Tag Archives: boston hidden gems

Hidden Gem: Charlestown’s Potato Shed Memorial

potato shed memorial

In homage to the starch that brought us tater tots, French fries, and hash browns comes a cast stone tribute under Boston’s I-93 overpass.

All partial to potatoes take note: our latest hidden gem is Boston’s little-known memorial to a beloved tuber.

Technically the Potato Shed Memorial isn’t just dedicated to the idea of spuds, but a part of Boston life going back to the Antebellum era. At this time in the mid-nineteenth century the city was still working on land reclamation, or filling in the waterfront for further acreage. What is land now used to hold the Millers River, which had previously divided Cambridge from Charlestown. As a staple of travel and commerce, storage sheds lined the banks of the Millers with goods for the locals. They came to be known for storing potatoes, coming into its own as a popular destination for residents with plenty of taters for sale.

Interestingly, the popularity of the potato sheds corresponds with a massive influx of Irish immigrants streaming into Boston and Charlestown, starting in the mid-1840s. By 1850 Boston’s Irish population would swell to 35,000 strong, and their descendants (including the Kennedy family) would go on heavy influence local politics.

For roughly a century these potato sheds were a cherished part of the community, where locals would greet each other on their weekly trek for delicious tubers. Others worked in the potato sheds and corresponding railyards, and where mischievous children could sneak in and steal potatoes from any number of hefty piles in the warehouses.

This all changed in the early 1960s (or mid-1930s, according to the memorial plaque) when the potato sheds burned down and were never rebuilt. Millions of pounds of food were lost in the fire, which were bound for other cities along the East Coast. Rumor has it that Charlestown smelled like baked potatoes for weeks as a haunting last hurrah from these bygone spud sheds.

Today this industrial area looks decidedly more pedestrian. Millers River has been filled in as part of the land reclamation efforts, and this area now plays host to walkways and parks beneath the Zakim Bridge. But the great potato sheds of yesteryear are not forgotten, cast forever in a grand Potato Shed Memorial of an even grander vegetable.

boston potatoes

 

 

Maybe our nickname should change from Beantown to Tatertown, no?

Source: Wikipedia, boston.com
Image Credit: Andy Woodruff

Spooky Hidden Gem: Boston Light

Boston Light haunted

As one of the oldest cities in America, Boston has more than its fair share of spooky history. An often overlooked location for this is Boston Light; it is both the first lighthouse to be built in the United States and the home to multiple chilling catastrophes.

Located on Little Brewster Island in the Boston Harbor, Boston Light was first lit in September of 1716. Its first keeper, George Worthylake, had a starting salary of £50 guiding all vessels bound for the Hub. It wasn’t long after this humble beginning that disaster struck. In 1718, when returning from a visit to Boston, Worthylake drowned with his wife and daughter when their boat unexpectedly capsized. The tragedy inspired a ballad written by a young Benjamin Franklin, who sold the “wretched” poem as a printer’s teenage apprentice.

BL1The misfortune surrounding the island, however, continued to affect those working in and around the lighthouse. When held by British forces during the American Revolution, the redcoats sustained “heavy losses” after an ambush by the colonists. Ever since reconstruction in 1783, it has witnessed the deaths of both light keepers and sailors alike. From Confederate prisoners to shipwreck victims, Boston Light has seen the demise of countless individuals on and near her shores.

Are the spirits of Boston Light’s dead still haunting the lighthouse and the island it sits on?

BL2Members of the Coast Guard, after taking over management in the 1930s, have reported numerous sightings and events that aren’t easily explained. Sometimes a man in an old-fashioned uniform is spotted in the lantern room; others times it has been a woman in a white gown, both disappearing before others could enter and investigate. Visitors and workers have also heard ghostly sounds, including “horrible maniacal laughter” and a little girl crying for a long-passed slave.

Whatever noises that the dead may make has no effect on the “Ghost Walk,” an area nearby that no sound can pierce. This part of the sea spooked even the most seasoned mariners, as neither the lighthouse bell nor its powerful cannon could be heard within it. Not even a team of MIT students, who studied the phenomenon in 1893, could crack the mystery. The silence of the Ghost Walk remains an unsolved anomaly to this day; an ominous counterpart to the haunted Boston Light.

Source Credit: New England Lighthouses
Photo Credit: Boston Harbor Beacon and New England Lighthouses

Hidden Gem: The Museum of Modern Renaissance

boston hidden gem

The Museum of Modern Renaissance has given many Tufts University students and Somerville residents pause at its eye-catching location near Powder House Square. Originally a Unitarian Church and then a masonic lodge, the building at 115 College Avenue was transformed in 2002 into a vibrant “Temple of Art”.

 

boston hidden gem

The creation of the museum was the dream of two Russian artists, Nicholas Shaplyko and Ekatrina Sorokina. They fashioned a playful space filled with their own artwork that brings the visitor into another dimension. Covering almost every surface of the Museum with fresco-like paintings called “Mystical Realism,” the artists transformed their home into a fantasy world full of mythological themes. From the front hall, which they call the “Parade of Planets,” to their workroom that also serves as an indoor garden in winter, to the teapot-themed bathroom, their artwork graces the entire building. All the art is a collaboration of the two married artists.

 

museum of modern renaissance

The outside of the building (pictured above) is as kaleidoscopic as the interior. The facade is reminiscent of an Incan ruin, with a large stone face above the doorway and a colorful bull on the door. Although the museum is not open to the public, there are tours available by appointment. The doors also open for various concerts and the annual Somerville Open Studios.

Source Image Credit

 

Hidden Gem: The Judson B. Coit Observatory

Boston University Hidden Gem

Have you ever wanted to see the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter or the other planets and stars close up? Then the Judson B. Coit Observatory at Boston University is the place to go. Members of the pubic are allowed to view the wonders of the solar system on their Public Open Night, held most Wednesday evenings throughout the year, weather permitting. Visitors are given telescopes and binoculars to observe the night sky. Since weather is a factor, observations are canceled when there are clouds, haze, or rain. As well as observing the stars, you will also have a great view of Boston from the roof.

Boston Hidden GemsThe Observatory is named for Judson Coit, who spent the major part of his professional career as Professor of Astronomy at Boston University where he created the Department of Astronomy. He also developed a teaching and research observatory, which is named in his memory. The Observatory was originally located on the roof of the College of Liberal Arts Building on Boylston Street until the late 1940s, when it was moved to its current location on Commonwealth Avenue.

Hours & Admission: The Open Nights are held most Wednesday evenings throughout the year, weather permitting. Admission is free.

Source | Image Credit