Jamaica Plain

Jamaica Plain, May 2015


porch living, jp  (sonya kovacic)

porch living, jp (sonya kovacic)

In Boston, porches are synonymous with a popular form of architecture from the late 19th/early 20th century-- the triple-decker. Triple-deckers allowed recent immigrants and the working class to own property, live away from the city, and have outdoor space with porches.

From the Boston Public Library:

"During the 1870' s, suburbs such as Allston, Jamaica Plain and Dorchester were annexed to Boston and the horse-drawn streetcar system was extended to serve them. This set the stage for a period of tremendous economic and physical development in Boston. Given the opportunity to move from the crowded conditions of the old "walking" city, a rapidly growing middle class chose to move to the new "streetcar suburbs," where they were able to afford a free-standing one-, two- or three-family wooden house with enough land to provide a sense of individuality.

The triple-decker evolved as a unique and enormously popular housing style during the period of sustained building activity that began around 1890 and lasted into the 1920' s. By 1920, approximately 15,000 triple-deckers had been constructed in Boston, and the style had spread throughout New England. Free-standing houses with a two- or three-bedroom apartment on each floor, triple-deckers provided more light, fresh air and suburban green space than the older brick row houses closer to the center of the city.

Tomorrow is PorchFest in Somerville! Porches all over Somerville become performance spaces for local bands. Take a look at this map to see which bands are playing and where.

JP will have their second annual Porchfest on July 11th.

Jamaica Plain, May 2015


bootstrap compost, jp

bootstrap compost, jp

Bootstrap [compost] provides residential subscribers with a 5-gallon bucket, liner and lid. Over a week (or two), you fill it with coffee grounds, egg shells, tea bags, veggie matter, old memories, etc. Anything goes except meat and dairy products. On your pickup day, you’ll leave the bucket near the front entrance of your residence; Bootstrap picks it up and drops off a clean new bucket. Every four months, Bootstrap delivers five pounds of our premium soil amendment. The cost: $8 per weekly or $10 per biweekly (once every two weeks) visit.

Learn more about Bootstrap composting here

April 2015, Jamaica Plain

national parks

boomerangs find , jp  (sonya kovacic)

boomerangs find, jp (sonya kovacic)

According to the National Park Service, Massachusetts has:

  • 16 National Parks
  • 4,368 National Register of Historic Places listings
  • 11 National Natural Landmarks
  • 187 National Historic Landmarks

One of the National Parks is called... Boston. The park is 43 acres, encompasses 350 years of history, and make up the Freedom Trail, the Charlestown Navy Yard, and Dorchester Heights.

On March 4th, 1776, American forces occupied Dorchester Heights.

Take a look at all the National Parks in the United States and learn some fun facts.

April 2015, Jamaica Plain


jp pond  (sonya kovacic)

jp pond (sonya kovacic)

Harvesting and supplying ice was once a big business in the Boston area. In the early/mid 19th century, Frederic Tudor, also known as the Ice King, was responsible for exporting ice to the Caribbean and even to India! The Jamaica Plain Pond became an important area for harvesting ice. Here is an excerpt from a 2007 talk by Charlie Rosenberg for the JP Historical Society.

"By 1880, the Jamaica Pond Ice Company had 22 icehouses on Jamaica Pond with a storage capacity of 30,000 tons. The company supplied ice to customers in Brookline, West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, South End, Roxbury and Dorchester.  At the peak of the harvesting season the company employed more than 600 men with 75 men being employed during the summer.  The company had a special brewery department with 100 teams of horses that were used to supply ice to 25 breweries in the area."

Take a look at this woodcut from Winslow Homer titled, Skating on Jamaica Pond near Boston.

April 2015, Jamaica Plain


arboretum in the spring  (sonya kovacic)

arboretum in the spring (sonya kovacic)

The Boston Public Garden was established in 1837. It was the the first public botanical garden in the United States. If anyone remembers the trivia question from Bruce's Friday Trivia, the  Public Garden followed the Boston Common by 203 years! The Boston Common opened in 1634 and was America's first public park.

In the early days, according to the city of Boston, "some complained that the unnatural combinations of colorful plants were garish beyond the bounds of good taste."

Rich Bostonian Horace Gray was responsible for the creation of the Public Garden. He was known to have one of the most lavish gardens in the city. His second wife, Sarah Russell Gardner, was a sister of Jack Gardner who eventually married Isabella Stewart. The same Isabella Stewart Gardner whose Venetian courtyard is one of the most beautiful sites in Boston.

Check out this early 20th century photo of the Public Gardens.

Fenway Park recently created a roof deck garden called Fenway Farms to serve home-grown concessions during games.

April 2015, Jamaica Plain

one boston day

japanese lantern festival, jp  (sonya kovacic)

japanese lantern festival, jp (sonya kovacic)

Mayor Walsh declared April 15th, One Boston Day. April 15th marks the anniversary of the marathon bombing. 

Here is a description:
April 15th marks the beginning of a new annual Boston tradition: One Boston Day. This day will be a celebration of the resiliency, generosity, and strength of the people that make Boston the great city it is.

  • This is a day for businesses and organizations to display their humanity and draw neighbors together
  • On this day, we remember and reflect. We greet our neighbors. We lend a hand. We reach out, give back, and go above and beyond

Hopefully communities, residents, businesses, and organizations in the Boston area can strive to work together all the time, not just for one day.

You can see what people are doing today on twitter.

March 2015, Jamaica Plain


a victorian home in jp built in 1890  (sonya kovacic)

a victorian home in jp built in 1890 (sonya kovacic)

Boston's history can be visualized by its architecture. In Building Victorian Boston, the Architecture of Gridley J.F. Bryant, author Roger Reed writes about Boston's Victorian period and the architect who was responsible for many of the buildings of that time. Here is a description of the book:

"Much of Boston's rich heritage of Victorian buildings dates from the mid-nineteenth century when Gridley James Fox Bryant (1816–1899) dominated the profession of architecture in the city. At that time, Boston was undergoing a transformation from a quaint post-colonial town to a rapidly expanding Victorian metropolis. Bryant led this transformation, providing an important link between the earlier architecture of Charles Bulfinch and Alexander Parris and the later work of such practitioners as H. H. Richardson and Peabody & Stearns."

152 of his buildings were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872.

For my friends who went to Bates, Bryant was responsible for Hathron Hall.

What Was Here is an online tool that lets you explore historical photos with current street views/google maps. Take a look at the Allen House, a Victorian mansion in the South End, from this perspective.

Jamaica Plain, January 2014


dilemma  (sonya kovacic)

dilemma (sonya kovacic)

A sidewalk's importance is not usually noticeable until it's inaccessible. Take using public transport to get to the airport. On an ordinary day, it's not so bad. When there are six feet snowbanks spilling over onto the sidewalks, it's not so easy. (Cue to carrying a 30 pound suitcase in your arms to the train station.)

Although clearing roads after a a snowstorm is a priority, sidewalks can take days, even weeks to be cleared. And it is one reason why the Boston school system is still closed today.  

For many, it's an inconvenience that you deal with when living in an old (in US terms) city in the Northeast. However for residents with disabilities, it makes getting around nearly impossible. For these same residents, sidewalks are noticeable year round. 

This past summer, sidewalk inaccessibility came to light in Beacon Hill, one of Boston's oldest neighborhoods. In order to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the city needs to install ramps on sidewalks. The Beacon Hill Civic Association sued the city for the cement materials that were being used for the ramps. The Association wants materials that preserve Beacon Hill's brick sidewalks and historical charm.

To read more about the Beacon Hill sidewalk issue, go here.

To read more about the Beacon Hill Civic Association and it's history, go here.

To read more about what sidewalks could look like in the future, go here.

Jamaica Plain, January 2014


a sunday escape (sonya kovacic)

a sunday escape (sonya kovacic)

Days like today make you wonder why the Pilgrims made the voyage to Massachusetts.

They didn't mean to.

The Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower were in route to the British Colony of Virginia, when storms and navigational problems diverted the ship to what is now Provincetown, Cape Cod. They arrived on November 21, 1620.

Half the passengers died during the first winter. Here's a list of everyone who made the voyage

Jamaica Plain, January 2014, Nature


southwest corridor(sonya kovacic)

southwest corridor(sonya kovacic)

Oh have you heard? It's supposed to snow tomorrow.

Here is a breakdown of the top 5 snowstorms in Boston from the National Weather Service:

1. February 17th-18th, 2003: 27.6 inches
2. February 6th-7th, 1978: 27.1 inches
3. February 24th-27th, 1969: 25.8 inches
4. March 31st-April 1st, 1997: 25.4 inches
5. February 7th-9th, 2013: 24.9 inches

During the "Great Snow of 1717" it snowed for 9 days. Boston saw up to 40 inches of snow and Bostonians walked on stilts. The good news though, there was no electricity to lose.

Jamaica Plain, January 2014, parks


boston park rangers mounted unit, arboretum (sonya kovacic

boston park rangers mounted unit, arboretum (sonya kovacic

In 1982, the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit was established to protect and patrol the Emerald Necklace (which was landscape architect, Frederick Olmsted's original plan). The Emerald Necklace is a 1,100 acre chain of nine parks that include the Boston Common, Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Back Bay Fens, The Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Arnold Arboretum, and the Franklin Park.

Because of budget cuts, the city of Boston could no longer afford the program and faced eliminating the Unit in 2009. The Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit was established in 2010 to fundraise the $155,000 annual dues needed to keep the Unit afloat. Thanks to their effort, the dues were raised this year and the 6 horses; Mystic, Otis, Frederick, Liberty, Baron and Winston can continue patrolling the parks.

Take a look at an 1888 photo of the last horse drawn streetcar in Boston. 

December 2014, Orange Line, Jamaica Plain

new year

celeberating on the orange line (sonya kovacic)

celeberating on the orange line (sonya kovacic)

Today, Americans are used to a calendar with a "year" based the earth's rotation around the sun, with "months" having no relationship to the cycles of the moon and New Years Day falling on January 1. However, that system was not adopted in England and its colonies until 1752. 

-Connecticut State Library

Before 1752, England and its colonies followed the Julian Calendar (named after Julius Caesar). New Year's varied from country to country, and England preferred to celebrate it on March 25th because of the Christian holiday, Annunciation Day or Lady Day, when Mary found out she was pregnant.

The Boston Globe explains the change, "over time, the misalignment of dates made trade between Britain and the rest of Europe difficult. The British mercantile class began to agitate for calendar reform, and the government finally relented with the Calendar Act of 1751, which declared that as of 1752, Britain and its colonies would adopt the Gregorian system, including its Jan. 1 New Year. It created a very strange year, in which 1751 started in March, but 1752 started the following January; the next September was shortened by 11 days to shift the overall calendar into alignment with Gregorian timekeeping."

First Night is a celebration of New Year's Eve that takes place in cities all over North America. The first First Night actually occurred in Boston in 1975, and was formed by a group of artists. Check out this year's schedule.

Another Boston tradition is the annual L Street Brownies New Year’s Day Swim that started in 1904 in Dorchester Bay. According to the city of Boston, the "Brownies are the oldest “polar bear” swimming club in America." Take a look at a video of a 1969 L Street Brownies winter swim.

If you are interested in participating this year, the swim is hosted by the BCYF Curley Community Center, 1663 Columbia Road in South Boston, and takes place at the “K” Street entrance of the center. The swim starts at 9:30 a.m. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 11:00 a.m. 

Jamaica Plain, December 2014, Housing

back of the hill

back of the hill apartments, jp (sonya kovacic)

back of the hill apartments, jp (sonya kovacic)

Back of the Hill Apartments is a 125-unit elderly property located in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, MA that was developed in 1980 to meet the housing needs of elderly and handicapped persons of low and middle incomes. Comprised of an eleven story steel-frame/dryvit exterior constructed building, the unit includes 99 one-bedroom units, 20 two-bedroom units and 6 three-bedroom units, of which 100% are subsidized by a Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments contract regulated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The City of Boston's Commission on Affairs of the Elderly and the Gerontology Institute at UMass Boston put together a report titled "Aging in Boston."

By 2030, as many as 130,000 seniors are projected to reside in Boston (as many as 20% of Boston residents).
Nearly 6 out of 10 Boston residents age 60 and older are women.
In absolute numbers the largest senior population resides in Dorchester, with nearly 16,000 seniors; indeed, nearly one out of five Boston seniors live in Dorchester.
Racial diversity within the senior population will increase.
Seven out of ten seniors live in a building with two or more families, and half of seniors live in housing units that were built before 1940 (which is difficult for seniors that have limited mobility).
The vast majority of Boston seniors live in the community, with only 4% living in nursing homes; however, nursing home residence is considerably more common among residents age 80 and older (12%).
The Elder Economic Security Standard Index for Boston is a useful indicator of the financial resources needed for an older adult age 65 or older to live independently in Boston. The Index value for 2011 was $29,100 for single renters and $40,584 for couples who rent. Comparing these Index values to the incomes that Boston seniors living independently actually have indicates that 75% of Boston seniors age 65 or older, and 52% of elder couples, have incomes below these thresholds.

You can read the "Aging in Boston" report here. 

December 2014, Jamaica Plain


wok n talk 1:30am  (sonya kovacic)

wok n talk 1:30am  (sonya kovacic)

How can Boston improve its nightlife? 

Mayor's response on May 12th, 2014:

BOSTON—Mayor Martin J. Walsh has identified a diverse group of students, restaurant and bar owners, law enforcement, and business leaders from across the City to create a Late Night Task Force. The group, which has held two meetings since its April 2014 launch, is examining ways to foster and grow a safe and vibrant late night culture in the City of Boston.  

“As I shared with the Boston Municipal Research Bureau in March, we have an opportunity here to create the kind of nightlife that visitors expect in a world-class city,” said Mayor Walsh. “We’re thinking globally, and by engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and the community, we can explore new ways to make Boston a more exciting and engaging place to live, work, study and visit.”

The Late Night Task Force is examining: business districts and neighborhoods that are favorable for later closing hours; public safety requirements of expanded late night hours; existing liquor license restrictions; entertainment license expansion; late night transportation access; and how to effectively launch the expanded services. The Task Force is working with students at the Harvard Kennedy School who have analyzed how other cities have approached expanded late night activities, surveyed young people, and mapped liquor license and crime statistics, Boston’s street lights, and where young adults live.

Edward L. Glaeser from the Boston Globe (and a Professor of Economics at Harvard) wrote an interesting article titled, Better nightlife through experimentation. He asks the question, "where should all this activity in the wee hours be allowed?" His article includes data and maps.

On Friday, March 28, 2014, the MBTA started its Late Night Pilot Program that extended service 90 minutes on all subway and key bus routes on Friday and Saturday nights. Thrillist created a Boston T Bar Map that replaces subway stations with bars close by.

It would be interesting to see what the bostonology community thinks about Boston's nightlife. Send us a note at daily@bostonology.org if you want to share your opinions.

December 2014, Jamaica Plain, parks


peter, jp pond (sonya kovacic)

peter, jp pond (sonya kovacic)

This is Peter. He was born at the MIT Media Lab by Changing Environments and brings you free solar-powered charging for your phone.

Peter is one of a dozen Soofas (solar-powered benches) currently in Boston designed by three women; Jutta Friedrichs, Sandra Richter, and Nan Zhao. Richter and Zhao met at the MIT Media Lab and recruited Friedrichs from Harvard. In the spring of 2015, there will be 100+ more Soofas in the city.

Soofas charge smart phones and other small electronic devices day and night with the power of the sun, they share information about soofa usage and number of sunlight hours collected, and they sense the surroundings to inform cities and citizens about environmental conditions such as the quality of air.

Soofas are part of the greater trend to make cities smarter and more digitally connected. According to Forbes, Smart Cities will be a "$1.5 trillion market opportunity and are characterized by cities who have at least five out of the eight “smart” parameters; smart governance, smart energy, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart healthcare and smart citizen." 

Click here to learn more about Soofas.

If you want to read more about Smart Cities, you can read the Forbes article in its entirety, check out MIT"s Smart City group, and BU's Smart City research. And maybe be lead down a rabbit hole.

Jamaica Plain, Brookline, Institutions, Bridge, November 2014


waiting for the 66 under the jamaicaway overpass (sonya kovacic)

waiting for the 66 under the jamaicaway overpass (sonya kovacic)

"Parkways are an integral part of Olmsted’s design of the Emerald Necklace. Originally laid out as carriage roads, the parkways were intended as pleasure routes following the meanderings of the Muddy River, connecting the parks from the Back Bay Fens in the heart of the city to the more rural Franklin Park. Although the parkways have become major commuter routes, they continue to provide scenic glimpses into the parks and a more verdant experience for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians."

-Emerald Necklace Conservancy

Jamaicaway is a four lane parkway in Jamaica Plain, connecting the Riverway and Arborway parkways. The parkway has become a popular route for cars and its windy and narrow roads have caused many accidents.

The Jamaicaway overpass was constructed as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1934 (part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal). On the night of its opening, in August 1936, heavy rain caused damage, and the overpass was closed for repairs until the spring of 1938.

The Jamaicaway Towers and Town Houses is a 30 foot residential building that stands out in the JP landscape. Constructed in the 1960's, it was controversial at the time. Read the Jamaica Plain Gazette story and see a couple of before and after photos.

Jamaica Plain, November 2014, transportation

"e" branch

heath street stop (sonya kovacic)

heath street stop (sonya kovacic)

Heath Street is currently the last stop on the Green Line "E" Branch. Though, at one point, the electric trolley ran all the way to the Arborway stop (near the Forest Hills Station in Jamaica Plain). The trolley was an important means of transportation for residents of JP; allowing them access to hospitals, universities, and downtown Boston.

Because of societal changes like improved roads, reliance on cars, efficiency of buses, and subways; the electric trolley became less important. In 1985, the MBTA suspended trolley service from -- Heath Street to Arborway-- for maintenance reasons, and replaced it with the 39 bus. The suspension became permanent after much controversy (and a lawsuit) from JP community groups, and in 2008, the track vestiges were paved over. The 39 bus goes from Forest Hills to Back Bay, and runs parallel to the "E" Branch from Heath Street; raising questions about the future of the "E" Branch.

If you want to see what Centre Street in JP looked like with a trolley, check out this 1967 photo.

Jamaica Plain, November 2014

veterans day

statue outside the VA hospital, jp (brian mclean)

statue outside the VA hospital, jp (brian mclean)

Curated by Navy Veteran Brian McLean

Massachusetts has a rich military history. We are all familiar with the state’s role in the Revolutionary War, but did you know that Massachusetts was the location of a World War I naval engagement? German U-boats sunk a tugboat off the coast of Orleans in July of 1918. Several shells landed harmlessly on shore, marking the first, and only time, the US mainland was attacked during WWI. Although the event was isolated and nobody was killed, it still created widespread panic along the northeast coast.

The US Navy has had 6 ships and (most recently) one submarine bear the namesake BOSTON. The WWII era USS BOSTON (CA 69) was highly decorated, participating in the Pacific Theater of Operations. When the war ended the USS BOSTON was decommissioned until the mid-50’s. Due to Cold War threats, the ship was retrofitted as the first Boston-class guided missile cruiser. Re-designated USS BOSTON (CAG1), she helped usher the era of guided missiles in the fleet by being one of the first vessels equipped with that technology.

Thank you to all those who have served!

Here's a link to learn more about the USS Boston.

Jamaica Plain, November 2014, Orange Line

park square

old advertisement; stony brook station, orange line (sonya kovacic)

old advertisement; stony brook station, orange line (sonya kovacic)

Park Square was once the main hub of the Boston & Providence Railroad; the railroad, completed in 1835, connected Boston to Providence. After the opening of South Station in 1899, the Park Square Railroad Station was abandoned.

UMass Boston, the second university in the UMass system, also made its home in Park Square. After increased demands for a public university outside of Amherst, UMass Boston was founded in 1965, and was located in the Park Square Building. In 1974, it moved to its current location in Columbia Point, Dorchester. Currently, the Park Square Building is a commercial space, home to restaurants (Maggiano's anyone?) and businesses.

There also used to be a bus depot in Park Square where, the grasshopper weathervane from Faneuil Hall, was supposedly hidden.

Learn more about the evolution of Park Square and see pictures of the old Park Square Railroad Station here.