Here’s a photo of a pretty neat piece of art hidden under one of the offramps from Storrow Drive.
What does it refer to? Well, Boston’s West End neighborhood, of course.
If you’re unaware of the history of the area, now just a jumbled mess of concrete and pavement, you should do some research on the history of the city you live in!
So, how did this proclamation make its way to where it is?
After the flare-up over the Williams name, subsequent Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel projects have been much more carefully attuned to neighborhood concerns. This is true even when the neighborhood doesn’t exist anymore.
A long concrete viaduct, which will take traffic from the yet-to-be-built cable-stayed bridge by North Station onto Storrow Drive, effectively marks the northern limit of the old West End neighborhood, gobbled up by a combination of Massachusetts General Hospital expansion and 1960s urban renewal. (One of the few remaining West End landmarks is the old Boys Club building on Blossom Street, just south of the Mass. General complex.)
The public art for the pedestrian walkway between the viaduct and Nashua Street and the Charles River Park condominiums is an eerie but affable memorial to the vanished West End.
Designed by a Yale art professor, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, the foundation walls of the viaduct will bear indented images of the old neighborhood, stoops and doors and windows of the vanished houses. De Bretteville calls them “streetscape echoes.”
Quotations from the reminiscences of former residents will be cast into the concrete, including the once-proud boast: “The greatest neighborhood this side of heaven.” There are subtler images and icons as well, including embedded nameplates for long-gone streets and ironwork that resembles, or reflects, the wrought-iron work of the late 19th century.