Mystery street scene: 1970s

1970s Boston

The Boston City Archives posted this photo from 1970s Boston. Can you identify where it was? Click on the image for a larger version.




According to records of

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According to records of incorporation publicly available from the office of the secretary of state William Galvin, the Paramount Uniform Company, whose sign is visible in the photo, was incorporated in 1977, and listed an address of 93 Summer Street in Boston.

So, Summer street it is.

Props to Bill Galvin for

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Props to Bill Galvin for allowing us to see those public records. It's so kind of him.


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state street. i see the mcfaddens building there

107 Summer St, Downtown

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The street sign next to the candy store says Summer St, and the Cigar store sign says 107, so it's near 107 Summer St (where Summer St, Bedford St, and Lincoln St meet now). The building looks quite different but the molding around the 2nd floor window on the corner looks the same!
Google Map street-view link here.

Early Radioshack

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Depending on the date of the photo that's likely one of the first seven Radioshacks in the country. The chain was started in Boston though by the early 70s they were starting to expand. I can't say I like the company but there aren't many Boston-born retail chains left.

Comm Ave Radio Shack

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One of the earliest must have been the one on Comm. Ave near BU. I remember going there as early as 1968 or 1969. What I can't figure out is why Radio Shack is still in business at all.

Flagship Radio Shack

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When I came to Boston in 1968, the Comm. Ave. Radio Shack (near BU) was still considered the chain's flagship store. They had been forced out of downtown, perhaps for urban renewal (Brattle Street is now City Hall Plaza); or else they were looking for bigger space; or maybe both -- so they ended up on Comm. Ave. But by the late 1960s Radio Shack had been bought out by the Tandy family, out of Fort Worth, Texas. So in the late 1960s a good chunk of the space in Radio Shack's Comm. Ave. building was carved out and converted to a Tandy Leather store, the other big chain owned by the same family.

In my college era, the late '60s and early '70s, there were three big national chains selling electronic equipment through stores and mail-order catalogues. The other two were Allied Radio (usually just called "Allied") and Lafayette. Allied had a big store on Comm. Ave., too, on the south side just opposite the Blandford St. T stop (set back behind a parking lot). Being into electronics at the time, Allied was my first choice. All three chains sold things like radio tubes, resistors, capacitors, transistors, batteries, wires, and so on. They also sold stereo equipment, but no one who was seriously into stereo ever bought their equipment there. You'd buy the parts at one of those stores, if something needed repairing, or you'd buy the cables there. But for turntables, tape decks, receivers, amplifiers, and speakers, there were lots of high-end stores around like Tech Hifi (which got its start next to MIT). On the other hand, Radio Shack, Lafayette, and Allied were great for experimenters and ham radio people. And there were a lot of those around Boston.

Um, No

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You are about 50 years off:

The company was started as Radio Shack in 1921 by two brothers, Theodore and Milton Deutschmann, who wanted to provide equipment for the then-nascent field of amateur, or ham, radio.[8] The brothers opened a one-store retail and mail-order operation in the heart of downtown Boston at 46 Brattle Street, near the site of the Boston Massacre. They chose the name "Radio Shack," which was the term for a small, wooden structure that housed a ship's radio equipment.

They were already all over the country by the 1970s. By the 80s, you could buy a TRS-80 there.

It may have indeed been an early Radio Shack retail location

But they certainly didn't wait until the 1970s to expand nationally. They were a standard fixture in west coast malls by 1980.

(More on topic: One of my summer jobs was on Bedford St. in 1985 ... Summer Street STILL looked pretty much like that even then.)

And they've had the same

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And they've had the same business plan all this time: wait for the invention of USB so that eventually someone will be so desperate for a USB cable that they'll pay Radio Shack $29.99 for one that they could get online for $4.

When I was building guitar

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When I was building guitar amps, I occasionally got odd parts at RS, rather than wait to put in a new online order - and I was glad i could do so. And RS frequently locates in places other major chains won't touch - and they're happy to hire minorities. All in all, I'd call them pretty good corporate citizens.

They're a great convenience store....

.....for getting the odd cable and such.

But the last time I was in one of those places, the guy behind the counter wouldn't shut up about trying to get me to change my cell phone plan to some stupid one he was selling.

Blue Sands

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I recall there was a bar in that area called the Blue Sands. It must have been later in the 70s (and into the very early 80s). It probably replaced what is the Arch Street Tavern in the photo. I used to walk by it on my way to work at 8AM and it would be jammed with people drinking and talking. I was later told it was likely the folks working the overnight shift at the South Postal Annex on Dorchester Ave. Having worked all night, 8AM would be cocktail hour to them.

Also, it might be hard to believe now, but in those days there were almost as many of those Fannie Farmer candy stores in downtown Boston as there now are Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. And they almost always seemed to be on a corner.

Oh, man. The Blue Sands was

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Oh, man. The Blue Sands was the best! Really cheap drinks and beehived waitresses. Pre-party there to decide whether to head to the Channel or Kenmore.


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Love these old photo posts!

Summer Street Downtown

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Summer Street at Arch Street (you can Blackfriar's—scene of the infamous mass murder).


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I see there is a Rix in the photo. Rix was like an early version of CVS, only better. In fact, if I am not mistaken, they were eventually bought out by CVS.

Mystery street scene: 1970s

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Couple of things:

1) The Blue Sands was on the next block south. Between Lincoln & South Streets. Not in this picture, which was basicly taken from where the Lollipop wind mill was located at 100 Summer St.

2) The businees next to RoJo's subs, is Blackfriars. Another infamous Boston Business!

Back in the day when

TV reporters like Jack Kelly (who died in the Blackfriars Massacre) would party after hours at bars in The Zone and that nice Jimmy Bulger kept the drugs out of Southie.

The Answer!

Thanks for playing everyone! It is Summer Street looking northwest towards the Common at the intersection with Lincoln and Bedford Streets - commonly known as Church Green. The photo was taken in 1973.

Does City Archives acquire stenographic record of City Council ?

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Hey City of Boston Archives! Preserve the history of our city. Preserve city records. Are you acquiring the stenographic record of the public meetings of Boston City Council released as .sgstn stenograph stenonote?... Decode the stenographic record with Plover

Does the Government Documents Division or Microtext Division of our Boston Public Library acquire the stenographic record of public meetings of Boston City Council ?...

How can cooperation among City Departments be improved?... for preserving records of our city's history, preserving Departmental archives.

Clues to the photo

Yeah, I ended up blowing it up to see the street sign, to be sure, but the giveaways should have been the curve of that building as well as the building off in the distance, the one that looks as though two floors have been added. Plus, the direction of the sun, coming from the west.

What's fun about this is that almost all the buildings are still standing. The one closest to us is still there, right?, although the exterior has been completely updated. It looks as though one of the buildings on the street has been replaced, but hard to tell from the old photo.

Wasn't this area burned to the ground during the Great Fire of 1872?