Where's Boston returns online

Christopher Lydon is looking to the future of Boston by examining its past, and as part of that, dug up this copy of the "Where's Boston" film that was produced for the 1976 bicentennial and which used to be played for tourists, first at the Pru and later at Faneuil Hall (ed. question: In a building where Abercrombie & Fitch is now?).

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    60 State Street at Faneuil Hall

    When it was at Faneuil Hall, the Where's Boston? show was in the office building at 60 State Street, the tower that now has a Bank of America branch in the front. Where's Boston? had its own entrance at the rear of the building, up the stairs from Faneuil Hall, and then to the left of the entrance to the office building lobby. It was hard to find, although they had some signs down at Faneuil Hall to direct people up to the "rear plaza" of 60 State.

    The building with Abercrombie & Fitch wasn't there until long after Where's Boston? was gone. There was a beautiful pre-Civil War granite building on that site. It had long been vacant except for the Sanborn Fish market in its first floor. Soon after Quincy Market was rehabbed, the owner of that building decided to restore its upper floors for commercial use. But it got torched in 1979, while construction was underway, and had to be taken down. It remained a vacant lot for many years.

    The first location for Where's Boston? was on the south plaza of the Pru, where the outdoor garden is today. The layout of the Pru retail area was a lot different then, and the space was rectangular, not curved as it is today; also the walkways in front of the shops weren't enclosed -- it was sort of like a strip mall, except that there was a broad roof over the walkways. That South Plaza was originally intended by the Pru's designers as an outdoor skating rink, modeled after the one in Rockefeller Center. But the winds at the Pru were so great that the skaters got blown off their feet, and the rink stopped being used after a season or two. When they put Where's Boston? there, it was seen as a great use for an otherwise empty space. Where's Boston? was originally in an inflatable bubble, like the ones that are used for indoor tennis courts. But after a couple of years the winds blew down the bubble, and Where's Boston? had to move downtown.

    The last that I heard about Where's Boston?, the rights to it had been purchased by Sheldon Cohen, the Cambridge businessman who used to own the newsstand (Out-Of-Town News) in Harvard Square as well as one of the metro area's biggest ticket agencies of that pre-internet era (Out-Of-Town Tickets). This was 5 or 10 years after the show had closed, and everyone said that it would need to be updated. I don't think anything ever happened with his plans to bring the show back to life.

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    Great history

    Thanks for the great history. I'd forgotten "Where's Boston?" was at 60 State. Also, if I''m not mistaken, those old open walkways at the Pru can be seen in the original "Thomas Crowne Affair", a movie short on plot but with great footage of 1960s-era Boston. I also seem to remember at some point in the 70s they closed it in. That old Pru retail area was very barren and uninviting, but I liked the architecture of it myself. No stores seemed to last very long there, and by the end, before they renovated it, there were practically none.

    Agreed. I think I watched

    Agreed. I think I watched that movie three times, not because I found it so amazingly interesting, but because I was fascinated by the location shots

    ETA: So, those walkways were once open with shops??? I looked online for links to images (I don't remember this from the movie.) Who on earth thought that was a good idea in that location in Boston's climate?

    Key difference between Shoppers World and the Pru

    Shoppers World didn't have brutal winds whipping through it all the time like the Pru did (Shoppers World also had live reindeer at Christmastime - and the remains of a giant UFO that creative mall planners managed to fashion into a Jordan Marsh).

    Still, Shoppers World's evil arch enemy, Natick Mall, was enclosed from the start.

    Awesome

    Despite the poor picture quality that film was awesome. I watched the whole thing not so much to see the pictures but to listen to the people. That film sounds the way Boston used to sound when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s when virtually everyone had an accent of some sort. If you want to feel what it was like to listen to Boston back then this is worth it.