Great site. Pictures are amazing. What is the very large tank-like structure in the North End section of Boston in the 1923 aerial photo? Too large and too late to be the molasses tank. Just wondering?
The whole thing, to me, begs the question: Are great cities (or urban spaces) made or do they just happen?
The photos seem to imply that crappy urban places are made. Then again, we know that many crappy urban places have been made.
I still ponder the thought of exactly what role planners should take - are we planners. Or, should we consider ourselves facilitators - which, to me, implies a more hands off approach.
It seems that a great many places (Boston included) could have stood less planning rather than more.
Please, don't think I look at this as black and white - we can all bring up great places that have been planned rather than left to chance. And I have written my fair share of zoning Code and design guidelines. And I still wonder if less is more.
While I deplore the heavy handed and ruthless manner it was bulldozed I am not so nostalgic as some folk for the West End. First, on the deplorable and unforgettable methodology, aside from the so called uber plan well discussed in blog and the urban wisdom- or what passed for it- thinking of the day ( not to suggest, there was not some bucks flowing around to the inside dopesters who handled the deals).
My mother then owned an old 1900 era unheated row house which she rented out to male nurses from Mass General and whoever could put up with dark and damp and unheated lodgings and it was cheap rent. The taxes and upkeep on such a property meant it was subsistence living for me and I had to work from 13 and got no goodies unless I earned them, not a problem actually.
What was it like? Well, across the street was the remnant of what was once a stable, converted to a warehouse, I could see the hay loft from our flat. My memory is one of lugging heavy bottles of kerosene up three flights in the dim hallways. We had a frig but the windows also served to keep stuff cool...frugal mother The sewer plumbing was beyond belief and I will not turn your stomach to give details. If I dated a girl from one of the posher parts of Boston, such as Brookline, my West End credentials gave me no advantage. Like Leonard Nimoy, who who was a little older, I found a strong anti Jewish feeling among the Irish crowd, about as strong as towards blacks...yes I got beat up a few times.
What was wonderful was the walking distance to downtown, to the Boston Public Library and to the Charles River Community Sailing. Yes, we never had a car, a dream machine, so having access to the world of the Athens of the East part made up for the dreary tenement life. I sold newspapers on Joy St. And I guess memory of cold mornings on the corner sticks in the mind. I used to like to eat cheap; fatty Joe and Nemo's hot dogs, which contained delicious cholesterol in a roll with onions and sweet relish. With coffee milk or strawberry milk. (Real artery food)
Anthony's Pizzeria on Leverett (?) St. Such wonderful ethnic variety looking back. We had a kosher deli down towards North Station. Where I live now has the usual blah Taco Bell etc.. We had a lot of girls who hung out on our street, and most of them seemed to marry well and get a good education. The Blackstone School was nearby. Those of us with pushy moms went to Boston Latin, and sidestepped mention that we commuted from West End...
After I went to Harvard, it was my goal in life to live better than I did as an Urban Villager. Now, on the taking...One day my mother owned a house, the next day the Boston Redevelopment Authority sent her a letter saying she would now pay it rent and it would eventually make her an offer of reasonable price...NOT. Offer was below tax assessed value. I hate the memory of Boston's officialdom. And it may be my prejudice to be washed away by a few good stories...Though i will say this, they did take care of snow removal. To my chagrin, I always waited to hear the wonderful radio news," No school all schools all day..."
Thanks for wonderful photos of extraordinary quality...Bravo, and Aloha, Gerry
This is one of the most popular threads on Cyburbia, with occasional bursts of visitors to this day. We consider all threads on Cyburbia "live", regardless of their age, so feel free to add your thoughts.
Thanks, Dan, for bumping this post and for letting us know about ablarc. This photo essay is amazing! I'm sad I didn't know him ablarc but glad that we can look back on some of his thoughts and reports.
I remember Ablarc's posts and debates very well. As a 'non-credentialed' architectural observer, one of my proudest moments was when he complimented one of my early posts, back in the 2000s.
I'm going to re-read the OP in this thread.
Thanks, too, Dan, for keeping the material 'alive', so to speak.