April 2015, Allston


24 and 26 wadsworth street, allston  (sonya kovacic)

24 and 26 wadsworth street, allston (sonya kovacic)

The Wadsworth House at Harvard University is the second oldest standing building at Harvard. It is named after Benjamin Wadsworth (1670-1737) who was the first Harvard president to live in the building.

George Washington used the house for two weeks in 1775 as a headquarters for the Revolutionary War.

According to Harvard, “Wadsworth was no disciplinarian, and the young men resented a puritan restraint that was fast becoming obsolete. The faculty records, which begin with Wadsworth’s administration, are full of ‘drinking frolicks,’ poultry-stealing, profane cursing and swearing, card-playing, live snakes in tutors’ chambers, bringing ‘Rhum’ into college rooms, and ‘shamefull and scandalous Routs and Noises for sundry nights in the College Yard.’“ (Samuel Eliot Morison).

Does the name Wadsworth sound familiar? Henry Longfellow's middle name was Wadsworth. His grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, was a general during the Revolutionary War.

Take a look at a 1909 photo of the Wadsworth House and read a 1955 Harvard Crimson article about it.

Allston, March 2015


allston  (sonya kovacic)

allston (sonya kovacic)

Boston has produced many rock bands including well known bands: Aerosmith, Boston, Dropkick Murphys, the Dresden Dolls, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the Lemonheads, and the Pixies.

Have you ever wondered how Aerosmith got it's name?

Here is the story according to Wikipedia:

"The members of the band reportedly spent afternoons getting stoned and watching Three Stooges reruns. One day, they had a post-Stooges meeting to try to come up with a name. Kramer said when he was in school he would write the word aerosmith all over his notebooks. The name had popped into his head after listening to Harry Nilsson's album Aerial Ballet, which featured jacket art of a circus performer jumping out of a biplane. Initially, Kramer's bandmates were nonplussed; they all thought he was referring to the Sinclair Lewis novel they were required to read in high school English class. "No, not Arrowsmith," Kramer explained. "A-E-R-O...Aerosmith." The band settled upon this name after also considering "the Hookers" and "Spike Jones."

In 2012, Aerosmith played a free concert in front of their old Allston apartment on 1325 Commonwealth Ave.

The British newspaper the Guardian, created a list of the top 10 live music venues in Boston.

February 2015, Allston


allston crosswalk  (sonya kovacic)

allston crosswalk (sonya kovacic)

According to a 2014 report by the advocacy group, Smart Growth America, the Greater Boston area is the safest metro area for pedestrians in the United States. In the 2014 Liberty Mutual Insurance Pedestrian Safety Index, Boston is ranked the second safest city for pedestrians in the United States behind Seattle:

In Boston, pedestrians walk safely thanks to the installation of 195 traffic-monitoring cameras, more than 3,600 public safety signs posted annually, and more than 90 city traffic signals retimed in 2013. Residents have taken note of the city’s efforts with 97 percent reporting that the city is proactive in fostering pedestrian safety.

The ranking:

  1. Seattle, Wash.
  2. Boston, Mass.
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. San Francisco, Calif.
  5. New York, N.Y.
  6. Portland, Ore.
  7. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  8. Minneapolis, Minn.
  9. Chicago, Ill
  10. Atlanta, Ga
  11. Denver, Colo.
  12. Philadelphia, Pa.
  13. Baltimore, Md.
  14. Columbus, Ohio
  15. Los Angeles, Calif

Is Boston really that safe for pedestrians? Nestor Ramos from the Boston Globe argues that there is not enough data to tell.

WalkBoston is a non-profit pedestrian advocacy organization dedicated to improving walking conditions in cities and towns across Massachusetts. In 2001 they piloted a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program to get more children walking and biking to school.

Boston is a walking city.


December 2014, Allston, Industry


genzyme building in allston (sonya kovacic)

genzyme building in allston (sonya kovacic)

Genzyme is a Boston based biotech company that was founded in 1981 with around 20 employees. The first office and lab was on the top floor of a 15th story building in Chinatown. Since then, Genzyme has grown to be one of the largest biotech companies in the world that employs over 10,000 people and has buildings in over 65 countries. Known for treating rare genetic diseases known as lysomal storage disorders (LSDs), Genzyme has expanded to treat diseases like thyroid cancer and multiple sclerosis. In 2011, it was bought by the French multinational pharmaceutical company, Sanolfi, for more than $20 billion.

Genzyme's global headquarters, known as the Genzyme Center, is located at 500 Kendall Square in Cambridge. The 12 story, 350,000 square foot center cost $140 million to build and is considered one of the most environmentally responsible office buildings in the United States.

Built on the former site of a coal gasification plant that was left abandoned, the site was restored and decontaminated. Thanks to the building's concrete construction, solar panels, use of waste steam for cooling and heating, extensive use of natural light and an insulating second layer of glass covering much of the exterior, the building's energy costs are 42% less than comparable buildings.

You can take a virtual tour of the "green building" and learn more about it here. And fun fact, the design of the ceiling was based on Matisse’s painting “Blue Nude.” 

Allston, Bridge, September 2014, Brighton


the mass pike, looking west (sonya kovacic)

the mass pike, looking west (sonya kovacic)

Route 90 is the longest interstate highway in the country, stretching over 3,100 miles from Logan Airport to Seattle, Washington.

The Massachusetts portion (the Massachusetts Turnpike) takes a little over 2 hours to drive. Almost this same route was made over 200 years ago on foot, during the Revolutionary War. George Washington commissioned Colonel Henry Knox to retrieve 108 cannons from captured British forts in Upstate New York. The brigade spent the winter carrying the cannons back east (including over frozen rivers) to assist the Continental Army in Boston.

The trail has since been named the Henry Knox Trail.

(If you've ever wondered how the Interstate highways get their numbers: west-east highways are even-numbered, and increase in number as you go north. North-south highways are odd-numbered, and increase in number as you go east. Consequently, Boston's major interstates are two of the highest in the country: I-90 and I-95.)

Last month, Slate tried explaining the most confusing sign on the Turnpike.

Allston, August 2014


beatboxer, coco rosie at paradise rock club, allston  (sonya kovacic)

beatboxer, coco rosie at paradise rock club, allston (sonya kovacic)

After Wednesday's email about Newbury Street, one of our subscribers told us about another local institution that originated there. His email to us is today's trivia — thanks, Danny!

"Ah, you missed one more major school that started on Newbury!


Joseph Schillinger was a music theorist and composer who moved to America in the 1920s or 1930s, I can't recall when. He was also one of the first to experiment with electronic music, but he is mostly known for his contributions to jazz and pop. He taught many famous musicians of the time, including Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and George Gershwin (for example, bits of Schillinger's influence can be found in Porgy and Bess). The famous Glenn Miller ballad Moonlight Serenade is actually based on Schillinger's ideas that involve using fairly arbitrary patterns and, well, almost formulas, and bringing out musical ideas from them.
 Anyway, Schillinger died in 1943 and one of his few students certified to teach his material was Lawrence Berk. In 1945, Berk started The Schillinger House at 284 Newbury Street, where he taught the Schillinger System in a more formal setting. Most of the students were working musicians, taking a few day classes during the week and gigging on nights and weekends. The Schillinger House was basically the first school in the world to primarily teach jazz, pop, rock, etc., instead of focusing on classical music. The school grew, as did Lawrence's family, and in 1954 he renamed the institution after his young son, Lee Berk. Thus, Berklee School of Music  (which by 1970 had changed its name to Berklee College of Music) was founded on Newbury Street.

I myself went there from 2003-2007 and took the only class left that uses advanced Schillinger System methods and techniques. That class may not even be available anymore, but the roots at Newbury Street are still fascinating to me!

— Danny Fratina"

Right down the street from Berklee's current location, you can watch students and professionals playing 365 days a year.

Allston, August 2014


at pikaichi, in allston  (sonya kovacic)

at pikaichi, in allston (sonya kovacic)

Talk about your dreams.

That's how Yume Wo Katare – a ramen restaurant in Porter Square – translates from Japanese. And they mean it. Every facet of the restaurant is designed to uplift.

There are only two dishes available: a heaping serving of ramen served with pork, or a heaping serving of ramen served with extra pork. It's a challenge to complete the whole bowl — but if you do, the staff (and other customers) will applaud you.

If you can't finish, you're consoled with an "almost...".

When WBUR spoke with a server, Makoto Yamamato, he summed it up: "if you can finish this high bowl of ramen, you can do anything in life."

Read the rest of the WBUR article here, or just take a look at bowls of ramen from around the city.

Allston, July 2014


nstar power substation, allston  (sonya kovacic)

nstar power substation, allston (sonya kovacic)

Most of Massachusetts's electricity is generated by natural gas — over 68%, according to 2012 estimates. That rate has more than doubled in ten years, replacing much of our coal and oil consumption. In fact, due to competition from natural gas, all of Massachusetts's coal plants will be closed by 2017.

The second highest source of electricity for Massachusetts — 16% — is nuclear power, which is all generated at one plant in Plymouth. Renewable sources — which include hydroelectric, wood and other biomass, wind, and solar — account for 8% (up from about 5% in 2002).

540 Harrison Ave was once the world's largest electrical power station — and is now home to SoWa Sundays.

Allston, July 2014


stars & stripes & sox, over regina pizzeria  (sonya kovacic)

stars & stripes & sox, over regina pizzeria (sonya kovacic)

It's our 50th email! Thanks for keeping up with us for the past ten (!) weeks.

Here's some "50" related trivia:

On March 24, 1964, the 50
¢ coin featuring (native Brookline-ite) John F. Kennedy was introduced across the country. The coins sold out in many cities in a matter of hours — Boston's banks sold out of the coins by noon that day.

Kennedy's image on the coin was actually changed at the last minute. The story goes, Jackie Kennedy did not like the the way her late husband's hair looked, and requested a redesign. The rare "accented hair" coin proofs can still be found today — they sell for over $5,000 each.

This year, the Kennedy coin will be commemorated for its 5oth anniversary. 

(Next year, Jackie Kennedy will get a coin, too. As part of the Presidential $1 Coin series, each First Lady also appears on a gold $10 coin, minted with her image.)

In honor of our 50th email, take a look back at our email archive — and stay tuned for a Bostonology announcement on Monday...

Allston, July 2014


beacon park yard, allston  (sonya kovacic)

beacon park yard, allston (sonya kovacic)

Before it was converted to Beacon Park Rail Yard in the 1890s, the site between BU and the Massachusetts Turnpike was known as Beacon Park Trotting Yard. Founded in 1864, the yard was one of Boston's first and most popular race tracks. It could get pretty crowded — some days, up to 20,000 spectators came to see the horse races.

The venue was also home to some feature performances, including Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West. The traveling show had it all: horseback riders in exotic costumes, wild buffalo, stagecoach robberies, and battles between "Cowboys and Indians". Additionally, many famous westerners got their start in the show, including Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane.

During Cody's stays, the show's animals were kept nearby in the Brighton Stockyards, and then herded along Lincoln Street to perform. During one peculiar trek to Beacon Park, a big dog managed to scare the buffalo — scattering them throughout the neighborhood. They could be seen roaming around the streets of Brighton, until finally being rounded up by Cody's men on horseback.

Beacon Park Yard officially closed to rail traffic in 2013, and due to a rerouting of the Mass Pike, the neighborhood will soon be ready for new development. There's no shortage of ideas, either — according to The Globe, suggestions include new housing units, a Harvard expansion, a park, a Boston Marathon memorial, an Olympic stadium, and a new "West Station" linking Allston and Cambridge by rail.