Boston MA Thursday April 2
Boston is such a great city to visit. Vibrant, loads of history and culture, wonderful streets on which to get lost over and over again. Seriously, there is no grid network of streets here, just curvy roads that change names every mile or so. Very few arterial streets that continue for more than a few miles. You have to constantly switch from one road to another in order to make your way across town. It must be an effort to keep Bostonians sharp, they have to constantly use their minds to remember how to get anywhere so the brain is constantly being exercised.
We are here to visit Deb and Rebecca at Easter in early April after one of the worst winters in Boston’s history. Much more snow than Minnesota. Many yards still are snow covered but streets are well clear of snow. Sidewalks frequently have a mound of encrusted snow piles blocking the path where someone just gave up trying to keep the path clear; usually on the south side of the street where a building blocked the southerly sun from any melting action. Since Deb and Rebecca are not retired, they had to go to work and a diversion/destination was necessary to be found. And, of course, success was had in finding diversions.
The Chestnut Hill Reservoir was today’s first destination. It is in Brookline and is an impound lake for water for the city’s municipal water supply. Actually, that is only somewhat correct. It is now part of their emergency back up system, but it had a trail around it and it seemed a nice location to take a hike on the way to another destination. The ice had only partially melted, but the trail was snowfree. The morning temp was 36 degrees, so walking was a good way to keep warm.
Half way around the 1.6 mile trail, I noticed a series of interesting buildings across the street. Upon closer inspection, there appeared a sign indicating this was the Waterworks Museum, open to the public beginning in half an hour. Well, hey, this was an opportunity to try something unscheduled and not on any tour list previously seen. So, the walk was resumed and completed (after a discussion with a local Bostonian about: his chronic fatigue syndrome, and how best for pedestrians to use the crosswalks, and his marriage) and the museum returned to by car.
The museum is housed in the old High Pumping Station used to pump water into Boston’s water system. The museum staff were very friendly and eager to show one around. Technically, the Boston water now comes from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority which serves 2.5 million Massachusetts residents. The system pumps an average of 215 million gallons of water a day. Most of the drinking water now comes from the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts, 60 miles away by South Hadley.
This pumping station was closed in the 1970s and after twenty years of neglect, people came up with a entrepreneurial way to restore the building and its massive equipment. Part of the museum building and two ancillary buildings were sold and converted into high-end condominiums. Part of the open land area was sold and another condominium built. The proceeds went into an endowment to restore the building. On an ongoing basis, each time a condo is sold, a portion (I do not know how much) of the price goes into the endowment to maintain the museum.
The museum itself does a nice job of education about the connection between clean water and health. Boston was the first municipal water company to have its own biological station to conduct research into water borne illnesses and water quality. Part of the incentive to build this large pumping station also germinated after a 1872 Boston fire which killed 30 people and burned out 65 acres of Boston’s downtown. All in all, a very nicely done museum and an enjoyable hour.
The second destination was the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic site, also in Brookline. The first thing learned was that while Frederick Law Olmsted is considered the founder of landscape architecture in America, his work was continued by his two sons and the firm Frederick Sr. founded. Frederick Law Olmsted was born in 1822, retired in 1895, and died in 1903, so works discussed after his retirement are due to his sons (Charles and Frederick Jr.) and the firm.
Frederick Sr. designed Central Park in New York City, the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and innumerable other projects. His vision allowed him to view an area of unlikely value and create a park system that also drained mosquito breeding swamps and provided a parkway to transport people and carriages. His ideas provided for multi-use large park areas in urban areas that previously had none. His ideas were borne less out of education than experience; seaman, walker, farmer, draftsman, clerk, engineer, and traveler in Europe and Asia. He was one of several influential citizens pushing for the creation of Yosemite Valley as a park. The National Historic Site is located in the building he moved into from New York City in 1883 and was his home and the office for the firm (with several additions) until 1980 when the Park Service took over the building and its archives of 120 years of drawings. Olmsted moved to Brookline because he had a major contract to design a series of parks and parkways for Boston that came to be known as the Emerald Necklace.
Today’s third destination was a walk along the Charles River in Waltham, passing by the former Waltham Watch factory. Like many other New England towns, Waltham was the home to early factories. In its case, it was the first factory to truly mass-produce watches. In its time, 1854-1957, the Waltham Watch Company made almost 40,000,000 watches. At its peak, it employed 4,000 workers. The 400,000 square foot factory site is now lofts and offices, aided I am sure by tax credits and subsidies. There is a small exhibit area in the building with displays relating to the history of the company and its workers. (All three numbers begin with 4, a co-incidence I am sure. The numbers come from the display in the exhibit area.)
This evening was the Holy Thursday service at the Paulist Center in downtown Boston. Deb and Rebecca know a lot ot people there so it is always refreshing to attend a service with them.
Ed and Chris April 2 10 pm