Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category

Bye Bye Brigham’s – Restaurants Closing

Belmont Brigham's Still Open

Belmont Brigham's Still Open

Brigham’s Restaurants Closing   The abrupt recent closing of the Brigham’s in Boston’s Financial District didn’t seem to bode well for the the rest of the chain’s restaurants.  Sure enough, the Arlington Brigham’s shop on Mill Street has been shuttered and the Globe reported that many of the other locations will be closing.

 

Bummer! While Brigham’s hasn’t been what it used to be, with local shops offering a limited version of the restaurant, it’s still a decent place for a burger finished off with the tastiest of ice cream – Mocha Almond.  And the Financial District restaurant was my old stomping grounds – when I worked in Post Office Square I’d get my lunch there – tuna on white, a lemonade, and vanilla ice cream – an all white meal before we knew that wasn’t necessarily a good thing – but it sure hit the spot.

Brigham’s is a long time local favorite – the company started in Massachusetts over 90 years ago and the ice cream was manufactured in Arlington.  HP Hood has owned the ice cream operation since last year and will continue to sell the prepackaged ice cream in supermarkets. 

Turns out, according to an employee behind the counter, that the Belmont Brigham’s by the Oakley Country Club is independently owned so will remain open. Hurrah! They make a great burger, there are lots of booths, and the hand scooped ice cream is delicious.  And a reader alerted me to the fact that the Arlington Heights Brigham’s has the same owner so that bodes well for our other local hangout.  And restaurants that serve Brigham’s ice cream, like Colleen’s in Medford Square, won’t be affected by the chain’s difficulties.

When I stopped by this weekend the Belmont shop was busier than ever – I think people were stopping by for what they thought was their last cone or hamburger. Keep coming back – support your local Brigham’s!

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Fading Stories In Stone – New England Cemeteries In Need Of Restoration

Early gravestones in the First Parish Burying Ground, Arlington MA

Early gravestones in the First Parish Burying Ground, Arlington MA

Fading Stories In Stone – New England Cemeteries In Need Of Restoration.   An article in Sunday’s Boston Globe, “A Race Against Time To Save History”, about Robert Carlson’s work documenting and restoring gravestones on the Cape caught my eye. I love early cemeteries and the terrible condition of many of them has been on my mind recently.  I was happy to learn about Carlson’s efforts and to see the Globe publicizing the desperate need for conservation of New England cemeteries. 

Old cemeteries have always fascinated me.  As kids we played regularly in the cemetery near the town center in Medfield, Mass.  Some of the gravestones dated from the 1600s and I admired the carvings that changed through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – from the winged skulls, to the more cherubic faces. to the weeping willows. I loved the inscriptions with the bits of people’s history and the beautiful old names.

Each year on Memorial Day we visited another old cemetery in Shirley to plant geraniums.  One year as we poked around nearby plots we found a very early wooden grave marker – still the only one I’ve ever seen.

By third grade I was doing genealogy with my grandfather and visited old graveyards in many New England towns with him and my grandmother. Always the stories told on the old slate gravestones were a source of fascination as we hunted for clues about our ancestors.

Bas-relief carving on an Old Burying Ground gravestone in Arlington

Bas-relief carving on an Old Burying Ground gravestone in Arlington

The centuries old gravestones had survived the years well.  Most were completely legible – the incised words easy to read, the decorations almost as beautiful as the day they were carved.  In the 1970s gravestone rubbing was a popular hobby and the markers in local cemeteries were still crisp enough to make fine rubbings.

Imagine my dismay when I revisited my favorite childhood cemetery some twenty years later and found that in that relatively short time the stones had degraded dramatically. Many inscriptions could no longer be read and the carvings were difficult to discern. 

It was shocking.  How could these markers last two hundred years and then in just a few years be so damaged? 

What does it say about our environment?  About how polluted the air and water have become in recent years that centuries old stone carvings can be worn away in short order?

I went back to the Medfield cemetery last week and was once again appalled.  Lichen covered many of the stones’ surface.  Many stones had been broken.  Inscriptions, if they can be discerned at all, can only be read with difficulty.  Doesn’t anybody care?

The other day I visited the Old Burying Ground in Arlington Center to get photos for this post and was surprised to see gravestones in relatively good condition.  Sure – the inscriptions and carvings have been worn down – but the stones were clean and clearly in much better condition than those in Medfield.

Gravestone restoration in Arlington

Gravestone restoration in Arlington

I was perplexed until I noticed the blue marks on the backs of the gravestones.  It seems that someone had restored the markers in the Arlington cemetery.  I haven’t been able to find any information about the project – if you have any information it please let me know.

The Old Burying Ground in Arlington is absolutely worth a visit.  There’s a wonderful collection of markers and it seems many were done by the same carver.  Many of the carvings – particularly those with a child’s head in bas-relief – are very distinctive.  The cemetery dates to 1736 and the colonists killed in Arlington on the first day of the American Revolution are buried here.

It’s time to take a page out of Robert Carlson’s book and start an Adopt-A-Cemetery movement.  What’s your city or town doing to preserve its cemetery heritage?

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Boston Globe Features City Squares

Mullen Square in North Cambridge

Mullen Square in North Cambridge

Here at Centers and Squares we were delighted to see the Boston Globe article about city squares in today’s paper.

The Boston Globe article included many city squares you won’t find on any map.  These are the corners that are named to commemorate neighborhood residents. In Cambridge the signs are black and white like the one at right.

Mullen Square is named in honor of the family that lived in my house for over 80 years.  The father of the family was a doctor, one son worked for Tip O’Neill, his childhood friend, and a daughter worked as an elementary school teacher for many years.  She was the last member of the family to live in the house until I bought it a few years ago. 

Many of Cambridge’s squares were named to honor people or families like the Mullens – people who lived in the neighborhood for many years and made a contribution to the community.

But this is Cambridge after all and the Globe found some stories that might surprise you behind those ubiquitous black and white  signs. 

Reverend Larry Love Square honors

“… a Cambridge-born musician [and] roller skating street person… who would change clothes five times a day, and wore the most wild costumes – feather boas and boots laced up to his knees…”

Mark Sandman Square is named for the

“musician and songwriter best known as the bassist and lead singer of the indie rock band Morphine”.

I won’t look at the signs the same way after reading this article.  You won’t either after reading more of the Globe’s article about city squares.

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The American House – Class at Brookline Adult Ed

That's me in front of my family's first house. Even then I was a house enthusiast.

That's me in front of my family's first house. Even then I was a house enthusiast.

I’ve always loved course catalogs and typically find all sorts of classes that sound appealing. Seldom though has a class seemed so much up my alley as The American House offered in the Winter term at Brookline Adult and Community Education.

The American House is a three session class taught in January by Stephen Jerome.  Jerome is a specialist in historic preservation and design and a trustee of the Brookline Historical Society.

“In Building the Dream: A Social History of Housing in America, author Gwendolyn Wright states: ‘From the first frame house in New England to the latest condominium in the Sunbelt, our houses have been filled with our images of ourselves, our myths, and often the images our neighbors, our government, or our employers have projected for us.’

In this course, we will unravel the myths and meanings of the American house, using the houses themselves as our text.

  • How has the builder-client relationship evolved over time?
  • Who were the first American architects?
  • What are the myths and realities of such legendary houses as The House of Seven Gables and Scarlet O’Hara’s Tara?

These questions will be explored in this overview of Classic, Romantic, high-style, and vernacular house forms that have shaped and continue to transform the architectural environment.

By the end of the course you will be familiar not only with the names of architects and styles of houses, but also with the issues of cultural continuity that have shaped the American house for over three centuries.”

As someone who’s been obsessed with houses since a very young age, I was quick to sign up for the class.  Classes fill up quickly – you can sign up by phone at 617-730-2700 or on the web at www.brooklineadulted.org

The American House will be offered by Brookline Adult Ed at the Brookline High School in January 2010.  The class begins on January 14th, 7 – 9 pm and costs $85 for three sessions.

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Charlie Allen Of Cambridge Featured In Old House Journal

Cambridgeport Mansard Restored by Charlie Allen

Cambridgeport Mansard Restored by Charlie Allen

Charlie Allen of Cambridge Featured in Old House Journal. The December 2009 issue of Old House Journal is filled with features with a local spin. After I finished with my favorite Remuddling page here’s what I found:

Cambridge contractor, Charlie Allen, writes about a 10-year renovation and restoration of a Second Empire mansard on Kelly Road pictured at right. Charlie Allen Restorations has brought back many houses around Cambridge to their former glory and it’s a real treat to read about the metamorphosis of this house.

An article about a Winchester Queen Anne Victorian details its transformation from a two-family into a single. The house had been covered in aluminum siding and stripped of architectural detail. Not any longer!

Fans of Modernism will enjoy the article by a Lincoln homeowner about the restoration of a Modernist house after a fire.

As always OHJ is packed with useful articles for old house enthusiasts. Others include:

  • How to research your house’s history
  • Protecting your house from fire
  • Repairing plaster walls
  • Repairing leaded glass
  • The Beaux Arts Style

Want to learn more about your neighbors’ old house experiences? Old House Journal is not to be missed.

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Glassed In Vestibules – House Parts We Love

Glassed-In Entry on a Cambridge House

Glassed-In Entry on a Cambridge House

The magic of house parts we love is that they can make us fall in love with a house.  Glassed-in vestibules do it for me – I bought my house in large part because of the charming glassed-in entry out front.

On my house the glassed-in entry replaced the two original porches on the front, similar to the porches on the other houses on the street.  Now the glass paned entry with a round top gives the house a special charm.  My theory is that the original owners of my house admired the rounded top entry on the house around the corner and made the change to their house.

My house’s vestibule is in the slide show below. It’s not the best picture of the entry – you can’t see the curved top – but it’s a great picture of my parents standing out in front of the house.

These glassed in vestibules provide shelter from the elements and add a great deal of charm to the facade.  Here are a few of my favorites:

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Home Remuddling

I’m a big fan of Old House Journal magazine.  I think I have every issue ever published – I’ve been buying the magazine for years and completed my set with ebay purchases.

No matter how much I try to resist I can’t help but turn to the last page of the magazine first.  It’s OHJ’s “remuddling” feature.  Each month they pair a photo of a house, unfortunately renovated into a shadow of its former self, with a photo of  another house that looks like the sad sack house would’ve looked before remuddling.

The feature is a guilty pleasure – sure to draw gasps when you see the wrong headed choices that the house’s owners made.  Good intentions gone bad – home-renovation style.

Half Remuddled House

Half Remuddled House

This is a photo of a remuddling job and an untouched original all in one.  One owner of this house – actually two attached single family homes – remodeled his half-house some decades ago, stripping away all the original ornamentation and covering the house with aluminum siding.  The other half-house retains its original trim.

It’s rare that you get to see the before and after impact of siding on a vintage house so clearly.  The city would look very different – and much better – if generations of siding salesmen hadn’t made their way through the neighborhoods.

For once, Old House Journal‘s remuddling spread this month shows a change for the better – picturing a stripped, siding clad house and its new incarnation with siding removed and trim restored.  Happily, houses can be brought back.  And the dedicated homeowner’s restoration is a gift to us all.

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Halloween Costumes In Cambridge

Halloween Costumes In Cambridge   Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I’ve been a gorilla, a lobster, a chicken, a bag of grapes…  So I’m always on the lookout at this time of year for a good costume store.  Luckily Cambridge has two.

Wondering Where to Buy or Rent a Halloween Costume in Cambridge?

Great Eastern Trading Company

Great Eastern Trading Company

Great Eastern Trading Company has a dazzling collection of costumes and accessories for sale.  The sequined tutus hanging outside caught my eye and I was overwhelmed when I walked inside. The shop is chock-a-block full of funky, sparkly, unusual, creative costumes. It’s a vintage clothing store so you can put together something yourself or choose from the racks that are jam packed with costumes ready to go. There are wigs, masks, and all the accessories you’ll need to put your look together.  When I’m looking for the perfect costume Great Eastern Trading Company will be my first stop.

Great Eastern Trading Company is in Cambridgeport near Central Square at 49 River Street at the corner of Auburn.  Open Monday through Saturday at noon, Sunday at 1 pm.

Garment District and Boston Costume

Garment District and Boston Costume

The Garment District and Boston Costume also offer a combo of vintage clothes and Halloween costumes.  The Garment District, best known in these parts for its Dollar A Pound clothing buying opportunities (now $1.50 per pound every day but Dollar Friday), is upstairs and Boston Costume, which offers costume rentals as well as sales, is on the first floor.  The store is open until midnight from now until the 31st.

The Garment District and Boston Costume are located at 200 Broadway in East Cambridge. Hours through October 31st are 11 am to midnight every day but Saturday when the stores open at 9 a.m.

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