The Boston Custom House was the only “sky scraper” in Boston in 194o. The tower had been added in 1910 and stands just under 500′ tall. However, you can barely find the Boston Custom House from my photograph taken in the summer of 2012, but you’ll see it off to the right if you look carefully.
In 2009 I had a regular post called “Flashback Friday”, which I would share past images and memories of life in and around Boston. After perusing Dirty Old Boston on Facebook I was inspired to revive this regular post. For those not familiar with Boston, thank you for the indulgence. For those who may have grown up in and around Boston, I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I like putting them together. Apologies for the older posts which were done in 2009. When I moved my blog to WordPress the formatting from my Blogspot address left a lot to be desired.
Past Flashback Friday Posts
Not all flashbacks are pleasant, but I would be remiss not to mention how September 11, 2001 impacted the more than 170 families in Massachusetts who lost loved ones. I recall that back on September 9, 2001 I had said good night to my good friend Graham (pictured above) who was leaving for L.A. in two days. We were to connect the following weekend.
Realizing the personal nature of the tragedy on the afternoon of September 11th as friends called me to find out if Graham had made his flight is etched in my memory, and I imagine will stay with me for the rest of my life. Taken too soon and still missed today, my flashback is in memory of all those people who lost someone they loved on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 but for me mostly about my friend Graham Berkeley. Listed below is a quick video of Boston’s humble but very serene memorial to that tragedy.
Boston’s South Station is located at the edge of the financial district (also straddling the leather district, chinatown and fort point channel) on Atlantic Avenue and Summer Street in Dewey Square. In addition to servicing buses and the local subway (MBTA system), regional bus and train service leaves from this busy station 24/7. I regularly hop on the Acela for business trips to NYC and always enjoy walking through this beautiful building which has been renovated many, many times (most recently in 2001 and 2005) without compromising its architectural charm.
The train station first opened at the start of 1899 and the exterior still looks much as it did back at the end of the 19th century.
Boston South Station through the years:
Looking back at my past few posts the balance that I usually try to maintain with regards to subject matter and interests seems to be quite lopsided. The debate about healthcare and politics in general account for several of my most recent entries. This week’s flashback is no exception. In light of the recent death of Ted Kennedy, I wanted to post this photograph of Ted, Jack and Robert.
I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to shake Senator Kennedy’s hand and thank him for his work in the U.S. Senate. In 2008 I was also able to hear him speak when I attended the Fenway Health Community “Men’s Event” and Senator Kennedy accepted the Gerry Studds Award. His speech that night to the sold-out crowd of 1,300 (mostly gay men) was inspiring because of the passion he showed for a cause which he did not need to champion but did so with gusto because of his conviction that GLBT rights were worth fighting for.
Sen. Kennedy was a political giant, but he was also part of the political landscape here in New England and in particular in Massachusetts. For as long as I’ve been alive (longer actually) he has been the state’s senator. It is strange to miss someone whom I did not know and who has such an incredible legacy. Unlike his three older brothers, his life saw tragedy but was not tragic – anything but actually.
Sorry for all the recent melancholy. I do promise to inject more humor and diversity into my future posts.
For 10 years starting in the late 70s and running through the late 80s Speaker Tip O’Neill an Irish-Catholic from the streets of Cambridge, MA dominated the U.S. House of Representatives. He became extremely powerful because he was able to break (or cause gridlock) in the House. However, his ability to work with anyone and get legislation passed was what helped build his legacy.
Nancy Pelosi has earned her place as Speaker and she certainly is fluent in partisan-speak (as was Tip). However, she has yet to learn the nuanced voice of restraint and bi-partisan dialog, that made men like the former Speaker O’Neill giants in Washington, D.C.
With healthcare reform and the President seemingly under seige, it makes me yearn for the deft political ear and approach this political giant brought to bear while working with three Presidents (two of them Republicans).
Tip O’Neill happened to live and serve in a state transfixed by the Kennedy aura (I am one of them), but he deserves his own place in history as one of the longest serving Speakers (1977-1987), an effective legislator and a champion of social causes and justice.
Do you recall the summer concert series that use to take place on the Boston Commons?
My very first concert was at the Concert on the Commons. It was Friday, June 29, 1984 and the headliner that night was the Go Go’s with a relatively new band from Australia named, INXS, as the opening act. The Go Go’s were promoting their new album, Talk Show, and INXS was promoting their album, “The Swing”. I was in 8th grade at the time and was accompanied by two of my closest friends, Brian Northridge and Tom Kane. We were driven into the city by Tom’s super cool aunt and her boyfriend at the time who were in college.
The concert would be the first of many live shows I would go see and indicative of the ‘new wave’ movement which I would be swept up in through the remainder of the 80s.
I’ve looked all over for images of and references to the Concerts on the Commons, and I wish I could find archived photographs that I could share but sadly I’ve not. Do you recall this summer concert series in the heart of the city? Did you go and see any shows on the Commons?
According to an article in The Boston Globe, Jimmy’s Harborside, one of Boston’s most endurng restaurants, will not be rebuilt and will be replaced by a 3-story, 20,000 square foot Legal Sea Foods restaurant. You can read the Globe’s article here.
The Boston Globe has a cool pictoral history of the restaurant which concludes with an artist rendering of the new building – see photo below (courtesy of The Boston Globe). The dramatic change and investment made by the city and private developers over the past 10 years has turned this desolate parcel of land into a significant opportunity for the city to reclaim and rebuild.
For the past few months I have been writing an entry each Friday called, “Flashback Friday”. You can see / read past entries by linking here. Just to mix things up a bit, I thought I would showcase what the future of Boston might look like by sharing a proposal that has been put forth from the prominent Boston developer Don Chiofaro. His firm has purchased the Harbor Garage on Atlantic Avenue (next to the New England Aquarium) and is proposing a bold mixed-use development that will include parking, office space, residences, hotel and commercial space.
In Don’s own words, this would provide an archway from the harbor to downtown. The buildings are quite beautiful and looks as if it would significantly change the Boston skyline. The Boston Globe says, “The 40-story office building and a 59-story hotel and condominium tower would be built on land between the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and the New England Aquarium, and also feature a glass corridor at the bottom.”
Of course this would not be Boston if there was not some community activism deploring such a bold initiative and there have been cries from some who have said the project is too large, but given the alternative of two beautiful new buildings or keeping a decrepit concrete parking garage, I’ll vote for Mr. Chiofaro. Hopefully, Mayor Menino will appreciate both the legacy this development could create as well as the tax revenues it will bring to the city.
If you would like to read more about this project you can link to the article in The Boston Globe.
Pictures courtesy of The Boston Globe.
This was the first gay-themed movie that I ever saw which was filmed in and written about gay life in Boston. All the Rage is about a pretentious South End gay man obsessed with the pursuit of physical, sexual, and romantic perfection. Sound like someone you might know? The stereotype works even if the movie sometimes let you down.
As is the case with many gay-themed films, the movie is a bit cliché and the writing and acting at times made me wince, but it was an entertaining enough and worth the rental. The entire movie was filmed in Boston during the mid- to late-90s.
Official movie trailer
The South End is currently serviced by the Silver Line but for long-time residents and those who called the South End there home up through the 1980s they will recall this line which stopped running in 1987. The image above is courtesy of the blog, AloneOne. In the image above you can see the cathedral on Washington Street in the background. Much has changed in the nearly 20 years since the elevated Orange Line stopped running and the Silver Line was created to serve this neighborhood. The image to the left (click it to enlarge)offers a glimpse of what Washington Street in the South End looks like now and includes a picture of the Silver Line bus service which residents now rely on to get to and from downtown.
However, if you are nostalgic about the old Orange Line check out Alone One’s tribute on his blog by linking here. He even has a five or six minute video you can watch and listen to.
The following clip dates back to 1993 just prior to the band’s successful debut album, Aurora Gory Alice, was released. Letters to Cleo was a local Boston band that I first got turned on to by my close friend, Tom. Most people remember their smash hit “Here and Now”, which was featured as the theme song for Melrose Place.
Kay and her husband lived in the Fenway and I often saw her working out at the Gold’s Gym on Lansdowne Street. I was so bummed when I heard they broke up. Listen to this acoustic version of their song, Wasted. Kay has a beautiful voice.
If you would like to know what Kay is up to these days, she maintains a blog which you can read here.
Before the Ted Williams and Tip O’Neill Tunnels and before the beautiful Zakim bridge there was a green monster more commonly referred to as Boston’s Central Artery or elevated expressway that sprawled 1.5 miles and dissected the city cutting off entire neighborhoods from each other.
The pictures above are courtesy of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority website. They show the central artery when it first opened in the mid 1950s and handled 75,000 vehicles per day and then again what the overly congested expresssway looked like 30 years later in the mid-1980s when more than 190,000 cars travelled this stretch every day.
I’ve included a second set of photographs (courtesy of Tufts University’s Urban and Environmental Planning Policy website) that show how the city made a strategic (and I think excellent) decision to replace the elevated expressway with a beautiful garden now known as the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The park is still coming into its own but is a huge improvement and a welcome addition.
Considering all the news about firms entering bankruptcy, has given me pause to think of Boston based employers that once upon a time dominated this area, much the way firms like Fidelity Investments, Raytheon, Staples, and EMC do today. Growing up in the Boston area in the 1980s, everyone knew someone who worked at Polaroid, Digital or Wang.
Polaroid, although still technically around, is merely a shadow of itself and no longer associated with Boston the way it once was. Both Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and Wang Laboratories have been gone for decades – and the collapses of both these giants was traumatic, leaving tens of thousands of people in the area unemployed.
The graveyard of Boston businesses of past is both long and filled with recognizable names. Bank of Boston and BayBank as well as Lotus all come to mind for me. Which firms that once were considered the darlings of Wall Street, employed tens of thousands and called Boston home do you recall?
Boston’s gay nightlife has certainly had its share of changes and with the advent of sites like Manhunt you will often hear older gay men bemoan the loss of many gay bars in the city. I concur that Boston’s nightlife can often leave a lot to be desired, but a new chapter is being written here in Boston and most likely in other cities around the country as being gay becomes less a stigma and accepted by the mainstream.
Every other Friday night, ROCCA (a popular South End restaurant with one of the nicest patios in the neighborhood) hosts gay parties. For those who like to get their dance on – the bar Roxy goes gay every Saturday. Additionally, it is hard to step into most bars in the South End and BackBay without seeing several other gay and lesbian groups enjoying cocktails. It is true that the subterfuge is gone and certainly many bars have closed their doors, but the GLBT nightlife in Boston is not dead – far from it. It has just changed to keep up with the times.
The photograph to the left is an old adverstisement that I believe dates back to the
1950s or 1960s 1980s. I’m not sure if Herbie’s Ramrod is somehow related to the present day, Ramrod (in the photo on the right). However, the Tom of Finland-like images seem eerily familiar to Boston’s current bar’s image.
In the mid 1950s an unsightly four-story parking garage dominated Post Office Square, and the area was completely devoid of both open and green space.
Some 30 years later, the parking garage was demolished and replaced with a beautiful park (officially named the Norman B Levanthal Park) that is enjoyed by thousands of people (including yours truly) on warm and sunny days. During the week a cafe is open that serves coffee, snacks and lunch. If you would like to learn more about the history of Post Office Square, link here.
Top photo courtesy of Bill Horsman.