Under the header of my blog title, Gringo Suelto, it says, “Musings from Boston, Mexico City, and Beyond!” Well, I’ve posted plenty of musings from Mexico City, at least one “beyond,” but so far none from Boston. So I thought I’d try to remedy that today.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to strap on a pair of rollerblades and take my camera out and around my neighborhood. It was a beautiful day, with moderate temperatures, light clouds, and intermittent good light, so a good day for photographs. And fall is the most beautiful time of year here, with the trees turning, the air cooling, and the sun moving lower in the sky.
This should also be a nice look at an interesting, but (at least touristically) under-appreciated part of Boston. I live in a neighborhood called “Savin Hill,” which is part of a larger neighborhood called Dorchester. (“Dot” to the time-starved natives.) Up until it was annexed by Boston in 1870, Dorchester was a separate city, immediately to the south of Central Boston. Dorchester, and particularly my part of it is one of the oldest parts of Boston. According to Wikipedia, on May 30, 1630, Captain Squib of the ship Mary and John entered Boston Harbor and on June 17, 1630, landed a boat with eight men on the Dorchester shore, at what was then a narrow peninsula known as Mattapan or Mattaponnock, and today is known as Columbia Point (more popularly since 1984 as Harbor Point), which is very close to where I live. The English settled the area immediately upon landing as it had good agricultural land, and the salt marsh was good for feeding livestock. As one of the oldest settled parts of the city, it benefits from a rich architectural tradition, with many fine houses, parks, and public buildings. It is also a part of the city that sees very few tourists, despite a some interesting attractions and beautiful, old houses.
I am fortunate to live across the street from a roughly 20-acre park, which is mostly open space, bordered by large, old oaks. The park is popular all year round, with a nice view of the bay from the top of the hill, a tennis court, and basketball court. The area shown is a popular place to toboggan in the winter. (There is a steeper bit just out of view.)
Not too far away is the Dorchester North Burial Ground, one of the oldest in the city. First laid out in 1634, it is the final resting place of two colonial governors, William Stoughton, who was also Chief Justice during the Salem witch trials of 1692; and William Tailer. More info can be found on the City’s website here.
I was fortunate to grab a shot just as the sun came out from behind the clouds. Unfortunately, I was not able to enter the cemetery as it is open by appointment only. So don’t just drop dead and expect to be buried there.
Proceeding north along Columbia Road to the corner of Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave to the locals), we come upon a park in which sits the oldest house in Boston, the James Blake House.
From Wikipedia: The house was built around 1661 by James Blake, an English immigrant. The Blake family owned the house until 1825 when it was acquired by the Williams family. In 1891 the City of Boston acquired the house. In order to preserve the house from demolition in 1896 the Dorchester Historical Society acquired the property from the City and moved the house less than 500 feet from its original location by Massachusetts Avenue to its current location.
According to the Dorchester Historical Society Webpage, The house is one of only a few examples of West England country framing in the United States. Most of the early colonial homes in Dorchester, such as the Pierce House, were built by housewrights from the south and east of England, where brick and plaster building predominated. However, the Blake House was built in the manner of the homes of western England, which had long used heavy timber-framing methods. If you’re in the area, tours are given on the third Sunday of every month.
Though it may not be clear due to the size of the photo, the house has original leaded, diamond-pane windows. This type of window was employed as the technology for creating large panes of glass had yet to be invented. I find this house and its location charming, and always enjoy passing by.
Across the street sits the William E Russell School, a public elementary school, which occupies a handsome brick building built in 1903. Russell, a native of Cambridge, served as Mayor of Cambridge and Governor of Massachusetts (1890-1892). The school has approximately 368 students and is still going strong at 110.
As a more recent development, I suspect that my neighborhood has the largest sculpture of a pear in the world. Don’t laugh. Being first in bronze fruit is not to be denigrated. Though I couldn’t document the size record easily via Google, it appears that “bronze pear sculpture” isn’t even a hotly contested category. Ours is approximately eleven and a half feet high.
About six or seven years ago, the city spent some money to beautify Edward Everett Square, and part of that improvement was to install this sculpture of a Dorchester Clapp Pear, which was first grown here in the 1840’s when much of the immediately surrounding area was still farmland. While I’ve come to like the sculpture, I have to confess that the first time I saw it, I nearly crashed my car into it. It was at night, and the city had reclaimed some of the street just beyond one of our famous 5-street intersections, to site the sculpture. I hadn’t driven there for a few weeks, and suddenly this THING was in my path. Only a very quick swerve preserved our record in bronze fruit.
Finally, I’ll wrap up with a photo taken from next to the Dorchester Yacht Club (founded 1870) showing the beach and bay at sunset. This is a great spot to stroll, rollerblade, or walk your dog. In the summer, there are lots of families on the beach, and the water is calm enough that even young children can swim. I personally swim there when the water’s warm enough, usually June through September. There’s also a baseball diamond and playground out of view to the left.
I really like the historical character of my neighborhood and Boston. I’ve always loved old things, and that may also explain why I love Mexico City so much. Its European history is about 100 years older than Boston’s, and its indigenous history is on a par with Rome’s.
What are some of the interesting things about your neighborhood?