Boston Real Estate Blog

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Bay Village on Bay Street used to be … on the bay

The Globe has a cool article on an historic home for sale in Boston’s Bay Village.

Jamie Mambro’s little piece of Boston history is on the block, something he calls “bittersweet” every time he talks of selling his home. The single-family, freestanding house at 1 Bay St. is a precious piece of the past in what is now Bay Village, the neighborhood tucked between the South End and the Theatre District. Built in the 1830s, it stands alone, along a small cobblestone way. Outside the front door, an original lamppost, one of few left in Boston, harks back to another century.

The home is now for sale, for $975,000.

History buff Jon Neale talks about how the Bay Village neighborhood used to face the Boston Harbor, back before landfill created much of the South End.

… [T]he carpenter who built it may have parked his boat just out front, when Bay Street was originally on the edge of the water known as Back Bay. Neale has heard this story, too, but says it’s difficult to confirm, although maps he has from the 1800s clearly show Bay Street adjacent to the water. And Neale says the neighborhood’s residents were tradesmen, including painters, house builders, and factory workers.

Melanie Olinto of Olde Forge Realty has the listing.

Source: This old house is one of few of its kind downtown – By Bridget Samburg, The Boston Globe

I once knew a Longfellow

Apparently, it’s going to cost $250 million in state dollars* to reconstruct the Longfellow Bridge, which goes from Cambridge to Boston. The bridge carries cars as well as the Red Line. And, there are sidewalks on either side. This is the “salt and pepper” bridge.

Whether or not the bridge is safe and renovation can wait a couple years is an open question. The Commonwealth says it is safe. The engineering firm it hired to assess the safety, says no, or, “probably not”, according to the Globe.

An independent inspection of the Longfellow Bridge found the span to be in worse condition than the state had previously determined, but officials dispute the findings and refused to release the report to the public for several months.
more stories like this

The state spent $915,000 on the nearly four-month inspection last year by Jacobs Engineering Group. But state engineers refused to sign off on the report after it was submitted in January, saying that it overstated the dangers of deteriorating bridge components and failed to take into account the repairs already underway.

That’s disturbing. The idea that the state may be playing games with the results of the study.

Also upsetting is that the cost of replacing the bridge is $250 million in state dollars*.

I have a question, and I’m being serious. Is it necessary to replace this bridge? Really. Could we close it to auto traffic, and just leave it open to pedestrians and the subway? Would this reduce the cost of repairs? What exactly is the reason it will cost so much? The steel? The labor? What?

$250 million seems like a ridiculous amount of money for a bridge that’s probably a quarter-mile in length, total.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was “pedestrians-only”? It would be a great way to open up that area to more visitors and residents, alike.

I dunno. I’m not a traffic engineer or urban planner.

* $250 million in “state dollars” means, probably twice that, or $500 million, given that any estimate of cost is undoubtedly understated. Add in cost over-runs, repairing the “repairs”, etc., and the final cost will no doubt be twice the estimate, or more.

Source: ‘Serious’ Longfellow flaws cited in study; State disputes, delays report – By Stephanie Ebbert, The Boston Globe

Marathon: little known facts

Dateline: Hopkinton

Why is a marathon 26.2 miles?

It is roughly 26 miles between the Greek cities of Marathon and Athens.

In 490 BC, the Greek army repelled a Persian naval invasion on the plains surrounding the coastal city of Marathon. According to legend, a runner was sent to Athens to relay news of the victory. Upon reaching Athens, the young man shouted “Rejoice, we conquer!” and fell to the ground dead.

The current marathon distance (26 mi., 385 yds.) was set for the 1908 London Olympics so that the course could start at Windsor Castle and end in front of the Royal Box. Not until 1921, however, was that distance adopted as the “official” Marathon distance by the IAAF.

What is the origin of the name Heartbreak Hill – courtesy,

Heartbreak Hill is an ascent over one-half mile of the Boston Marathon course, between the 20 and 21 mile marks, in the vicinity of Boston College. It is the last of four “Newton hills”, which begin at the 16 mile mark. The Newton hills confound contestants (out of proportion to their modest elevation gain) by forcing a late climb after the downhill trend of the race to that point. Heartbreak Hill itself rises only 80 vertical feet, but is positioned at a point on a marathon course where muscle glycogen stores are likely to be depleted—a phenomenon referred to by marathoners as “hitting the wall.”

The nickname “Heartbreak Hill” originated with an event in the 1936 race. On this stretch, defending champion John A. Kelley caught race leader Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, giving Brown a consolatory pat on the shoulder as he passed. His competitive drive apparently stoked by this gesture, Tarzan Brown rallied, pulled away from Kelley, and went on to win—in the words of Boston Globe reporter Jerry Nason, “breaking Kelley’s heart.”

Is it possible to stop to drink a glass of wine, and still win a marathon? – courtesy,

When the idea of a modern Olympics became a reality, there was a use for a great popularizing event, recalling the ancient glory of Greece.

The idea of organizing the race came from Michel Bréal, who wanted to put the event on the program of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens. This idea was heavily supported by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, as well as the Greeks.

The Greeks staged a selection race for the Olympic marathon, and this first marathon was won by Charilaos Vasilakos in 3 hours and 18 minutes.

Spiridon “Spiros” Louis, a Greek water-carrier, finished fifth in this race but won at the Olympics in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 50 seconds, despite stopping on the way for a glass of wine from his uncle waiting near the village of Chalandri.

What about donuts? Has anyone trained by eating two donut a days and still been able to finish in a respectable 4:00 hours?

This has yet to be determined. Yes.

Boston Combat Zone, then and now

Washington Street, in Chinatown, circa 1985:

boston combat zone, chinatown

Washington Street, in Chinatown, circa 2007:

boston combat zone, chinatown

– click on the photos to enlarge images.

From the forum

Book reading on interesting footnote in Boston history, tonight

My New Year’s resolution is to read a book a week, in 2008.

Last Tuesday, I picked up a copy of a great new book. It’s about Andrew Dexter, Jr, “a real estate speculator, financier, and schemer”, as the Boston Globe called him.

In 1809, after spending millions of dollars of paper money, a new form of collateral in those days, Dexter built the seven-story Exchange Coffee House in downtown Boston – the tallest building in the United States at the time. But just before its unveiling, the country’s finances went south – banks shut down, paper money became worthless – and Dexter headed north to Canada.

Brandeis history professor Jane Kamensky is reading from her just-published “The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America’s First Banking Collapse”, tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Old State House, 206 Washington St., Boston.617-720-1713.

Historic Boston Fires, #6

Final photo.


– click image to enlarge

This one is not tagged with a location.

There are some hints as to the whereabouts. Most prominent is the statue in the lower right of the photo. It is almost assuredly the Sam Adams statue outside Faneuil Hall. That puts this photo near Government Center or, at the time, below Scollay Square.

You can see the street corner where it says “Delicatessen”. If that is, in fact, the Sam Adams statue, then this building is where the McDonalds is, today (actually, it’s no longer a McDonalds, right? I can’t remember what’s there, now …).

If you look straight forward, you see a building with a turret (?). This is most likely the Bell & Hand, across the street from the Union Oyster House.

That’s my guess.


Historic Boston Fires, #5

Guesses as to where this was?

piano craft

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Or, this one?


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Answers, after the jump.


Historic Boston Fires, #3

Guesses as to where this was?

clinton mkt

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Answer, after the jump.


Historic Boston Fires, #4

Guesses as to where this was?

dewey sq

– click image to enlarge

Answer, after the jump.


Historic Boston Fires, #2

Guesses as to where this was?

canal st

– click image to enlarge

Answer, after the jump.