Old Forest Hills Station // 1909-1987

Photo courtesy of Boston City Archives

When elevated train service from Boston extended to Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain in 1909, the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods and points south were ecstatic to realize the chance to enjoy quicker transit to the city. The station, which opened in 1909, was an architectural landmark and engineering feat, as the new terminal was the largest structure of its kind and the most costly in the country at the time. The large station was made of steel and reinforced concrete, finished in copper at the elevated section, and took nearly two years of construction. City architect Edmund M. Wheelwright designed the station, and upon its opening, it was called “the chef-d’œuvre of rapid transit development in Boston”. Like with many cities all over the country, shifting transportation planning and priorities and shrinking investment necessitated the once grand station to suffer the fate of the wreckingball. As part of the Southwest Corridor project, this station was to be demolished, with a modern station constructed to service the MBTA trains on the Orange Line. Also, plans were developed for a 12-lane highway along the railroad right-of-way between Boston through Cambridge. The residents of the affected areas, including Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, South End, Back Bay, and Cambridge, protested against the destruction of their neighborhoods by the planned highway, and won! The old Forest Hills Station was a casualty of the proposal, but a lasting reminder for neighborhood planning and advocacy, preserving character and people over cars.

Langley House // 1807

Smack-dab in the middle of Newport, Rhode Island’s dense network of downtown streets, you’ll find Queen Anne Square, a rare bit of open space in a web of alleys and ways. Did you know that this park is only 50 years old? It’s true! In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Newport (and many cities all over New England) were grappling with suburbanization and dwindling tax revenue with people and businesses moving out. Their solution was “urban renewal”, which entailed the razing of buildings and sometimes, neighborhoods which were deemed “blight”. Historic buildings and communities were destroyed with modern planning (high capacity roads and high-rises connected by open space) to take its place. In Newport, this saw the form of America’s Cup Avenue and Memorial Boulevard, which cut through the city to allow for more cars and less-congested side-streets. Years later, planners realized that Newport was without a traditional town common like many New England towns, so they cleared buildings in front of Trinity Church to provide that traditional feeling. At the time, preservationists were trying to save significant buildings, with the Langley House being one of them. This house was set for the wrecking-ball, from Memorial Boulevard’s construction but moved and restored by Newport Restoration in the last hour to the south side of Church Street. Seven years later when Queen Anne Square was built, this house was moved to the north side, saving it once again. This house is a survivor!

Union Block // c.1842

Located in the Blackstone Block of Downtown Boston, this flatiron building encloses Marshall Street on the Freedom Trail, creating a tight, pedestrian-oriented street that once covered old Boston. The Union Block (c.1842) is a Greek Revival commercial block which typifies this network of short, narrow streets which somehow survived Urban Renewal and the coming of the highway in Boston. The longest running occupant of the building was Ward & Waldron Paper Hangings, which from my understanding, made wallpaper for the estates of Beacon Hill which were being built on the other side of town. After successive ownership, atlas maps show the ownership of the building in 1888 conveyed to Massachusetts General Hospital, which still held title to it past 1938. The building is now home to Bell in Hand, an iconic local pub that was founded in 1795 at another location.