Where gentlemen of distinction and mystery got their laundry done

Mystery man

The folks at the Boston City Archives have posted a photo of a Boston block back in the day and ask if you can figure out where it was and when the photo was taken (see it larger). Normally, I'd post a copy of the entire photo, but I was struck by this guy hanging out in the shadows of a laundry.



Free tagging: 


    Otis House

    Yep, the Otis House, no doubt. Took a class about historical homes in Boston - excellent class. This was one of the places the class focused on.

    Suffolk University

    As an undergrad at Suffolk, it covered one of my history credits, as well as some sort of cultural mumbo-jumbo credit at the same time, AND it was fascinating to boot. We also went to the Longfellow House in West Cambridge a few times, the Gibson House, the Nichols House, a couple other house museums, and the Museum of African American History. The best part was being able to research, write, and talk about the history of the West End as a part of my final project and final paper.

    Fairly easy to pick out the location

    But what is the date. It is obviously done before the Cambridge St widening in the 20s, but how much earlier. When did SPNEA take over the house? Don't know how to date the tracks in the cobbles. If they are from the blue line or from an earlier street car line.

    1914 Or 1915

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    The Boston Public Library dates one of the images you linked to from 1916. The business have changed a bit; the mystery man's doorway is now a window of the enlarged laundry, and the hat store is now a shoe shine parlor.

    It's definitely later than the other picture because nobody bothered to remove the sign for "Armor Brand Collars and Shirts". However, it can't be very much later because the trees have hardly grown at all.

    If this other picture is from 1916, than I'm guessing the mystery picture is from 1914 or 1915.
    Boston Public Library

    I would say the man sitting

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    I would say the man sitting on the stairs is waiting for his wife to finish shopping at the Hats Caps and Gloves store. The man standing outside the laundry is waiting for his pants to be cleaned. He only has one pair hence the long coat.

    Where and when I have no idea.

    Two Bits

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    6 hours into the thread and nobody's pointed out that the shave and a haircut are two bits?


    The Answer!

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    Thanks for playing folks! This does indeed show the Harrison Gray Otis House. Specifically, the photo shows 87 Cambridge Street to Lynde Street. The date is October 23 1911. We don't know what to make of the mysterious figure in the doorway, but for further research, some of H.P. Lovecraft's tales about Boston might be enlightening!


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    “You fool, Warren is DEAD!”