Boston’s Orange Line: Book and Book Talk

Over the holidays I picked up a copy of Boston’s Orange Line, another in the series of local history books that Arcadia Publishing has been issuing for the last decade or so.  This one is a collection of photographs detailing the history of our neighborhood’s train line from its earliest days, including a long-forgotten spur through downtown along Atlantic Avenue.  From its early days as the Main Line Elevated running from Sullivan Square to Dudley to its current incarnation, the authors (a Globe reporter and UMass Boston archivist) have done a fantastic job of detailing the line’s history.  This one belongs on every Roxbury historian’s shelf.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy, why not do it in person at the upcoming book talk they’ll be hosting at Doyle’s?  Here are the details, courtesy of the JP Historical Society:

'Boston's Orange Line' Book Talk

Sunday, January 26, 2013 from 3pm-5pm

at Doyle’s, 3484 Washington Street, JP

The story of the Orange Line is the story of Boston: always in flux but trailed by its long history. Since 1901, this rail line’s configuration has evolved in response to changes in the city, society, and technology. Hazardous sections have been eliminated, ownership has transitioned from private to public, and the line has been rerouted to serve growing suburbs and to use land cleared for the failed Inner Belt. Both its northern terminus, which shifted from Everett to Malden, and the southern route, realigned from Washington Street to the Southwest Corridor, have seen dramatic transformations that have in turn changed riders’ lives. Today, the line’s 10 miles of track curve through many Greater Boston communities, serving thousands along the way.

The authors Jeremy C. Fox and Andrew Elder are JP residents and will have copies of the book for sale. 

Sponsored by the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served (but cash bar).

A Gruesome Discovery Behind the Hotel Eliot

Happy new year! As we enter 2014, I hope to get back on track with the blog. I’ve got a stockpile of great stories to dig into.  But first, I quickly want to share one of my eBay finds.

Late at night when I should be in bed, I often find myself scrolling through the listings on eBay for old Roxbury historical memorabilia. Sometimes I buy an item, but there’s simply too much available to get everything I want.  There’s a treasure trove of old letters, bottles, business cards, match book covers, postcards, and photos.  Especially photos. 

What makes the photos even more interesting is that many of them are old news photos from the archives of newspapers all over the country that were purchased in bulk by several collectors and are now being auctioned off one at  a time.  On any given day, there might be as many as 25 or 30 press photos. These photos, stretching from the 1920s to the 1990s, document all of the changes that befell Roxbury, and since they are press photos there are lots of images of newsworthy events like murders, floods, fires, and the occasional photo op by visiting dignitaries.



So here is one of the those finds, a reference to a long-forgotten mystery. It seems that back in the spring of 1926 someone at the Hotel Eliot found an old cheese box full of human bones.  The back of the photo dryly notes that police suspected foul play. Considering that whoever put the skeleton in the cheese box had to dissect the body and saw the bones, that doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch.

Unfortunately, despite the existence of a news photo it’s not always easy to pick up the story. My search of the Glove archives from around this date didn’t turn anything up, nor did my search of the Google news archive.  We may never know if the police figured out what happened, but I’ll keep an eye out for news clippings just the same.



Here’s to solving more of Roxbury’s historical mysteries in 2013. Happy new year!

HBI Finds a Photo of Alvah Kittredge

Alvah Kittredge is something of an enigma to local historians.  He was clearly enormously wealthy and a very prominent figure in local politics, but we don’t know much about him.  Historic Boston Inc., which is taking on the job of restoring what’s left of his mansion, has been diligently researching him in an effort to learn more about the man whose house they’re rebuilding.

It appears their efforts have paid off with quite the jackpot.  Kittredge, who helped found the Eliot Congregational Church on Walnut Street, has unearthed two photographs of Kittredge taken before his death in 1876.  Read more about their lucky find and Kittredge’s work establishing the church over at the HBI Blog.

Breaking out the hammers at the Kittredge House

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing Mayor Menino and a variety of other luminaries at the groundbreaking of the restoration of the Alvah Kittredge House.  After many years of neglect, this Greek Revival gem will finally be brought back to its former glory.

The important details are that hammers will start swinging soon after literally decades of planning, behind-the-scenes negotiations, and fundraising by members of Historic Boston, Inc.  Kathy Kottaridis of HBI had the honor of passing out the ceremonial hammers, used instead of shovels when HBI launches a new project to symbolize the renovation that will take place.  They have an ambitious timeline of work, with plans to have the work complete by this spring and have tenants for the 5 low-income rental units shortly after that.

Here are a few pictures from the event.  Congratulations to Kathy and the whole HBI team!  I can’t wait to see how the project develops.

Patriot’s Day in Fort Hill

I’ve been absent from the blog for quite some time while I work on Bartlett Events.  But fear not, we’re working to incorporate a visual history of the Bartlett Yard site into our programming in collaboration with the Roxbury Historical Society.

Meanwhile, it’s almost Patriot’s Day.  And while most Bostonians think of Patriot’s Day as Marathon Monday, some of us still remember that it is a celebration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Every year, we commemorate Patriot’s Day in Roxbury at a number of locations including our own First Church, where William Dawes left on his ride to warn the Patriots of the impending attack.  Don’t miss it!  The event at the Church starts promptly at 9 AM.

Edit:  Link to Flier with full details

Our neighbor Allen Bush was lucky enough to get a look inside the standpipe this morning.  The tower will be getting some much-needed maintenance over the coming months, courtesy of Boston Parks, followed by a facelift to the park itself!  

The work on the Tower will include interior and exterior masonry and granite restoration; preparation and 100% exterior recoating of the Tower; window repair; glass and glazing replacement; preparation and painting of existing interior cast iron metal spiral stairs and large metal tank; and related repairs to the metal tank; and metal roof preparation and coating. Over the month of March, work undertaken by the hired Contractor, Chapman Waterproofing, will be focused on the interior of the Tower. Moving into the warmer months, you and your neighbors will see scaffolding go up to work on the exterior improvements. There will be no great visible change to the Tower only that it will be better suited/protected from the elements (rain/snow/etc.) The goal is to have this work completed by early summer.