March 2015, Downtown, parks


patriots parade , boston common  (sonya kovacic)

patriots parade, boston common (sonya kovacic)

On July 22nd, 1927 Boston held a parade for Charles Lindbergh as part of his 48 state, 92 city tour of the United States flying the Spirit of St. Louis. It was the same single engine plane he flew on his record breaking solo non-stop flight from New York to Paris. The trip took more than 33 hours.

As you can see, Charles Lindbergh was a big draw.

You can read more about his famous flight as well as his US tour here.

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, parks, Back Bay

shurcliff benches

sadies's seat (sonya kovacic)

sadies's seat (sonya kovacic)

The Esplanade has 266 historic Shurcliff benches named for Arthur Shurcliff, the landscape designer and Olmsted protégé who laid out the park’s original plantings.

-Esplanade Association 

Arthur Shurcliff was a notable landscape architect born in Boston in 1870, who along with Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr, helped found America's first landscape architecture school at Harvard. Among many projects, he is known for laying out the Charles River Esplanade, Old Sturburdge Village, the Franklin Park Zoo, and redesigning Olmsted's Back Bay Fens.

Adopt a bench and get a customized cast bronze plaque. 

Check out Cella, a 3D printing innovation from two Harvard landscape architecture alums.

December 2014, parks, Back Bay

arthur fiedler

arthur fiedler memorial in the esplanade (sonya kovacic)

arthur fiedler memorial in the esplanade (sonya kovacic)

Arthur Fiedler was a popular conductor for the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1930-1979. During his 50 year career he was responsible for making the Boston Pops a household name, both domestically and internationally, and popularizing classical music. Thanks to his legacy, the Boston Pops perform all over the world and offer free concerts, like the July 4th concert, at the Hatch Shell.

Fiedler was born into a musical family in Boston in 1894. His Austrian father played violin for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and his mother played the piano. According to, “so many of his father’s ancestors had been violinists in Austria that over the years their surname became Fiedler, the German word for fiddler."

The statue of Fiedler, found near the Hatch Shell, was created in 1984 by Ralph Helmick,and contains 83 aluminum sheets. According to Boston Art's Commission, "Helmick’s innovative construction gives Fiedler’s head a sense of movement or vibration, like the strings of a violin, which Fiedler played."

The popular holiday song, Sleigh Ride, was composed by Fiedler's friend, Leroy Anderson. In 1949, the first recording of the song was performed by Fiedler and the Boston Pops and since then, Sleigh Ride, has become a signature song as well as holiday standard for the Boston Pops.

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.

October 2014, parks, Beacon Hill

golden dome

view from the commons (sonya kovacic)

view from the commons (sonya kovacic)

The Massachusetts State House was built in 1798 on what was once the property of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' first governor, John Hancock. The current building is the result of two major expansions in 1895 and 1917.  The iconic dome, part of the original construction, was first constructed as an entirely wooden dome. When the dome leaked, the Revere Copper Company (Paul Revere's company) was contracted to cover the dome in copper.

The golden dome, as we know it, came to be in 1874.  Despite what some might think, it is actually gilded with gold foil. The dome was painted gray during World War II to avoid being an easy target for potential enemy bombers. It was most recently re-gilded in 1997 to give the vibrant color we see today.

A golden pine cone sits atop the cupola on the highest point of the golden dome. The pine cone is a tribute to Maine (once a part of Massachusetts) and the timber industry's contribution to Boston's early development.

Fenway/Kenmore, parks, July 2014

muddy river

muddy river, under the bowker overpass  (sonya kovacic)

muddy river, under the bowker overpass (sonya kovacic)

The Muddy River starts at Jamaica Pond and runs through the Riverway, the Fenway, and the Back Bay Fens, before flowing into the Charles River. Its path forms much of Boston's Emerald Necklace.

In 1639, the river was the site of America's first recorded "UFO" sighting. While on a boating trip, a man named James Everell saw something in the sky. As Governor John Winthrop wrote:

"James Everell, a sober, discreet man, and two others, saw a great light
 in the night at Muddy River. When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square; when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine: it ran as swift as an arrow towards Charlton [Charlestown], and so up and down about two or three hours."

(James Everell started a tradition — the U.S. currently has the highest number of UFO sightings around the world.)

The Muddy River's path was altered throughout the 1950s and '60s, including the construction of the Bowker Overpass, and a parking lot for Sears. Now, due to climate change, the river is going to be restored.