny building onto the side, like a pantry off the kitchen. Was this place a storage facility of some sort for the main building? A garage? An actual pantry for one of the apartments? The two works of architecture are so different and don't match at all: different color bricks, different roof details, different (original) height.

I haven't been able to find anything out about this place, but next time I'm in the neighborhood I'll be tempted to ask for a can of cling peaches out of The Pantry.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Rhymes With Radio Snack*

From Dave Brigham:

This is the back of a rather nondescript building on the campus of Boston University. In the foreground is the Massachusetts Turnpike. The building, located at 730 Commonwealth Avenue, is often referred to as the Radio Shack building, as it was, until last year, the location of a store in that storied electronics chain that held special significance. The company opened its first store in 1921 on Brattle Street in Boston, according to this article. As the company grew, it opened its first headquarters in this location. Now, all that is left of that legacy is the very faint ghost sign you can see here.

*The headline for this post references a joke I heard many years ago. I don't recall who gets the credit, but the set-up was something along the lines of, I can't say the name of the store, and the punch line was, "But it rhymes with Radio Snack."

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Modern-Day Monastery, No Celibacy Required

From Dave Brigham:

Sometimes I think I should subtitle this blog "Serendipitous Travels Through History." I keep two running lists of places to explore, one each on my phone and laptop. I may never get to everything on those lists, but that's OK. Often when I check out one place on a list, I find at least one additional site to dig around in. That's what happened on a recent visit to Boston's Brighton neighborhood.

I put the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine on my list a while back because a) I have an atheist's curiosity about religious icons and b) I'd read that there was development planned in the area and I wanted to take some pictures before that happened. I will write about the shrine in a future post. On that excursion, I also knocked off a few other places I'd put on my list: the apartment on Commonwealth Avenue where the members of Aerosmith once lived (see July 17, 2018, "Livin' On the Edge"); a former military post being converted to veteran housing (see August 3, 2018, "Marine Barracks to Be Saved"); and Brighton Center (see July 23, 2018, "Shining a Light On Brighton Center"). After snapping pictures of the first two spots, I took an unplanned detour on Warren Street, which is around the corner from the military site.

I didn't see anything I wanted to shoot as I approached Brighton High School. That's when I noticed a sign for Monastery Path. I knew this would lead me to the shrine site, and decided "What the heck?" and up I climbed the gently rising sidewalk.

Here's what awaited me at the top of the hill:

This is the former St. Gabriel's Monastery. Opened in 1911, this Mission Revival complex is impressive.

I had no idea this old monk residence, with its cemetery for residents and massive church, was here. I also had no idea it has been abandoned for quite some time (since 2006). What I figured out quickly enough was that the redevelopment I'd read about that I thought related to the shrine, was actually about the old monastery, which was designated a Boston landmark nearly 30 years ago. The shrine, as you'll see in a future post, is on the grounds. According to a Boston Herald article, the shrine would be moved to a new building when the monastery project commences.

Now, about that construction. The Boston Planning & Development Agency last November approved plans from developer Cabot Cabot & Forbes to redevelop this almost 12-acre site. CC&F will build four new buildings with 660 apartments and condos on the site. The developer will also restore the monastery for housing, and the church for a community center, according to this article, which includes artist renderings of the future development. Many of the stained glass windows will be kept.

Here's a video showing the current state of the property, as well as the planned development:

On the hill sloping south of the monastery, near the shrine, sits a small cemetery, which holds the remains of the priests who lived there over the course of decades.

While CC&F mentions in the above video that it plans to "spruce up" the park in front of the monastery. I can't imagine that would entail moving the gravestones. The cross? Maybe.

I will return here at some point to document the new neighborhood that will spring up in the coming months and years.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Living Behind a Ghost Sign

From Dave Brigham:

I see you, ghost sign!

On a recent walkabout in Porter Square in Cambridge, Mass., I spotted this old painted advertisement. As you know, this kind of thing makes me happy. I continued along Upland Road, hung a right on Richdale Avenue, and saw even more.

Built in the 1890's, the former University Storage building is part of a condo complex that was developed in the 1980's. That is all.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Boneyard Within a Cemetery

From the Crypt Keeper:

I should set up a tip line for the blog. And build an army of drones and cyborgs to venture into the field to take pictures and go online to do research. And hire a team of monkeys to write it all up. This is brilliant.

Until I do that, however, I will rely on my own digging and snooping and the occasional suggestion from friends and family. Such as my buddy Jeff, who mentioned to me quite some time ago that I should check out a "cemetery within a cemetery" in Medford, Mass. I finally did, along with my son, Owen, and we found a pretty cool place.

The Cross Street Cemetery was established in 1816 and all was going well, or as well as things go in a large plot of land filled with the dead, until the 1950's. That's when the State of Massachusetts, or perhaps it was the federal government, began ripping the area apart in order to build Interstate 93. Fortunately, according to this article, space was found in the nearby Oak Grove Cemetery, and the gravestones (not sure whether it was all of them) were moved behind their own stone walls within the larger graveyard.

Pretty cool, eh? If you've got a lead on an interesting site on the backside of America, let us know. Send an email to this here address.