December 2014 Newsletter
Photo Exhibit Exposes Resident’s View of West End in Flux
Captures Ongoing Changes Since 1998
From January 6 through February 28, 2015, The West End Museum will host a new exhibit, The New West Enders & Other Green Monsters, in its Main Exhibit Hall. Images by photographer Lolita Parker, Jr. document the rapid-fire changes in Boston’s West End over the past 16 years. Set against a backdrop of Garden events, sports bars and endless construction, Parker’s wide-angle perspective ranges from the personal to the political. The show reception takes place on Thursday, January 15 at 5:30 p.m., when attendees can tour the exhibit and enjoy light refreshments. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.
Parker’s photos powerfully and beautifully capture the projects, events and people that have reshaped and re-energized the West End since 1998—from the 2004 Democratic National Convention to the lone flower merchant who has been a North Station icon for over 20 years; from the completion of the Central Artery to the demolition of the elevated MBTA tracks.
“While the screeching trains were noisy and the elevated tracks an eyesore to many, the El was a major character with a life of its own. I miss the play of light and shadow under… and around the tracks,” Parker said. “When we lost that green ribbon of metal and concrete in the course of one weekend, it was like someone took the roof off the neighborhood.”
While Parker is a Californian by birth, she considers herself a “Bay Stater” by birthright, having recently traced her European ancestry to the State’s early settlers. When she first visited Boston in February 1975 in the middle of a whiteout blizzard, it somehow felt like home. But it wasn’t until 1993 that she permanently settled in the City with her three children, London, Prophet and N’Dia. A resident of the West End since 1998, Parker is proud to call herself a New West Ender and looks forward to the spring when she will join a growing group of neighborhood grandparents pushing strollers along Staniford Street.
The New West Enders & Other Green Monsters is free and open to the public during regular Museum hours.
New Exhibit Traces West End Circus Tradition & History
From December 2, 2014 through January 31, 2015, The West End Museum will host a new exhibit, The Circus: A West End Tradition, in its Members Gallery. The exhibit traces the origins and development of the circus in the U.S., from the late 1700s through the present day, and its strong connections to Boston’s West End. The show reception takes place on December 13 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., when attendees can tour the exhibit and enjoy light refreshments. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public.
The Circus: A West End Tradition will feature graphic panels detailing the development of the modern American circus from its very beginning through the present day and highlighting the impact of specific acts and venues in the West End. Related artifacts dating back to the early 1800s will be on display.
“The circus has been part of American entertainment since the earliest days of our nation, and—with the Boston Garden and Scollay Square—the West End has played a big role in Boston’s entertainment scene from those early days through today,” said Duane Lucia, West End Museum Board President and Curator.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Puritanical values ruled the day and theater was not viewed as… a suitable form of entertainment. Early circus-like attractions, however, were seen as more wholesome. So theater managers established themselves in the local entertainment landscape with such acts, which served as a springboard to later theatrical endeavors. The Circus: A West End Tradition will cover the following:
- -England’s Philip Astley, credited with staging the first modern circus in London in 1768 featuring animal acts, acrobats and clowns
- -John Bill Ricketts, credited with bringing the first circus to America (Philadelphia) in 1793; expanding from equestrian performances to tightrope, juggling and acrobatic acts; his traveling circus in Boston in summer 1794
- =The opening of the American Amphitheater (later the National Theater) by Thomas L. Stewart in 1832 at Portland and Traverse Streets
- -The propagation of the circus clown
- -The advent of the sideshow or freak-show at a time when scientific study was rapidly changing; Austin and Stone’s Dime Museum in Scollay Square (modern-day Government Center/Cambridge and Court Streets)
- -P.T. Barnum’s role—popularizing the dime museum model with key attraction General Tom Thumb; founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1881; debuting Jumbo the Elephant in 1882
- -The merger of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey; the debut of Gargantua the Gorilla in 1938
- -The circus as a Boston Garden mainstay since its opening in 1928
October 2014 Newsletter
Mass. Memories Road Show Comes to West End Museum
Aims to Preserve West End Photos & Stories
On Saturday, November 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Mass. Memories Road Show at UMass Boston travels to The West End Museum. Co-hosted by the Museum, UMass Boston, Vilna Shul, The West End Civic Association and the Boston Public Library–West End Branch, the event will chronicle the photographs and stories of old and new West Enders alike. The event is free and open to the public.
Anyone who currently lives, works or spends time in the neighborhood—or who has ever lived, worked or spent time here—is invited to attend and share their West End memories and experiences from before urban renewal through the present day. This unique project gives everyday people the opportunity to add their personal stories to an enduring cultural archive. The photos and stories will become part of UMass Boston’s online collection at openarchives.umb.edu and shared with the West End Museum and its organizational partners.
“Our mission is to preserve the history and culture of the West End, so this event is a perfect fit,” said Duane Lucia, West End Museum Board President. “We encourage everyone who has a connection to the neighborhood to come to the Museum on November 15th and become part of the rich tapestry of West End history.”
Attendees are asked to bring one to three photographs in their original format. A team of professionals will scan the photos and create digital versions to become part of the archives of The West End Museum and the Mass. Memories Road Show (MMRS) at UMass Boston. Attendees also will have the chance to be videotaped telling the stories behind their photos. In addition, professional archivists onsite will demonstrate how to care for photos.
The MMRS is a statewide digital history project that documents people,….. places and events in Massachusetts history through family and community photographs and stories. The program is produced by the University Archives & Special Collections Department in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston. Since its launch 10 years ago, the project has gathered more than 6,000 photographs and stories from across the state. Its goal is to hold public events in all 351 communities in the state, creating a digital portrait of the Commonwealth, providing access to photographs and stories, and building community knowledge and connections.
“The Mass. Memories Road Show team at UMass Boston is excited to visit the West End. The history of this vibrant neighborhood is legendary in our city, and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the West End Museum and its partners in preserving the memories of pre-urban renewal days as well as more recent times,” said Carolyn M. Goldstein, UMass Boston Public History and Community Archives Program Manager.
CHARLES BULFINCH, INFLUENTIAL ARCHITECT, SUBJECT OF NEW EXHIBIT
With all of the excitement surrounding our Beatles Celebration and Italian Heritage Month, our newsletter is proud to finally highlight our comprehensive and intriguing new exhibit, Bulfinch: Boston & Beyond, recalling and celebrating how Charles Bulfinch (1763–‐1844) shaped Boston’s enduring style and infrastructure as an architect and as the city’s first urban planner. The exhibit is free and open to the public.The show spans Bulfinch’s lifetime—from his early life in Boston’s West End through an initially fledgling career to the peak of achievement as a celebrated architect, urban planner and public servant.
Bulfinch: Boston & Beyond illustrates the influence of the Revolutionary War on Bulfinch’s childhood and the impact of his “grand tour” of European cities on his work and architectural style. His contributions to government, institutional and private architecture in his native Boston, throughout New England and in Washington D.C. are explored, as well as his impact on land use and development in Boston.
“Bulfinch needs to be acknowledged as Boston’s first urban planner and for his noble legacy helping to transform the city into…. one of America’s leading urban centers,” said Curator and Museum Board President Duane Lucia. “Basically, Bulfinch put the ‘proper’ in Boston’s landscape, bringing to the city the classical and dignified elements of the major European cities of his time.”
As Chairman of Boston’s Board of Selectmen and Police Superintendent for more than 15 years, Bulfinch tackled urban planning projects and improved the city’s infrastructure and public safety. He transformed the Boston Common from largely a cow pasture into a true city park. He also led the project to fill in the old mill pond and “make land,” giving rise to a West End grid of streets that form a nearly perfect triangle—the Bulfinch Triangle.
Architecturally, Bulfinch was one of the originators of the Federal Style characterized by classical motifs paired with symmetrical and modest designs. His major contributions in Boston include the Massachusetts State House and the remodeling and expansion of Faneuil Hall. President James Monroe appointed Bulfinch to serve as Architect of the Capitol in Washington D.C., and he became the third architect of the United States Capitol Building.
June 2014 Newsletter
Duane Lucia Named West End Museum Board President
By Sue Minichiello
Local historian, community organizer and arts aficionado Duane Lucia has been named President of The West End Museum Board of Directors. In his new role, Lucia will provide greater leadership in addition to his range of experience at the Museum and expertise on West End history and culture.
Lucia served on the Board of The Old West End Housing Corporation when it first began doing business as The West End Museum. In 2010, the Museum became its own nonprofit entity, and Lucia was elected Board Secretary. In January 2011, he additionally took on the role of Curator of Exhibits, boosting the number, range and quality of the Museum’s shows and related programs. To help provide continuity of leadership during a period of significant growth and change, Lucia served as Executive Director for 18 months in 2012 and 2013. When he stepped down from this role, he continued as Curator and also created an operating manual that defined the structure and management of the Museum. It’s noteworthy that Lucia took on these responsibilities in a volunteer capacity.
“Everyone in this community is a stakeholder in its well-being-from businesses to old West End families to new West Enders to other institutions, and we at the Museum take our stakeholder role very seriously,” says Lucia.
As a historian and a current West End resident, Lucia has a unique perspective on the community as it was before urban renewal and as it is today. His work on behalf of the neighborhood stretches far beyond the Museum. Lucia founded the West End Community Center and the West End Children’s Festival, and served as President of the West End Civic Association. He also co-founded Gallery East, an avant-garde arts center and performance space in Boston’s Leather District (now a virtual museum at Gallery East Network).
As Board President, Lucia will be recognized as the public face of the Museum with its members, its community and its sponsors. At present, the West End Museum does not pay an Executive Director. Lucia says he will continue his work as Curator while increasing his responsibilities on the Museum Board. “I’m basically the default Executive Director, the person in charge of the day-to-day operations.” says Lucia. “The Board as a whole ensures fiscal responsibility and the financial health of the organization.”
Lucia says he will continue the focus on programming, membership and funding. He is working towards an endowment and other reserves to provide a stronger operating budget and ensure the prosperity of the Museum well into the future.
New Members’ Gallery Exhibit – The Elizabeth Peabody House
By Sue Minichiello
On Tuesday, May 20, The West End Museum premiered a new exhibit, The Elizabeth Peabody House, in the Members’ Gallery. The exhibit showcases this treasured social service institution of the West End that has served immigrant families for generations, providing spaces for education, recreation and more. The show runs through Saturday, July 19.
The exhibit surveys the history and prominence of The Elizabeth Peabody House, one of Boston’s first settlement houses. Original schedules and annual reports detailing the institution’s programs will be on display as well as photographs of its most beloved clubs-including its nationally recognized science club and its important social service work, which included the country’s first pasteurized milk stations and a free school lunch program. The show emphasizes the particular sympathy and progressive ideology of the settlement workers,
and the impact that the workers and the immigrants had on one another.
The Peabody House was established in 1896 in Boston’s West End and named for Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894)-a writer, intellectual and activist who rallied against slavery, championed women’s rights, led educational reform and opened the first English-speaking kindergarten in the U.S. in 1860. The settlement house focused largely on children’s issues and continuing Peabody’s work in early childhood education. No less important, it uplifted and educated the immigrants in one of Boston’s most congested neighborhoods. In 1912, the Peabody House moved into a newly constructed, seven-story building that housed a kindergarten, library, community theater and gym.
Leonard Nimoy, an alumna of Peabody Houses’ theater club, remembers the settlement house fondly. “To put it simply, The Elizabeth Peabody House was a blessing. Programs were offered in sports, theater and science as well as classes of all kinds to help immigrants find their way into the American culture,” Nimoy said. “My brother was active in the science lab and became an MIT graduate and a chemical engineer. I was drawn to the theater program and it set me on a path, which became my life’s work.”
Today, the Peabody House is located in Somerville, where many families relocated after the “urban renewal” that razed the Old West End. The organization continues its mission to support Greater Boston’s immigrant communities, helping families to reach their full potential by providing early childhood education, youth enrichment opportunities and family support services.
March 2014 Newsletter
WEST END MUSEUM TO HONOR FORMER BOSTON MAYOR RAYMOND FLYNN AT INAUGURAL IRISH HERITAGE MONTH CELEBRATION
By Sue Minichiello
The West End Museum will host its inaugural Irish Heritage Month celebration on Monday, March 31, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Former Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn (1984-1993) —who left City Hall to serve as the United States Ambassador to The Vatican [1993-1997]—will attend as an event honoree. The Museum will also honor Martin Lomasney and Daniel Whelton.
Before Boston’s Old West End was razed in the name of 1950s urban renewal, displacing tens of thousands of immigrant families, the neighborhood was home to many Irish-Americans who blended with a myriad of other ethnic groups, giving the West End its unique character. The Museum’s Irish Heritage Month celebrates those Irish immigrants and the contributions they made to the West End.
“The West End was one of Boston’s first Irish immigrant communities, dating back to the 1840s where it was a refuge for those escaping the potato famine and economic hardships in Ireland,” according to Duane Lucia, West End Museum President and Curator. “As guardians of the history and culture of the West End, it is imperative that we formally recognize and honor the legacy of Irish immigrants in the neighborhood.”
As Mayor, Ray Flynn worked tirelessly to knit together the neighborhoods of the City of Boston, especially in the tumultuous years after busing. In the West End, Flynn pressed for completion of a long-awaited residential building at 150 Staniford Street. The building included a number condominiums set aside for former West Enders to purchase at below-market rates, thus enabling some displaced residents to return to the old neighborhood. Later, the West End Museum was chartered at the site. Now, the Museum is honoring Flynn for this crucial contribution, along with his Irish heritage and his work on behalf of all Boston neighborhoods and at the Vatican.
Martin Lomasney is one of the central figures in West End lore. Born in Boston in 1859, he was the son of Irish immigrants who fled to the U.S. during the great potato famine. Martin and his brother Joseph started the Hendricks Club in 1885, which politically represented not only the thriving Irish immigrant community, but also a new wave of Jewish and Italian immigrants. Martin became the undisputed boss of Boston’s Ward 8—which encompassed the Old West End—from about 1885 until his death in 1933.
Daniel Whelton became the first native-born Irish-Catholic Mayor of Boston and remains the youngest person to hold that political office to date. While living in the West End, Whelton became an associate of Lomasney’s, joining the Hendricks Club and beginning his political career by registering new voters in the neighborhood. Whelton also served as Chairman of Boston’s Board of Aldermen and on the City’s Common Council.
WEST END MUSEUM WEBSITE TRANSFORMS INTO MULTIMEDIA HISTORICAL ARCHIVE
By Michael Hochman
One of the most important aspects of The West End Museum’s mission is to provide the public with access to its extensive and ever growing archive collection. And so it is in the spirit of this mission that our website, www.thewestendmuseum.org, is being updated with increasing and more comprehensive displays of past exhibits, videos and other archival materials.
In the “Archived Exhibits” section of our “Archive” main menu, we have past exhibits posted and categorized by the year in which they were originally shown at the Museum. Our latest addition is our elaborate Parkman-Webster Murder Case exhibit. Click on it and the exhibit is right in front of your eyes, with each richly styled panel available for consumption. Click on the panels and you’ll experience the exciting exhibit in the comfort of your own home or on the go.
We are also excited to announce that the entire run of the West Ender Newsletter will soon be available for the first time ever! The West Ender has been a staple of the community since its inception in 1985 and it continues to uphold the culture and history of the West End neighborhood. We will not only have every issue available online, but we will also add new issues as they become available.
Along with a growing online archive, The West End Museum’s website has now become a true multimedia source for everything West End! Check out our video clips under the “News and Publications” section and learn about various topics, from the demolishing of The Madison Hotel to interviews with Leonard Nimoy and his time growing up in the West End. You can also find press releases and articles about the Museum and its multitude endeavors.
We will continuously enrich the website with quality content in order to maximize a fulfilling experience for both members and non-members alike. As the Museum continues to grow, we are confident in our ever-increasing ability to share the history of the West End and Boston alike with the masses.
VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Lois Ascher
By Michael Hochman
For our Volunteer Spotlight this month, we place our focus on Professor Lois Ascher. Professor Ascher teaches courses in urban culture studies as well as in English at Wentworth University. Aside from having the distinction of being the first female professor at Wentworth, Professor Ascher is Secretary of the West End Museum Board of Directors.
One of Professor Ascher’s signature courses, Boston Voyages by Book and Foot, looks at Boston historically, culturally, architecturally and technologically. Through that course, Professor Ascher often brings her students on site when studying different aspects of the city, and when she was investigating Urban Renewal, she learned of The West End Museum. One day, Professor Ascher decided to bring her students to the Museum for an on-site class. “Within a few minutes of walking through the door, the greeting was so warm and the atmosphere was so warm, that I knew I wanted to become more involved with the Museum,” explains Professor Ascher. “I walked out of there really feeling a connection and that I wanted to give back to the Museum.”
Professor Ascher found that the Museum was a great place for students not only to learn about Urban Renewal, but to also get involved with the history of the city. Many of her pupils are architectural students, and some of their work has contributed to the Museum directly, such as Jim Cleveland’s creation of a scale model of the rope walks for the Rope Walks of the West End and Beyond exhibit.
Professor Ascher has devoted a lot of time to the Museum outside of Wentworth as well. In 2012, she worked with Museum President Duane Lucia on the Moving Forward Looking Back exhibit. She eventually became part of the Museum’s Advisory Board, and then moved to the Board of Directors. She is still part of the Board of Directors while in her Secretarial position. In her current role, she serves as a link between the two boards. She is also tasked with organizing records and ensuring that taxes and other business and financial responsibilities are fulfilled.
Professor Ascher is truly an essential member of our team, and her passion for the Museum and its mission is second to none. In the future, she hopes to increase her students’ involvement with the organization by having them visit and work on a Museum related project, whether it be archival, model building or research related. Professor Ascher claims that she and her students benefit greatly from the Museum. It’s safe to say that the Museum also benefits greatly from her volunteering and enthusiasm.
January 2014 Newsletter
New Exhibit Revisits Bygone Era
Boston, MA—On Tuesday, February 4, The West End Museum will premiere a new exhibit, Relics of a Bygone Era: Exploring the Hotel Manger/Madison. The exhibit runs through Saturday, March 22 in in the Members’ Gallery. It features original postcards, pamphlets and photographs as well as actual pieces of the hotel. One of the highlights is a series of photographs showing the demolition of the hotel. The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular Museum hours.
The 500-room Hotel Manger opened at North Station in August of 1930. Its design was an example of the Moderne style of architecture, developed by Boston native Louis Sullivan. Adjacent to Boston’s North Station and directly connected to the Boston Garden, the Hotel Manger was a prominent and convenient destination for celebrities, show-goers and other travelers.
“In those days, everyone who came to the Boston Garden stayed at the Manger,” said Duane Lucia, Museum Curator. “It was advertised as ‘New England’s Most Perfectly Equipped Hotel, A Tower of Hospitality, With a Radio in Every Room’ and, for about 40 years, it remained a cultural hotspot and a popular destination.”
The Hotel Manger became the Hotel Madison in 1958 when purchased by the Boston & Maine Railroad. For decades, it played host to entertainers, athletes and politicians appearing next door at the Garden. For example, The Beatles not only stayed at the Madison in September 1964, but also held a press conference there that was famously “crashed” by three college buddies who were avid fans.
By the early 1970s, however, the Madison’s splendor had faded and its doors closed in 1976. Under eminent domain, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) acquired the property for $2.2 million in March 1983 as part of its $500 million North Station Urban Renewal Project. Just two months later—on May 15, 1983—a Boston era vanished in a cloud of dust and a pile of rubble in a mere l4 seconds. The demolition made way for the Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Federal Building.
New Photo Exhibit Traces West End’s Transition from 1961-1980
In 2014, Boston’s West End neighborhood will continue its transition into a dynamic residential and corporate address. In some ways, the changing neighborhood is a reminder of the incredible transformation that occurred more than half a century ago as residents of the old West End relocated amid the slum clearance project that gave rise to a modern urban landscape.
On January 24, the West End Museum will premiere a new exhibit, A Neighborhood in Transition: 1961 – 1980, featuring the photographs of West End resident Charles Frani, who snapped hundreds of images of his changing neighborhood over the course of two decades. The opening reception takes place at 6:30 p.m. Concurrent programs will be offered throughout the run of the show, which concludes on May 11, 2014. The exhibit, reception and most of the concurrent programs are free and open to the public.
Exhibit Co-Curators Duane Lucia and Giselle Valdes spent hours poring through a large collection of Frani photographs to select those that most vividly depict the transformation and evolution of Boston’s West End. Valdes then painstakingly restored all of the chosen images—both original photo negatives and digital scans. The resulting exhibit captures the contrasting currents that swept out old West Enders while welcoming in new ones. Frani’s photographs provide a stark reminder of how thousands of Bostonians were driven from their well-worn tenement homes while others moved into gleaming, high-rise apartments.
“Most of the 8,000-plus West End residents evicted from their homes by 1960 had moved on,” according to Lucia. “However, seeing images of the final stages of the destruction of the neighborhood and the lingering few people and businesses left going about their daily chores as if normal resonates of a wartime surrealism.”
Frani captured key moments in Boston’s transition from an old, economically depressed city to a gentrified, world-class center of education, healthcare and technology. One of the featured photos shows a crowd watching as firefighters battle smoke and flames at the Old Howard Theater in Scollay Square. The Howard, which had become a burlesque house and was closed by city censors in 1951, was razed after the mysterious 1961 fire. In its place, Boston built its new Government Center.
A Neighborhood in Transition is free and open to the public during regular Museum hours.
VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: Susan Hanson
This month’s Volunteer Spotlight shines on a special Archive Committee volunteer, Susan Hanson. Ms. Hanson has an extensive background working in museums around the country, not only in archival work, but also in strategic planning.
Currently, there are two West End Museum archival projects garnering Ms. Hanson’s attention. The first is an extensive collection of documents and letters that belonged to Hyman Rosenberg, a long-time West Ender who passed away in 2009. Mr. Rosenberg, a painter and avid fan of both boxing and ballroom dancing, left a collection that can only be described as a treasure trove of West End history and culture. Highlights of the collection include records on events taking place at the West End House–a settlement house established in 1906–and documents related to sports and ballroom dancing, as well as personal letters.
The goal of these two projects is fairly similar. Ideally, Ms. Hanson will categorize the documentation, organize everything chronologically and ultimately scan the archives for public access.
Ms. Hanson is so enthusiastic about her work in the archive, particularly because it is very hands-on. “I also like the West End Museum because it has a lot of good energy,” says Ms. Hanson. She appreciates the other volunteers who contribute their time and admires the various “backgrounds and talents.”
Ms. Hanson has just joined the Advisory Board of the West End Museum and will also be helping them with their strategic plan. For more on Ms. Hanson’s work and accomplishments, please visit her website at historybehindthescenes.com.
About the West End Museum:
The West End Museum is dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of the history and culture of the West End neighborhood. The Museum’s permanent exhibit, “The Last Tenement,” highlights the immigrant history of the neighborhood through its decimation under Urban Renewal in 1959; two additional galleries feature rotating exhibits. The Museum is located near North Station at 150 Staniford St. Suite 7. Hours: Tuesday – Friday 12:00pm – 5:00pm; Saturday 11:00am – 4:00pm. Admission is free.