Monday, August 29, 2011

Boston City Hospital

Boston City Hospital, from Harrison avenue.

The official history of Boston City Hospital begins in 1861, when money was put aside to build a facility for the 'worthy poor.' The site chosen was filled land already owned by the city in the new South End. Unfortunately, it also sat adjacent to Roxbury Canal, which carried sewage from that town to Boston harbor. The main campus of the hospital consisted of 10 acres of land. This property had previously been known as the Agricultural Fairgrounds (!), and regularly flooded over at high tide.

Over the years, many buildings were added to the facility, including more patient's wards, a power plant, nurse's housing, medical laboratories, a mortuary and an ambulance headquarters.

Panoramic view of Boston City Hospital from Harrison avenue, 1901 ( Flickr page).

Boston City Hospital, 1929. Dome of central administration in seen in the center of the complex (BPL).

Boston City Hospital 1883 . The two top images are oriented from Harrison avenue, at the upper left of this map, looking towards the lower right.

Boston City Hospital 1888. Buildings have been added at the lower corner of the property.

Boston City Hospital 1895. More buildings added, and East Springfield street and the land between the hospital and Massachusetts avenue has been taken by the city and added to the campus. There is also now a south campus on the opposite side of Massachusetts avenue. Note the Roxbury Canal, yet to be filled in, at the lower right corner.

Boston City Hospital 1938.

Convalescent Home, 1890.

Convalescent home, Lower Mills.

City Hospital had auxiliary facilities at opposite ends of the city. The city purchased a country estate of 14 acres on Dorchester avenue near Lower Mills in 1890 to serve as a convalescent home for women and children - apparently, men were on their own. Patients were being sent home too early, and returning soon after. They raised vegetables on the property to serve patients, and flowers from the gardens were sent to City Hospital. Four cows and a chicken house provided milk and eggs for the patients as well. This property would later be sold to the Archdiocese of Boston, which used it to build the new Carney Hospital.

Ambulance parade, 1905.

I just like the idea of an ambulance parade, don't you?

Relief Station, Haymarket Square.

Relief Station, Haymarket Square, 1902.

After many requests for a hospital facility in the downtown district, a new Relief Station was built on land made available through eminent domain by the construction of subway tunnel access from North station. With the many train depots, electric streetcars and heavy horse-teaming, serious accidents were common in the district. The three story building was opened in 1902. In its first year, the Relief Station treated 20,000 patients.

Camp of tents and huts for sick soldiers, 1908.

So much went on at Boston City Hospital over the years that it's hard to know when to stop taking about it. The hospital, and other like it, had a long history of using tents during the summer for patients. As early as 1868 the facility was using tents to house a small number of patients. The air, and the hygiene, were probably better for them than that found in the wards. During the 1880s, up to 60 patients (always men) were cared for in tents. In 1898, four hundred soldiers returning from the Spanish-American War were housed in tents on the grounds.

Resource: A History of the Boston City Hospital

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lost Train Stations: Eastern Railroad

Eastern Railroad Depot, East Boston, 1852 (BPL).

The second Eastern Railroad Depot on Causeway street is at the far right in this cropped photograph. The Boston and Lowell depot is the larger building in the foreground.

Eastern Railroad Depot, Causeway street (second from left, beside the larger Boston and Lowell depot) 1883.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a photograph of the original Eastern Railroad Depot in East Boston. The Eastern, like all the early railroads, was built out of multiple mergers. While competing with the Boston and Maine as a Boston to Portland line, the Eastern followed the coast closer than the B&M line did. The Eastern was founded in 1836, running north through Salem, Lynn and Newburyport. The same track is still used by the MBTA for its Newburyport/Rockport line.

Unlike the Boston and Maine, the Eastern did not originally have a depot in Boston proper. The first depot, shown in the top map, was in East Boston, on a wharf beside that of the Cunard line. From there, ferries would carry passengers across to Boston. Right around the time that map was made (1852), the Eastern laid a connector line in to Boston, and built the Causeway street depot. Around 1884, the Eastern was leased by the Boston and Maine, and ceased to exist as an independent company.

In 1893, the new North Station (also called Union Station) would open on Causeway street, replacing the four older stations shown on the last map above. That depot would in turn be replaced by a new North Station, which would later be replaced by the existing facility. The two earlier North Stations will be the subject of another entry.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Link Time: History of Massachusetts

I've just come across a very nice new blog that I want to share with you: History of Massachusetts.

Recent topics: the Salem witch trials, the Mayflower and How Boston Lost It's Hills. Good information, nice graphics and links to references. I encourage you to check it out and say hi to Rebekah.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Urban Archeology

View Urban archeology location 2 in a larger map

Ever go for a walk in the woods and find an old foundation or a broken down wall or a concrete footing that once supported a mystery something that is no where in sight? Back in the 1990s, I was walking along the Charles river at Millennium Park in West Roxbury and I noticed some carved stone blocks on the ground. A recent fishing trip took me back to the site, and I'm taking this opportunity to expose my find and put out a call for information.

Millennium Park was created when an old city landfill was capped. The site sits along the Charles river, and the old hill of rubbish now provides a wonderful view of downtown Boston, the Blue Hills and the adjacent Charles river wetlands. While kite fliers and soccer players enjoy the top of the hill, dog walkers and canoe/kayakers use the lower parking lot to access a path along the river. And along this path, along the banks of the Charles, I found these two carved stone panels.

These panels are sitting on the ground at angles under trees, so it was hard to get good photos of them. As you see, the first is overgrown with vines. Both combine words, images and standard carved architectural details.

Machinery (click on photo for larger image).

Machinery (closeup).

The first is labeled 'Machinery.' above the word are two machine gears, and to the sides are two classical figures swinging hammers. In the middle of the stone is a large shield, with a smaller American stars and stripes shield above it. On a ribbon running behind the American shield are the words E. Pluribus Unum (with V substituted for U).

E Pluribus

Unum (closeup).


The second block is labeled Leather. Again, there is an elaborate shield in the center of the carving. This time, the smaller shield at the top represents the shield of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Note the bow in the right hand of the Indian and the arrows in the left. Unfortunately, much of the motto on this block is lost. Luckily, we do have 'Plac,' which suggests the motto of the state: Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem - By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.

So here, at an old landfill at the edge of Boston, we have, together with assorted other construction rubble, two carved panels. Both represent an industry once fundamental to the state economy. One also honors the state, the other the nation. They represent a melding of patriotism and civic pride in local economic successes. The obvious questions? Where the heck did they come from, how did they end up under trees along the Charles river in West Roxbury, and when were they put there?

We can speculate reasonably on the second and third questions first. This was, after all, a city dump. Construction/demolition fill could have been trucked there any time the facility was in operation. For that fact, they could have been brought in after the dump closed in a night-time job. Of greater interest is the first question: what is their origin? Since it was a Boston dumping ground, we can guess that they probably came from a Boston site, or at least nearby. But what kind of building would have had such panels in it?

There could have been commercial building downtown with such celebrations of local industries, but my guess would be Mechanic's Hall, Boston's main exhibition space for many years. I've already discussed Mechanic's Hall here,
so I'll just say that the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association seems to have been exactly the kind of booster group that would tie patriotism, both local and national, with the encouragement and celebration of industry.

Mechanic's Hall was torn down when the Prudential Center was built, and it seems entirely possible that some of the debris would end up in West Roxbury. Photographs of the outside of the building show no evidence of the panels, but they may have been inside. If anyone knows more about these long lost carvings, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Brewed in Boston

Here we have some brewery posters from the Boston Public Library Flickr group. Above is from Rueter & Alley, producers of Irish ales and porters. The plant stood on New Heath street beside the Boston Providence (now Amtrak) railroad tracks at what is now the edge of Jamaica Plain. One small brick building still stands - the rest of the brewery is now parking lot.

Across Heath street from Rueter & Alley was the Burton Brewery, brewers of Burton Ale, Bull’s Head and Special Porter. During Prohibition, this building became the home of Moxie, that unique-tasting tonic that once outsold Coca-Cola. The site is now park of the Bromley-Heath public housing development.

The Boston Beer Company was located at D and West Second streets in South Boston. I can't find out much about this brewery, other than it was chartered in 1828, making it significantly older than many other 19th Century Boston brewers.

Bay State Brewery, also known as Jones, Johnson & Co., was located at H and East Second street in South Boston, and produced an India Pale ale, Present Use ale (whatever that means) and a Porter. In 1905, the brewery was sold to the Felton family, who were major distillers of rum.

Another South Boston brewery, Suffolk Brewing was located at G and East Eighth streets.

For more information about Boston's lost breweries, read this article from the Jamaica Plain Historical Society

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ferdinand's Store - Roxbury

Ferdinand & Co., Warren and Washington streets, Roxbury 1884 (BPL Flickr group).

Ferdinand's 1884.

The old Ferdinand's building at the corner of Warren and Washington streets was in the news recently when another re-development plan was announced by the city. I'll leave the contemporary sad story of property to others and take a look at the history of the site.

The original wood frame store opened in 1869, and is shown above. It was prominently located at the north edge of Dudley square, on the main road from the South End and Boston proper. They sold furniture, stoves and other housewares.

Ferdinand's 1899

The current building, along with a wood frame warehouse, was erected in 1895 as the Ferdinand Blue Store. It was designed by John Lyman Faxon, a follower of H.H. Richardson, designer of Trinity Church at Copley square. Faxon also designed building for Dartmouth and Princeton, and was the architect for the First Baptist Church in Newton.

At this time, the elevated line was in place, and the dotted line on the map above shows the north-going path of the tracks running beside the buildings and re-joining the southbound tracks on Washington street.

Ferdinand's 1931.

By 1931, considerably more space had been added along Warren street. Ferdinands claimed to be the largest furniture retailer in the region. I haven't learned yet when the store closed. If and when I do, I'll add the information here.