Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category

Boston Is A Youth Magnet Says The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal, in a much quoted article by Sue Shellenbarger, recently reported on six experts’ views on which “cities will emerge as the hottest, hippest destinations for highly mobile, educated workers in their 20s when  the U.S. economy gets moving again.”

View of Boston from Cambridge

View of Boston from Cambridge

Happily Boston made the list.  We’re number 11. There were a couple of ties.  Humph. 

Boston’s been a destination city for young people for years so it’s no surprise we’re on the list.  Personally, I think we should have ranked better but there are some great destinations among the winners – Washington DC and Seattle are tied for first, and New York, Austin, and Chicago all made the cut.  Those cities would be my top picks too though any list I created would definitely include San Francisco, absent from the “experts'” picks.

So, if you want to see who got the seal of approval from the WSJ’s panel of “demographers, economists, geographers and authors on urban issues” check out the article.

And if you’re thinking of moving to Cambridge or Boston take a look around this site for lots of info about living here, buying here and more.

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Goodbye Copper Beech

Beautiful Tree's Last Days

Beautiful Tree's Last Days

It was sad to see that this majestic copper beech on Walnut Avenue in Avon Hill had died.  Beeches are my favorite trees and it was hard not to notice this one when I was on the street recently.  Growing up, our backyard was filled with beech trees, some with initials carved on the trunks years before the neighborhood existed.  The huge copper beeches that are found in front of some of the nicest houses in Cambridge, Newton, Wellesley and other nearby towns are some of my favorite features in those neighborhoods.

So I was tickled to see the article in the Cambridge Chronicle that told of the owners and neighbors memorializing the tree.  It’s not surprising to learn that the tree had a big impact on its owners and its neighbors.  Trees can do that – even ones less impressive than this beautiful copper beech. I still remember various trees that were on the routes I walked as a child. 

Here’s the video of the owners talking about what the tree meant to them:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgwhwjwUBcM&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Categories: Everything Else

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Garden at the Fletcher-Maynard Academy

This healthy crop of corn and sunflowers put a smile on my face when I spotted it while on our tour of new listings last week.  These are outside the Fletcher Maynard Academy, part of the Cambridge Public Schools, on the corner of Harvard and Windsor Streets.  I think it’s probably part of the Citysprouts garden at the school.  

Look at the corn at Fletcher-Maynard!

Check out the corn at Fletcher-Maynard!

 

Look how high the sunflowers grew!

Look how high the sunflowers grew!

CitySprouts is a group that brings gardens to Cambridge’s schools.  Here’s a wonderful video about the program – the students are just great in it – and you can see some more of the garden at the Fletcher Maynard Academy:

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOeX_vSjn6o[/youtube]

This is the condo we were previewing on tour – it’s very stylish – we loved it.

 

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Ribbon Driveways – Old Fashioned and Green

It's a ribbon driveway!

It's a ribbon driveway!

I’ve always loved this driveway style but never knew it had a name – it’s a ribbon driveway and it’s today’s installment in the House Parts We Love series. 

Popular in the 1920s to 1940s this is the obvious evolutionary first step in driveway paving – before driveways were paved you’d have packed down ruts in the dirt.  Ribbon driveways paved those ruts with concrete, leaving the grass in the center. 

You don’t see many of these old fashioned driveways around the city.  But I’m always happy when I come across one.  This one is in North Cambridge near Davis Square.  I always called these grass strip driveways.  Sometimes you’ll find them paved with cobblestones rather than cement.

The city tends to have way too much pavement so a ribbon driveway with its minimal paved footprint makes a lot of sense.  I hate to see the runoff in the rain when all the asphalt means the water ends up in the sewer system.  “Green driveways” with a plastic grid underlayment are the newest thing but the good old grass strip version works for me.

One municipality in California, Fullerton, even recommends the installation of historically appropriate ribbon driveways in their remarkably thorough preservation guidelines for a bungalow neighborhood.  How cool is that?

More House Parts We Love:

Cambridge Fences

Granite Steps, Posts and More

Porch Railings with Curved Spindles

Front Entry Benches

House Numbers

Shutters with Cutouts

Entry Brackets on Doors

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The Shingle Style – Architectural Styles in Cambridge

The Shingle Style, a quintessential American architectural style in the Victorian period, was popular from 1880 to 1920.  Its roots were in the coastal resort towns of the Northeast where large Shingle Style cottages, designed by leading architects of the period, were built on the coast of Maine, Cape Cod and Long Island. 

Shingle Style House on Avon Hill in Cambridge MA

Shingle Style House on Avon Hill in Cambridge MA

Cambridge has a number of examples of the Shingle Style on Avon Hill and in the Brattle Street neighborhood. My favorite is the beautifully preserved, Hartwell and Richardson designed, Yerxa-Field house at 37 Lancaster Street on Avon Hill, pictured here.  It has an extraordinary carriage house as well.

The emphasis in this style is the surface of the house – the shingles cover the house in a continuous wrap – almost a skin of sorts.

Other Features of the Shingle Style:

  • Houses are typically rectangular in shape and asymmetrical in design
  • Houses were large and rambling and rustic and informal in feel
  • Roofs were gabled, hipped, or gambrel
  • Shingles wrap around corners, there are no cornerboards
  • Details were often Colonial Revival or Queen Anne in style
  • Windows typically have multi-panes above a single pane sash
  • Shingles curved into recessed windows
  • Large, prominent chimneys
  • Towers and projecting bays are common

Other House Styles Found Around Cambridge:

The Bungalow

The Greek Revival

The Saltbox

The Triple Decker

The Cape

The Second Empire Mansard

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Entry Brackets – House Parts We Love

Entry brackets are one of my very favorite Victorian house parts and Cambridge is a hotbed of them.  There is a remarkable variety in styles and designs of cornice brackets.  Many homeowners have accentuated the details with paint.  The slide show below has some of my favorites that I’ve spotted around town.

 

 

Here are some other House Parts We Love:

Cambridge Fences

Turrets on Houses

 Granite Steps, Posts and More

Porch Railings with Curved Spindles

Front Entry Benches

House Numbers

Shutters with Cutouts

 

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New Age Parking Meters in Harvard Square

New parking meter on Church Street in Harvard Square

New parking meter on Church Street in Harvard Square

I did a double take when I spotted this new age parking meter in Harvard Square on Church Street. It’s actually a “pay station” that has replaced all the meters on the block. The City of Cambridge Traffic and Parking Department calls it a “Pay and Display Meter” – actually for some reason they call it “Luke”.  Beats me.

Harvard Square visitors will park their car at one of the now meter-less parking spaces and purchase parking at the pay station which takes quarters or credit cards (Visa or Mastercard). The machine spits out a paper receipt which needs to posted on your dash.

For now these new parking meter substitutes are on Church Street and in three City of Cambridge parking lots though there are plans to make the change elsewhere in the city in the future. Benefits of this sort of system, similar to ones installed in Boston on Newbury Street, include increased revenues and reduced time spent by city workers collecting money from the meters.

New Cambridge Parking Signs

New Cambridge Parking Signs

While I’m a bit horrified at the idea of parking meter charges ending up on credit cards, the biggest drawback from drivers, or I should say parkers’, perspective seems to be that the small joy of scoring a parking meter with time left on it is no longer a possibility. But simply scoring a parking space in the heart of Harvard Square should be thrill enough.

  

SEARCH FOR HOMES IN HARVARD SQUARE 

 

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New Book About Harvard Square

NECN had a segment the other morning on a new book about Harvard Square – Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950.  As soon as the segment ended I called Porter Square Books and reserved two copies, one for myself and one for my parents.

New Book About Harvard Square, Cambridge Massachusetts

New Book About Harvard Square, Cambridge Massachusetts

My dad grew up in Cambridge and one story that’s regularly retold in my family is how he and his high school friends in the late 1940s would jump in their cars, drive to the Square, pull up and park, and go in for a bite to eat at the cafeteria, Albiani’s, on Mass Ave.  The reason the story tickled our funny bones was how far fetched we would all find it – how could they have found three or four empty parking spots all in a row?  Different time for sure.

My mother became a fan of the Square in the 70s when we would take the train in from the burbs to shop and take in the sights.  The book, with its coverage through the decades, had something for all of us.

Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950 by Mo Lotman

Measuring 12″ by 10″ and 240 pages long this is a *big* and beautiful book jam packed with photographs.  When I heard about it I thought it would simply be a collection of photographs – and if it were only that it would be fascinating. Lotman has dug deep for the photos in the book – in archives and in amateur photographers’ personal collections.  It’s an amazing look at Harvard Square through the decades.

But the book isn’t just a photography book – it’s much more.  It’s all about what makes this such a special place – the people, the politics, the shops, the restaurants, the buildings – it’s a rich tapestry and a wonderful record of the last 60 years Cambridge-style.  Streetscapes, interior views, ephemera, news photos – you name it – it’s all here in chock-a-block full, endlessly fascinating pages.

Inside Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950

Inside Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950

The book is organized by decades and pictures are both dated and annotated to direct you to other views or info about the same scene.  Thankfully there’s an index – you’ll be tempted to take a quick look to see if the places you remember are included here.   I checked to see if one of my favorite teenage haunts – Dazzle – was in the book – yes – and was delighted to find four references to one of my regular stops, Reading International.  And for my Dad, Albiani’s is in one of the full page photographs that open the book. There’s so much here that will bring back your favorite Harvard Square memories.

Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950 is the ideal coffee table book since everyone who spots it will be tempted to pore through its pages.  It’s the perfect gift for anyone who’s ever lived in or spent time in Cambridge.

Author Mo Lotman will be at the Harvard Coop on September 12, 2009 to discuss the book and sign copies as part of the “Bookish Ball”.  The book’s official launch will be held at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street in Cambridge on September 15, 2009 from 7 pm to midnight.

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