Centers And Squares
I did a double-take this evening when I drove through the intersection of Putnam and Mass Ave.
The building that formerly housed Bowl and Board before it’s short lived Davis Square incarnation has been taken down. There’s a big empty hole, surrounded by temporary fencing, at the corner of Mass Ave and Trowbridge Street.
Bowl and Board opened in Cambridge in the 1960s. A favorite of many, it was a great place to shop for necessities – and indulgences – for your new apartment or condo. The store moved from 1063 Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge to Davis Square in late 2008 but sadly this store, and the several others owned by the family, were liquidated at the end of 2009. NPR did a series documenting the stores’ travails as the recession deepened.
It’s been sad and a bit bewildering to see the storefront – in its prime location, just blocks from the heart of Harvard Square – remain empty for so long.
Turns out that the building was bought from the former landlords (for $3,500,000) and is going to be the site of a new five-story building. There will be ground floor retail space, four floors of condos, and a garage underneath.
I hate to see another vintage one-story commercial building disappear. Will we finally protect them when only a handful survive? The Cambridge Historical Commission did a study of the building as part of the demolition application. It has a wonderful vintage photo of the building at 1063-1077 Mass Ave.
The retail building at 1075 Massachusetts Avenue was built in 1925. Messinger’s Pharmacy had the space at the corner of Trowbridge until Bowl and Board moved in in 1967. Forty years is long enough that the building will forever be known as the “Bowl and Board building” to plenty of Cantabridgians.
Looking for something to do on Saturday night?
The Medford Historical Society is presenting a lecture:
Home Architectural Styles in Medford: 17th Century to Present by Ryan Hayward of the Medford Historic Commission.
Medford has a marvelous collection of antique houses of many styles and periods so this promises to be a fascinating talk.
The lecture is scheduled for tomorrow night, Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 7 pm at the Royall House Slave Quarters at 15 George Street, Medford, MA.
Admission is free – donations welcomed.
Window Restoration Workshop Your old windows have a lot of life in them yet!
A good fitting old window with a tight storm window is very comparable to a replacement window in terms of energy efficiency. And a replacement window is never comparable to an original in terms of architectural integrity or life expectancy.
Your original windows can last one hundred years or more and after restoration can last one hundred more. That’s not the case with replacement windows. We often see inspectors pointing out problems with replacement windows during inspections even though the windows are only a few years old.
There are companies that can restore windows for you or you can learn to do it yourself. The Newton Historical Society will be hosting a workshop on Saturday where you can learn to restore your own windows.
Window restorer Ryan Pirro will lead a hands-on workshop. You’ll learn how to weather strip and repair your windows.
The workshop is co-sponsored by Green Decade/Newton.
Cost is $30 or $15 for members of Green Decade or of the Newton Historical Society.
The workshop is scheduled for Saturday, November 6, 2010 from 1:00 to 4:00 pm.
You can register and pay online or contact Green Decade for more information at 617-965-1995.
Caring for the Modern House – Historic New England Workshop Owners of mid-century modern houses – or those who love them – will want to attend an upcoming workshop in Lexington, MA.
Ask The Experts – Caring For The Modern House is scheduled for January 31, 2010.
A panel of experts will discuss the special challenges presented by caring for modernist houses. Come with your questions and issues about preserving, restoring, updating, and maintaining your home.
- Brent A. Gabby, Simpson, Gumpertz and Heger
- Katherine Mierzwa, Friends of Modern Architecture
- Sally Zimmerman, preservation specialist at Historic New England
Sponsored by the Lexington Historical Society, the Friends of Modern Architecture, Lincoln and Historic New England.
The workshop will take place Sunday, January 31, 2010 from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at the Lexington Historical Society, 13 Depot Square, Lexington, MA.
Registration is required. Call 781-862-1703
Admission: $40 for nonmembers. Reduced admission for members of Historic New England, the Historic Homeowner program, Lexington Historical Society or Friends of Modern Architecture.
Don’t own a modernist house but would like to? The mid-century modern house above is my new listing in Arlington. It’s open this Sunday, the 24th, from 1 to 2:30 or call me to schedule an appointment.
Documenting Belmont Buildings Destined for Demolition Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to visualize a building once it’s gone?
This happens to me even on streets I drive down every day.
When all that’s left is a gaping cellar hole, or there’s a new building on the lot where an old one once stood – you scratch your head and ask “What was here before?”
And in recent years with teardowns becoming all too frequent our architectural memory becomes even more fractured.
The Belmont Historical Society has started a project to photograph the houses destined for demolition.
The program began in 2008 and I would imagine was prompted in part by the outcry about the Belmont Hill School’s demolition of what may have been New England’s first Modernist house, designed by architect Eleanor Raymond.
There are only two photographs on the Society’s webpage for the project, both from 2008. Perhaps with the real estate market upheaval demolitions paused in Belmont in 2009 – I don’t know. Hopefully the project is ongoing.
Check out the photos of demolished Belmont houses on the Belmont Historical Society’s website. One is a sweet bungalow, the other a two-story mansard with turret in Waverley Square. The buildings that replaced them can be seen at right.
Not that a photograph is enough. But it’s a start. And maybe with enough Before and Afters we’ll think a little longer about allowing our older, smaller houses to disappear one by one.
Vintage Paving Company Markers ~ It’s funny sometimes, the things that start to catch your eye that suddenly start popping up everywhere.
For me, one of those things are the old metal markers that are set into concrete sidewalks. I love them! As I make my way around Cambridge, Arlington, Medford and other nearby towns I’ve started to photograph any I come across.
Who knew that concrete sidewalks are so durable? The oldest plaque that I’ve found so far is the clover-shaped marker dated 1907 by the Simpson Bros. Corporation of 166 Devonshire Street in Boston.
Other paving company markers I’ve found include:
- Benj. Fox, Inc., Concrete Construction, 15 Exchange St, Boston
- F.O. White Construction Co., Cambridge
- Thomas J. Hind, 19 Milk Street, Boston
- Vulcan Const. Co., General Contractors, Boston, Mass.
- W.A. Murtfeldt Company, Artificial Stone Walks, 161 Devonshire St, Boston
- Wm. F. Condon, Artificial Stone, 218 Putnam Ave, Cambridge, Mass.
I think most of these miniature plaques are made of bronze. And it still seems to be a practice of paving companies to inset a company marker. A house near my office had a newly constructed cement sidewalk and a metal plate with the company’s name was inset. It was a messy job though – the marker, not the sidewalk – and the sense of pride that these older signs exude was absent.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot written about these intriguing little signs. Someone has taken the time to extensively document the sidewalk markers in Buffalo, NY where the metal plates date from 1885 to the 1920s but I’ve yet to find much else.
If you know anything more about these vintage paving company markers please let me know.
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.
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.
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?
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.