May 2014

Mission Hill, May 2014, sports


hoop on mission hill  (sonya kovacic)

hoop on mission hill (sonya kovacic)

"People never thought that much of the Boston scene. Boston didn't have that New York reputation, that kind of flavor, and it certainly wasn't touching Philadelphia. So people coming to Boston felt that they were going to be easy picking. Of course, they were mistaken."

— Former Celtics star Tom "Satch" Sanders, the coach of Boston's team for the first annual Boston Shootout basketball tournament. The Shootout was founded in 1972 by Ken Hudson – the first African-American NBA referee – as a chance to showcase Boston's homegrown high school players. Hudson handpicked the "Boston Six" — players from six local high schools who were trained on courts throughout the city — to compete against teams from New York, Washington, and Connecticut. Despite low expectations for the Boston Six, they went on to win the first annual championship by a 1-point margin.

In the following decades, the Boston Shootout became the most prominent showcase for high school basketball talent in the country. Throughout the years, the tournament hosted up-and-coming players like Kobe Byrant, Ron Artest, Grant Hill, Tree Rollins, and Patrick Ewing. 

The Mission Hill Projects were one of the highest-crime neighborhoods in Boston for decades, but they were home to some of the most talented basketball players in the city.  The Mission, a documentary released this year, tells the story of two brothers: one who ended up in jail, and one who ended up a college champion

Boston Harbor, May 2014


ferry to the harbor islands  (sonya kovacic)

ferry to the harbor islands (sonya kovacic)

When the Puritans settled in Boston and Charlestown in 1630, they quickly realized they needed an easy way to get back and forth between the two settlements.  That same year, the Court of Assistants granted a charter to Edward Converse to operate a ferry across the Charles River. The charter also established the ferry's pricing, which would be 2 pence per passenger (or 1 apiece if the party was 2 or more), 1 penny per goat, 2 pence per swine, and 6 pence per horse or cow.

The "great ferry" ran successfully for over 100 years, but became obsolete after the construction of a bridge. The Charles River Bridge, completed in 1785, was the predecessor to today's Charlestown Bridge. If you've ever followed the Freedom Trail, you've walked across the Charlestown Bridge – and walked directly above Edward Converse's historic ferry route.

This month, the MBTA launched a new daily ferry service between Boston and Lynn. You can use it as an excuse to visit Dungeon Rock in Lynn Woods — a cave with a history involving ghosts,  an earthquake, and a pirate's buried treasure.

Cambridge, May 2014, MIT


the stata center at MIT  (sonya kovacic)

the stata center at MIT (sonya kovacic)

The Stata Center at MIT is unlike any other building on Earth, and is considered by many an architectural breakthrough. Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the building's whimsical appearance and unusual geometry  were critically acclaimed when it opened in 2004.

The Stata Center (named after Ray and Maria Stata) also holds the distinction of being one of the first buildings designed using 3D software. In order to realize his unorthodox design, Gehry adapted a software that had previously been used to design airliners.

The Stata Center houses MIT CSAIL (the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory), one of the most innovative research programs in the world. In honor of their 50th anniversary, BetaBoston has compiled a list of 50 inventions with ties to MIT and CSAIL, including email, the spreadsheet, and the Roomba.

Jamaica Plain, May 2014

southwest cooridor

southwest corridor  (sonya kovacic)

southwest corridor (sonya kovacic)

"The thing I remember about the Southwest Corridor was coming up to the old railroad underpasses and seeing all of the 'People Before Highways' graffiti ... Along Columbus Avenue I'd look at all of the buildings that had been torn down and think that it looked like a bomb had hit. It made you sick. Who'd take down a community like that?

— Ellen Anderson, government aide in Boston in the 1960s, on the demolition of a large section of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain to make room for I-95. The plan—initiated in 1948 —was to built the twelve-lane interstate directly through the neighborhoods.

The communities of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain immediately started a grassroots fight against the highway's construction, using slogans like "People Before Highways." After years of protests, their determination paid off, and the highway was rerouted outside of the city. In an effort to reclaim the land for the community, a  4.7-mile-long linear park was created, with playgrounds, basketball and tennis courts, and trails for walking, jogging, and biking.

As part of the park-building process, the community ran several public art initiatives. One of which—"Boston Contemporary Writers"—ran a contest for 18 pieces of poetry and prose to be permanently inscribed in granite along the park's span. The council selected 18 writers from anonymous submissions, which varied from community members to famous writers and poets. You can view the pieces on display outside of T stations along the Orange Line, or read a sampling from an article from 1991.

January 2014, May 2014


canada geese on jamaica pond  (sonya kovacic)

canada geese on jamaica pond (sonya kovacic)

They're a familiar sight all over the city (and considered a pest by many), but Canada Geese just barely survived extinction in the early 20th century. Along with several other North American species, they were almost wiped out by over-hunting and the growing American population. It wasn't until the 1930s that the U.S. government intervened and implemented measures to protect the species, including the outlawing of "live decoys," or geese with clipped wings as hunting lures.

These geese were then raised in captivity, and raised generations of young who never learned to migrate. Those birds were the ancestors of today's non-migratory geese, now seen all over Boston in parks, yards, ponds, and walkways. In fact, the population has exploded—in just the past twenty years, the number of Canada Geese in the Northeast has tripled.

Before our relationship with geese became "complicated", one of Boston's earliest photographers used them as inspiration. The world's oldest surviving aerial photo — "Boston, as the Eagle and the Wild Goose See It" — was taken by James Wallace Black  in 1860 from a hot air balloon.

May 2014, South Boston Waterfront, ICA


dancing on the deck at ICA first fridays  (sonya kovacic)

dancing on the deck at ICA first fridays (sonya kovacic)

Although the unlucky origins of "Friday the Thirteenth" are historically unclear, one historian suggests that the superstition became widespread after a Boston millionaire wrote and published a novel in the early 20th century. The man was Thomas W. Lawson, and he was well-known in Boston as a stockbroker, copper magnate, businessman, and even U.S. Senate candidate. In 1907, he published Friday, the Thirteenth, which tells the story of a stockbroker who uses the day to create a stock market crash. The story was a precautionary tale about stock market manipulation, but it's also one of the earliest instances of the day being considered unlucky.

The story doesn't end there. Lawson was known for several other ventures, including his namesake: the giant seven-masted schooner, named, appropriately, the Thomas W. Lawson. The ship was the largest pure sailing vessel ever built, but ultimately crashed and wrecked in a storm. The date? It was the night of December 13, 1907 (a Friday).

Not unlucky: over sixty Boston-area museums and cultural venues will open their doors for free this summer in a series of "Free Fun Fridays."

Cambridge, May 2014


magazine street, cambridge  (sonya kovacic)

magazine street, cambridge (sonya kovacic)

Harvard University is the embodiment of the term "Ivy League" — prestigious, competitive, Northeastern, and old. However, the term "Ivy League" originally had nothing to do with academics — it was actually coined by sportswriters in the 1930s as a way to refer to the group of elite, Northeastern colleges with strong athletic programs (especially football). These colleges were similar in many ways, including the ivy-covered walls of their old campus buildings. The term stuck, and became official in the 1950s with the formation of the Ivy League conference in the NCAA.

When Harvard's Art Museums open their brand new building in November, their collections will be brought together under one roof for the first time in their history. This includes the work of Nan Goldin, the famed photographer who got her start while photographing Boston's drag scene in the 1970s. For now, you can view her portraits online, including Noemi screaming at The Other Side, Bea having tea, and Ivy in the Garden.

Back Bay, May 2014


fairmont copley plaza  (sonya kovacic)

fairmont copley plaza (sonya kovacic)

The Fairmont Copley Plaza in Copley Square has hosted hundreds of famous personalities since it opened in 1912. Almost every U.S. president since Taft has stayed at the hotel, and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got a room in 1975 for their second honeymoon.

Additionally, artist John Singer Sargent stayed at the hotel while completing the Boston Public Library's murals next door. It was during his stay – it's believed – where Sargent discovered his muse. The man was Thomas McKeller, a Copley Plaza elevator operator and bellhop. McKeller modeled for several of Sargent's male figures, and also posed for his famous Nude Study — now displayed at the MFA.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza has continued to evolve, including a new experiment with urban beekeeping. Following the lead of a few other local institutions, the hotel installed several beehives in their rooftop garden in 2012. They're making good use of the honey, too: it's used in their restaurant's dishes, smoothies, and cocktails.

May 2014, Somerville


rails in union square, somerville  (sonya kovacic)

rails in union square, somerville (sonya kovacic)

Somerville and Medford will soon have at least seven new T stations, thanks to the MBTA's Green Line Extension. The project – which extends the Green Line past Lechmere Station – consists of two new branches terminating in Union Square and at Tufts University. The first three stations are set to open in 2017.

However, it won't be the first time the cities will have light rail access. Streetcar lines actually extended from Boston into its surrounding towns in the early 20th century, until they were replaced by today's bus lines. In fact, if you know where to look, you can still see some old rails peeking through the pavement.

The MBTA's history is full of extensions, replacements, and closed lines (the A Line, anyone?). Thanks to, you can view an animated map of the MBTA's history in a single gif.

May 2014, Medford


reservoir at middlesex fells reservation, medford   (sonya kovacic)

reservoir at middlesex fells reservation, medford  (sonya kovacic)

"Take it as it stands, develop to the utmost its natural characteristics, and make a true retreat not only from town but from suburban conditions ... every inducement should be offered visitors to ramble and wander about.

— Frederick Law Olmsted's advice to the newly founded Middlesex Fells Association in 1880. The Middlesex Fells Reservation — about five miles north of Boston — is now one of the largest urban forest reservations in the world.

There are plenty of things to do at the Fells, including hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, and horseback riding. Plus, there's a zoo.

Cambridge, May 2014, MIT

aesop's fables

sculpture:  aesop's fables, II       by mark di suvero,      at MIT  (sonya kovacic)

sculpture: aesop's fables, II by mark di suvero, at MIT (sonya kovacic)

In addition to the sculpture at MIT, Boston also has a realistic Aesop-inspired public statue. The bronze sculpture, titled Tortoise and Hare, depicts the fable's characters racing through Copley Square. It was created in 1995 by Nancy Schön (the artist behind the bronze Make Way for Ducklings in the Public Garden) in honor of the Boston Marathon

Sculptors have been inspired by Aesop for centuries; you can view an 18th-century ceramic sculpture of The Fox and the Stork on display at the MFA, as well as on their website's virtual tour. View it in "European Decorative Arts" — one of many curated online galleries, which also include "Boston", "Fruit", "Motherhood", "Office", and "Dragons".

Jamaica Plain, Orange Line, May 2014


charlie on the b line  (sonya kovacic)

charlie on the b line (sonya kovacic)

The CharlieCard — which made its debut in 2006 — was named after the main character in "The M.T.A. Song." As the story goes, Charlie can't afford the new exit fare, so he gets stuck on the train forever.

Although the song was popularized by the Kingston Trio in 1959, it was originally a 1949 campaign song for Walter A. O'Brien. O'Brien was running for mayor of Boston with a strong opposition to the public transit fare increase. His campaign couldn't afford radio ads at the time, so he hired folk bands to play his campaign songs (including "The M.T.A. Song") from a touring truck.

The songs didn't exactly work — he was later fined $10 for "disturbing the peace," and ultimately lost the election.

Two undergrads have developed a wearable CharlieCard that is now available for purchase. Meet the Sesame Ring.

May 2014


crane beach  (sonya kovacic)

crane beach (sonya kovacic)

America's original public beach is right at the end of the Blue Line. Revere Beach officially opened to the public on July 12, 1896, with a whopping 45,000 beachgoers in one day — that's more than the capacity of a sold-out Fenway Park.

Boston's beaches aren't exactly famous for being surfer-friendly, but there's a small community keeping a local surfing spot a well-kept secret. The Break, as detailed by Boston Magazine in 2009, can be seen from the top of office buildings downtown. Just don't ask where it is.

Back Bay, May 2014


sculpture:  neon for back bay station, by stephen antonakos       (sonya kovacic)

sculpture: neon for back bay station, by stephen antonakos (sonya kovacic)

When Boston's six-story-tall Citgo sign was built in 1965, it was installed with over five miles of neon tubing. Since then, it has lit up Kenmore Square throughout most of Boston's recent history — excluding four years in the 1980s when it was nearly disassembled in the name of conservation (citizen support saved the sign, including an article in the Boston Globe referring to it as Boston's "crown jewel" and "an accidental masterpiece"). The sign was converted from neon to LED illumination in 2005, with another LED upgrade in 2011.

What is summer in Camberville without an outdoor neon dance party?

Cambridge, May 2014


paul dudley white bicycle path in cambridge  (sonya kovacic)

paul dudley white bicycle path in cambridge (sonya kovacic)

"A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world." 

— Paul Dudley White, the Boston cardiologist after whom the Charles River bike path is named. White is considered the "Father of Cardiology in America."

The Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path is part of the East Coast Greenway: a plan to create one continuous bike path, 2,900 miles long, that extends from Maine to Florida.

Brookline, May 2014


column and pediment on beacon street, brookline  (sonya kovacic)

column and pediment on beacon street, brookline (sonya kovacic)

pediment (ˈpe-də-mənt) noun: the triangular upper part of the front of a building in classical style, typically surmounting a portico of columns

Only in Boston will you find a pediment — inspired by a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes — igniting controversy.

Cambridge, May 2014


tech dinghies on the charles river  (sonya kovacic)

tech dinghies on the charles river (sonya kovacic)

The "Tech Dinghy" was invented by an MIT professor in 1935, and they've remained an important part of life at the school ever since. Not only does MIT host the most collegiate regattas in the nation, but according to their wiki, 1 in 5 students will learn how to sail by the time they graduate.

Once a month, the MIT Sailing Pavilion stays open until midnight, allowing its members to take a dinghy out for some "moonlight sailing" on the river. Friends of members are welcome — as are strangers — but remember to BYOB.

Jamaica Plain, May 2014


oak branches at the arnold arboretum  (sonya kovacic)

oak branches at the arnold arboretum (sonya kovacic)

In 1882, Harvard University and the City of Boston made an agreement. Harvard would transfer ownership of the Arnold Arboretum to Boston, in exchange for several services (like road-building and police protection) and a long-term rental plan. The terms? Harvard has a 1,000-year lease on the land, at a rate of one dollar per year. It's not bad, for JP.

If you've ever wondered "what is this plant?", you can contact the Arnold Arboretum's volunteer-run Plant Hotline. They'll answer any plant-related questions, including plant identification or general plant problems.

Cambridge, May 2014


the sky from MIT  (sonya kovacic)

the sky from MIT (sonya kovacic)

Over 100 years ago, a man with Boston roots claimed that he beat the Wright Brothers to flight. Gustave Whitehead, a German immigrant and mechanic, was hired by the Boston Aeronautical Society in 1896. Their mission included encouraging "the work of aeronautical experimenters." Whitehead built several contraptions in Boston, including a glider and an ornithopter, or a bird-like machine that attempts flight by flapping its wings. What he is most remembered for, however, is a controversial claim: he reputedly achieved a manned, powered, controlled flight in Connecticut in August 1901 — over two years before the Wright Brothers accomplished the same task at Kitty Hawk.

MIT alumni, at the Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia, are in the process of finally bringing a "flying car" to the market.

Beacon Hill, May 2014

city upon a hill

acorn street, beacon hill  (sonya kovacic)

acorn street, beacon hill (sonya kovacic)

What is this?

It's the first edition of our new project: a daily email all about Boston. Every email will be short and sweet: one photo, one piece of trivia, and one link to something interesting. Today's theme is "City upon a Hill".

If you're on our list, WELCOME!

- Sonya & Peter

A group of Puritans from England founded the city of Boston in 1630, after a pilgrimage in search of their "City upon a Hill." The area's first European resident, however, actually arrived five years earlier. William Blaxton, an Anglican minister, built a home and farm on (what is now) Beacon Hill in 1625 — and lived in peace and quiet for five years. After the Puritans arrived, Blaxton grew tired of their intolerance, and moved further south to (what is now) Rhode Island.

The Beacon Hill Art Walk – held the first Sunday in June – is a chance to tour the private gardens, alleyways, and courtyards of Beacon Hill's north slope. It's also an opportunity to check out some work by over 40 local artists.