Boston Sightseeing Tours of Yore

Duck Tours have always struck me as a bit goofy and a weak alternative to the Freedom Trail.   The tours are popular with tourists however and someday I may just take one if guests are in town who want to sample the local schtick.

Who knew that goofy tours have a long history in Boston?  This vintage postcard – “Sight Seeing Auto. The Ride I Took In Boston, Mass.” – gave me a chuckle.  It dates from 1908 but bears an uncanny resemblance to today’s Duck Tours.

Vintage Boston Sightseeing Tour Postcard

Vintage Boston Sightseeing Tour Postcard

A man named Frank sent the postcard to his sister Anna in Manchester NH.  It was postmarked October 19th. Seems that Frank’s visit to Boston coincided with Indian Summer – he writes “it is awful warm down here, the thermometer registers seventy-eight yesterday. The trees on West Newton Street are in bloom just as on a spring day”.

Cheesy tourist rides.  It’s tradition.

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Widener Library at Harvard Before the Digital Days

The front page article in the Boston Globe on Monday about digitization efforts at Harvard’s libraries caught my eye.  Before I became a real estate agent in Cambridge I was an archivist.  As a lifelong lover of all things on paper I shudder at the thought of the venerable Harvard libraries going down the digital path in lieu of paper.

The article does give me a good excuse though to share another postcard find from the Brimfield flea market.  I love this 1915 view of students studying in Widener Library, the year it opened.  My photo of the card doesn’t do the detail justice. The large reading room is filled with students – all male – reading, many with their hat on the table beside them.

Vintage postcard of Widener Library at Harvard in 1915 the year it opened

Vintage postcard of Widener Library at Harvard in 1915 the year it opened

If you want to read about the impact on the historical record when libraries ditch paper be sure to check out Nicholson Baker’s book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper.  As much as I’m tempted to link that title to Amazon I’m resisting since I’m also a fan of bookstores and libraries.  Visit one today!

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Vintage View of Atherton Street in Somerville

Vintage View of Atherton Street in Somerville   Recently I spent the good part of a day searching through 1000s of vintage postcards at the Brimfield Flea Market. If you’ve never been to Brimfield you’re in for a treat.  This small town turns into a massive antique mart three times a year – in May, July and September.

My destination was the postcard hall, however, so I missed the craziness of the fields filled with booths and collectors from around the world.  Instead I spent hours flipping through boxes of postcards with views of the towns and cities in Centers and Squares territory – Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge, Medford, Somerville and Watertown.  I found some great cards and will share some of my favorites here.

 

Early View of Atherton Street in Somerville Massachusetts

Early View of Atherton Street in Somerville Massachusetts

This postcard is a view of one of Somerville’s most well known buildings – the Round House on Atherton Street.  I have several other views of the Round House but this was a card I hadn’t seen before.

The image includes the  Carr School across the street. But what I really love about the card is that it shows another of my favorite buildings – the Round House’s next door neighbor – the mansard house at 40 Atherton Street on the left side of the card.  I’m a big fan of mansards and this one has a particularly appealing profile.  Here’s what the house looks likes now:

Mansard house on Atherton Street Somerville MA

Mansard house on Atherton Street Somerville MA

What fun it would be to have a century-old postcard view of your own house!  If you live in an older house someday you just might stumble across one of these vintage views of your home.

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Happy Valentines Day From Centers and Squares

Early Valentine With House In The Background

Early Valentine With House In The Background

 

Before I became a real estate agent I was an archivist. I’ve always loved old paper and have collected all sorts of ephemera.

Not surprisingly there’s often a common denominator in what I collect – house images are everywhere. 

Catalogs, greeting cards, postcards, magazines, letterhead, and yes – valentines – often have very charming vintage house images.

Here’s a vintage Valentine from the early 1900s, maybe the 1920s or a bit earlier.  I love the sweet little Cape in the background and the curving path behind the swinging gate. You  just want to pinch the rosy cheeks of the boy and girl – him in his sailor suit, her in her gingham bonnet.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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2009 Cambridge Discovery Days – Focus on Architecture

Attention old house enthusiasts and local history buffs! This year’s Cambridge Discovery Days will focus on architecture.

Vintage Postcard of the Cambridge Home of James Russell Lowell

Vintage Postcard of the Cambridge Home of James Russell Lowell

Each summer, Cambridge Discovery Days offers a variety of events, lectures and tours on two successive August Saturdays. This year’s dates are August 8, 2009 and August 15, 2009. There’s a wonderful lineup of free events sponsored by the Historic Cambridge Collaborative.

Cambridge Discovery Days – Saturday, August 8, 2009

Some of the offerings on August 8th include:

  • 10 to 11:30 am The Poet and the Civil War: James Russell Lowell.  Tour meets at the Longfellow House at 105 Brattle Street (also offered on August 15th, same time and place)
  • 10:30 to noon A Walk Down Tory Row.  Meets at the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House at 159 Brattle Street
  • 11 to noon What Style Is It?  Meets at the Cambridge Historical Society, 159 Brattle Street
  • 1 to 3 pm Buildings at Fresh Pond I: Homes, Hotels and Ice Houses.  Meets at the Water Purification Facility, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway
  • 4 to 5:30 pm  Mount Auburn’s Notable Architects.  Meets at the cemetery entrance gate, 580 Mt. Auburn Street

Cambridge Discovery Days – Saturday, August 15, 2009

Events on August 15th include:

  • 10 to 11 am  The Cambridge Houses of William Dean and Elinor Mead Howells.  Tour begins at 41 Sacramento Street
  • 11 am to 12:15 pm  New Ideas from a Quiet Neighborhood.  Tour begins on the steps of the Longfellow House, 105 Brattle Street
  • 11 am to 1:00 pm  “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”: Folk Music in Cambridge.  Tour begins at the Johnston Gate to Harvard Yard
  • 1 to 3 pm  Buildings at Fresh Pond II: Club Houses, Homes, Railway Stations & More.  Tour begins at the Ranger Station at the Water Purification Facility, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway
  • 2 to 3 pm  Inman Square, Historically Speaking.  Tour begins at the plaza at the intersection of Cambridge and Hampshire Streets
  • 2 to 3 pm  The Women of Central Square.  Tour begins in front of Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue

This is just a sampling of events – there’s a very full schedule on both Saturdays.  There are also activities for kids scheduled on both days.

The City of Cambridge website has more info and a full schedule of events available for download.  You can also call the Cambridge Historical Commission at 617-349-4683 for more information.

The 2009 Cambridge Discovery Days – Focus on Architecture is free and open to all. Events take place rain or shine.

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Walking Tour of Ball Square Somerville

This Walking Tour of Ball Square Somerville was originally planned for May 12, 2009 as part of Somerville’s Historic Preservation Month.  The tour was rained out and had to be rescheduled.  Truth be told (it wasn’t raining at 10:30 that day so I went in case the tour was taking place) it didn’t seem to be the best day for a tour starting by Tufts since Tufts’ commencement was that day.  The new date is Sunday, June 14, 2009.

Vintage Postcard of the Powderhouse Near Ball Square in Somerville MA

Vintage Postcard of the Powderhouse Near Ball Square in Somerville MA

Walking Tour of Ball Square Somerville

On Sunday June 14th Ed Gordon, President of the New England Chapter of the Victorian Society of America, will lead a tour of the Ball Square and Powderhouse area of Somerville. 

On the From Powder House Pickles to Ball Square Brick Yards walking tour  of historic homes and sites you’ll learn about the history of the neighborhood and of Tufts University, see some of the most handsome multi-families built in the area, get to see the inside of a home or two, and finish with light refreshments at the Field House at Nathan Tufts Park.

Cost is $10 ($8 for members of the VSA).

Sunday, June 14, 2009, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. 

Meet at the Field House at Nathan Tufts Park at the corner of Broadway and College Avenue.  The Field House is at the far end of the park, away from the Powderhouse rotary, and can be accessed on foot from Powderhouse Boulevard.  Somerville parking restrictions aren’t in effect on Sundays.

Hope to see you on the Walking Tour of Ball Square in Somerville!

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Celebrate Historic Preservation Month – Ball Square and Davis Square

May is Historic Preservation Month in Somerville.  Two events are offered this Sunday, May 17, 2009 in two of my favorite neighborhoods – Ball Square and Davis Square in Somerville Massachusetts.

Walking Tour of Ball Square Somerville

Ed Gordon, President of the New England Chapter of the Victorian Society of America, will lead a tour of the Ball Square and Powderhouse area of Somerville this Sunday. On the From Powder House Pickles to Ball Square Brick Yards walking tour  of historic homes and sites you’ll learn about the history of the neighborhood and of Tufts University, see some of the most handsome multi-families built in the area, get to see the inside of a home or two, and finish with light refreshments at the Field House at Nathan Tufts Park.

Cost is $10 ($8 for members of the VSA).

Sunday, May, 17, 2009, 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. 

Meet at the Field House at Nathan Tufts Park at the corner of Broadway and College Avenue.

History of the Davis Square Branch Library

Architectural conservator, Sara Chase, will give a talk on Sunday afternoon titled A Jewel In the Crown: The West Branch Library.  The West Branch Library on College Avenue in Davis Square is a Carnegie Library and 100 years old this year.  I love this little library and look forward to learning more about it.

The lecture, tour of the library and light refreshments are free and open to all. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009, 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm. 

50 College Avenue, Davis Square, Somerville MA.

A vintage postcard of the library in Davis Square in 1909, the year it was built, is below. It looks just about the same today. 

Hattie wrote on the back to her friend Gertrude:  “Our new library about ten minutes walk from the house.  Our cards have been transferred and we now take books from here.  It is much smaller than the Somerville library and the collection of books of course is not as good but then the (walking part) is very much better.” 

davis-square-library

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