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Boston's Bay Village [Broadband Recommended - Lots of Images]


Cyburbian Emeritus

Bay Village is almost not there.

Tucked away behind an ugly hotel, it is off the radar, even for most Bostonians:


Its footprint is smaller than City Hall Plaza, shown here at the same scale…


…and about the size of the dismal Castle Square development, just across the Turnpike’s sulfurous divide.

Despite its smallness, Bay Village conveys the city’s promise of infinity: you can never get to the end of it, there is always more to discover. Contrast this with Castle Square’s finite banality, also appearing at the same scale on your screen:


Once you find Bay Village, you discover there’s plenty of there there…


…though maybe a bit less than there used to be. One of the nice things about this area is that (like Beacon Hill) it acquired its use pattern before the dead hand of modern, suburban-influenced zoning herded functions into geographically discrete locales. In the late fifties and early sixties, after the beatniks had discovered it, Bay Village sheltered in a row house near its heart the Kahlil Gibran Bookshop—Boston’s equivalent of San Francisco’s City Lights. I believe The Prophet himself lived upstairs.

The bookstore is long gone, but a few ground floor businesses survive, like Krystal’s Café…


but others have been closed by the NIMBYs, zoning, or by market forces:


Portions were rebuilt as tepid deco in the thirties, forties and fifties, when some parts became a somnolent outpost of sound studios and movie distributors. The entertainment industry is long gone, and their premises frequently converted to residential or quiet office use:



One such establishment has been converted to a commercial use of a different cast, and is a sign of Chinatown’s immediate proximity:


Today Bay Village has a fairly high gay population.

The houses used to look taller, but street levels were raised about a story to prevent flooding. Thus ground floors became de facto basements, and arched openings at the present sidewalk seem sized for midgets. Those archways were used originally to walk horses to the rear yards.

A semi-detached (half)house with siding is entered from a narrow gap:


An alley penetrates to mid-block where a handful of houses are entered. One even has a garage:


Accidental townscape. Grim precast housing from the early Seventies looms picturesquely in the no-man’s-land across former Tremont Street. The little post-Modern doo-dad at the top is not original.

Btw, that building is built exactly like a house of cards:


Here is a link to the local NIMBYs: [link=http://www.bayvillage.net/ newwindow]http://www.bayvillage.net/[/link]

They are currently bent out of shape about Eliot Norton Park, the ill-conceived traffic peninsula that abuts that peculiar, threatening and out-of-scale brick cylinder, like Boullee on a bad day.

This park is good to take your dog to, but not much good for anything else. Nevertheless, a NIMBY rule is that green space is always better than a building. This park is threatened not by a building, but a transit tunnel. The Tremont streetcar line used to emerge here from the subway until about 1961, and the tunnel is still there, waiting for the Silver Line.

The MBTA’s version of this issue: [link=http://www.allaboutsilverline.com/ newwindow]http://www.allaboutsilverline.com/[/link]

I don’t know what the fuss is about; the local professional dog walker already takes his charges elsewhere:



And the dog owners themselves are often content with more immediate locales:


Urban London:


Is this Philadelphia’s Society Hill?


Some pocket of East Midtown towards the U.N.?


If this ain’t Greenwich Village I’ll eat my hat:





If you want, you can say Bay Village extends across Charles Street to scruffy Warrenton Street. In that case you can say that like Greenwich Village, it has Off-Broadway theatre:


Across Stuart Street is the fabulous Motor Mart Garage, where I assume many Villagers stow their cars:


Beacon Hill is not the only part of the Hub with cobbled lanes:


But Bay Village has something none of the others have—a glimpse of its very own castle:



Across the way, in Castle Square: if they really wanted to, they could add stories to the big turnpike parking deck, and build some Bay Village in the parking lots:



Cyburbian Emeritus
Bay Village in Context

Bay Village from the air, showing its context. Incredible that such a centrally-located place can be so quiet and peaceful. In a rational world, the big bad highway at right would be covered over by now with Columbus Center, a terrifically contextual air rights development, but the NIMBYs have succeeded in holding up this excellent project for years because it contains a high-rise building, necessary to subsidize the expense of building above a highway, and of developing the unprofitable low-rise sections. The developer has bent over backwards, but the NIMBYs are insatiable. Do they prefer the open trench of the highway?