Every place has a story 4

Every place has a story – the story of what‘s there now and what was there before – the people, the animals, the insects, the elements and the land. Each place has it’s nocturnal tales and daylight facts.


Sometimes those stories remain unknown to you for a lifetime.  You only know generalities – some people lived here.  They worked; they died. Other times you learn more about the stories through a conversation, a newspaper or magazine article, or book, or a tour.


I got to thinking about stories on a tour I went on yesterday that was sponsored by Historic Boston, Inc. (HBI).  HBI is a non-profit preservation and real estate organization that rehabilitates historic and culturally significant properties in Boston’s neighborhoods so they are a useable part of the city’s present and future. 

The tour started in Chinatown in the Hayden Building on the corner of Washington and LaGrange Streets.  It was designed in 1875 by HH Richardson is the only surviving commercial building designed by him.  It’s a building I have passed by dozens of time but never much noticed except as a nondescript building that had not yet been restored, a reminder of seedier times in the former Combat Zone.  It has now been stabilized and will be turned into residences.  What magnificent windows it has!

Eustis Street Fire House – before

We then went to the Eustis Street Fire House (1859), where HBI will have its new headquarters in the spring.  That this Fire House is still standing is remarkable given the state of disrepair it has been in for decades.  It’s proximity to the Eliot Burial Ground will bring new attention to this historic treasure as well.  Nearby businesses like will reap benefits as well, except, perhaps, for long-time business Aga’s Highland Tap, whose clientele may not be so much in to history.

While on the tour, we saw a trio of neighborhood children who came in to see the gravestones and were happy to learn a little of the history of the building.  I told them about Discover Roxbury and the tours and programs they sponsor and about HBI.  I wrote down the websites for them and my email.  One spunky girl in the trio promised to stay in touch.

The next stop on our tour was the Alvah Kittredge House (1836) in the Highland Park neighborhood of Roxbury.   It is barely standing.  HBI is working with the BRA to acquire the property and has two options.  Option A – a complete exterior renovation or Option B – a full rehab to 5 housing units.

The beehive oven uncovered during the stabilization phase of the Anna Clapp Harris Smith House (1804) spoke to me.  I could imagine the smell of bread baking in that oven.  (While passing through Upham’s Corner on our way to this Pleasant Street house, we saw the original building of the merchant family for whom Upham’s Corner is named.)  The ACHS House is nearly finished being stabilized for the winter by preservation carpentry students from North Bennet Street School, who spoke to us about their work – foundation repair, sill repair, back kitchen and façade repairs and restoration. I was impressed by the craftsmanship that went into the original house.  A modest home, the carpentry it is far superior to much of what goes into houses today.  (I wish I could remember the lingo of the carpentry but, trust me, it was impressive.)

The final HBI property we toured was a rather non-descript commercial building in the heart of Field’s Corner, the Golden Building on Dorchester Avenue.  Unfortunate sidingfrom the 60s or 70s covers the facade but it will soon be restored to a more historic look with new signage, lighting and other storefront improvements.  The tour bus parked in the Field’s Corner Mall which I learned used to have railroad tracks.  The mall – recently remodeled and full occupied with stores that are always busy with patrons – is an improvement on what was there before.

The tour ended, as all good tours do, with food and conversation.  We had supper at Pho Hoa , Field’s Corner’s newest Vietnamese restaurant.  It’s a huge new building and the food was delicious!  The restaurant used to be in a smaller space p across the street.  That it could morph into such a impressive place is a story that I’ll find out about next time I go.

Boston is a town full of historic places and bustling neighborhoods whose stories linger in the architecture, streetscapes, street names, school buildings, pathways and faces of people.

I encourage you to go to a tour or history speakers series with Discover Roxbury, Dorchester Historical Society and other similar organizations.  You’ll probably learn things that you didn’t know.

***A special part of this story is that I went on the tour with my special one and so it becomes part of our story, too.

Coming up – the last in the fall History Speaker Series sponsored by Discover Roxbury.
Somali Roxbury – free –
Dec. 15, 7-9p.m. at Haley House Café  (dinner available beginning at 5pm)
Two previous offerings in the series, Haitian Roxbury and Jewish Roxbury were resounding successes with a combination of historical presentation and people sharing stories.  Do attend if you can.


About Candelaria Silva

Candelaria Silva-Collins is a marketing, community outreach and programming consultant; writer; and trainer/facilitator who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and facilitated workshops on a wide variety of topics including communication, facilitation, job search skills, team building, and parenting issues. She currently coordinates the Community Membership Program of the Huntington Theatre Company. Her work as Director of ACT Roxbury was profiled in several publications, including The Creative Communities Builders Handbook. Candelaria’s children’s stories, short stories, essays and reviews have been published in local and national publications and she is an active blogger. Her publications include the booklets, Handling Rejection; Pushing through Shyness: Networking Tips when You’re Shy, Slow to Warm Up or Just don’t Feel you Belong; and Real Questions about Sex & Relationships for Teens: A Discussion Guide for Parents. She has served on the boards of Goddard College, Wheelock Family Theatre, Boston Foundation for Architecture, and Discover Roxbury. She is currently Chair, Designators of the Henderson Foundation.

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4 thoughts on “Every place has a story

  • jim

    I have always been a great admirer of Roxbury’s architecture, some of Boston’s finest representative examples from the past. I didn’t know about the Richardson building in Chinatown. Next time I’m there I’ll take notice. I love that old buildings are being adapted to current and future use instead of being torn down as it once seemed was the norm.

  • Candelaria

    If you go to the Historic Boston website, you’ll see photos of completed projects – including the Spooner-Lambert House in Roxbury that you may know about as well as the Richardson building and some of the ones I mentioned in this post.  I’ll be very excited to see the Eustis Fire Station completed.
    Thanks, as always, for your comments.

  • liz

    Man, why don’t you have some pictures on this blog post? I’m dying to see the beehive oven, for instance, as well as the Hayden House window. (Hayden House, btw, is also right next to strip clubs.)

  • Candelaria

    It too dark and cramped to get a decent photo of the oven.  Tried to take a photo of the Hayden Building windows off the HBI website but it would only transfer the before photos not the after.  If you go to HBI website, you can see photos of this building before and after. That’s why I linked to the websites on the blog post.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment.