The Lost Road and the Towers of Doom

Towers of doom

For years, we've wondered about the green towers on the hill behind the Stop & Shop on American Legion Highway in Roslindale (they're visible from most of the other hills in the area, including ours). The kidlet and I decided they were Towers of Doom - they were big and mysterious (there's no obvious way to get up there) and kind of ominous.

This afternoon, on a trek to the store, we noticed what looked like a bench up a little rise from the new Walgreens at the far end of the Stop & Shop strip. Hmm, could there be a path up to the Towers of Doom? The bench turned out to be a cinderblock perched on a concrete block, but there was indeed a path headed up.

And right into a lost road:

Lost road

It was a pretty creepy, post-apocalyptic road, complete with a portal to another dimension:

Lost road

Some pretty tall weeds grew in cracks in the pavement - at least, where the pavement hadn't crumbled away. As we ascended, the sounds of civilization, indeed, Boston itself, faded away and we were totally alone in the middle of godforsaken nowhere. But there was plenty of evidence that people, probably people on the run, took refuge up there, including an old lean-to, and a fire pit nearby, built right in the middle of the road:

Lost firepit

At one point, we spotted a tiny little path that looked like it led up to the towers, but we decided to keep walking up the road, curious where it would end up, and keeping our ears alert for any sign of mutant bears and vampire wolves. The road - which had your basic City of Boston storm-drain manhole covers - ended in a fence:

Lost fence

We doubled back, and this time went up the little, wandering footpath, which led us past more evidence of habitation, including what appeared to be the remains of a bulldozed foundation or two - as well as a brief section of another abandoned road.

Eventually, we got up to the very towers! We banged on one. Sounded hollow and, fortunately, nothing banged back. We still had no clue what they were for. A bit further up from the towers was a large field, filled with scrub and these reedy things:

Lost field

Behind us stood some shorter, less mysterious towers with light fixtures atop them, pointed down at the field. At the end of the field, near some evidence of more modern civilization (what looked like modern townhouses perched on a hill) was some tall netting, of the sort you'd expect to see at a driving range (more on that anon). But sunset was nigh, we were without proper overnight supplies and so it was time to head back down.

Lost towers

Google Maps identifies the top of the hill as the Oak Lawn Golf Range (hence the netting). Some Parks and Recreation documents also call it that and say it's a 12-acre, privately owned open space.

The road we took was not shown on either a 2000 city map or one from 1948 - although a city assessing map shows an "unbuilt" (or maybe a private) continuation of Victoria Heights Road, which now ends at the other side of the fence we saw. According to that map, the area on our side of the fence is a vacant parcel owned by the New Covenant Christian Center (and assessed at $1.4 million). Some of the rest of the land is marked with what sound suspiciously like subdivision names (Crane Ledge III for example). Does anybody know more about the history of the hill of doom?

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    Comments

    Oak Lawn Golf Range

    I am guessing the poles were for mounting the netting for the golf range - though it is hard to imagine the place having seen better days before it began reversion to nature.

    See similar poles in active use.
    http://net-services.us/images/golf_range_netting_1...

    I notice from Google maps what looks like a few foundations from long gone, ruined buildings as well.

    All very strange up there. Exploring is so much fun.
    You would probably enjoy Bumpkin Island in the harbor too.

    Yeah, we had the same

    Yeah, we had the same curiosity a few years back (probably more than 10 years) and went up to investigate. Except we were able to drive up I believe. We looked at those poles and concluded either driving range or batting cages, both of which seemed very out of place there. It's fun to explore odd places. And I second the suggestion for Bumpkin, or any of the harbor islands that you can get to.

    Wompatuck

    You want to see spooky local spots? Check out wompatuck state park. It was a lot scarier when there were more bunkers but the old train station still exists. I remember old news reports of cults in there. Also maybe even scarier were the Dead Heads who used to stay in there when the Dead were in Boston.

    I know a little bit about that place

    Its an interesting story. The owner of the land is the owner of that small private cemetery that is adjacent. He is batshit crazy, and that is putting it nicely. He thought he could just build a driving range on his property but he never notified the city or pulled any permits. Needless to say the city shut him down and what is left is a partially built driving range that will never be anything more.

    The property is an old quarry that is filled in with demolition debris from downtown. It is unsuitable to build anything on so it will likely be the way it is now forever. If anything does end up built there, a lot of money will be spent on foundations.

    Lots of interesting things in Hyde Park/Roslindale/West Roxbury

    Like Boston's only currently active quarry, over in West Roxbury, and the giant model-train set that is Readville.

    One interesting thing about the 1948 map: No American Legion Highway. So now I'm wondering why the city (or state, more likely) decided it made sense to build an almost-highway (it's no more a highway than Cummins or Truman) that more or less parallels Hyde Park Avenue and results in a godawful intersection with Canterbury and Cummins in Roslindale (where it veers off toward Mattapan).

    The Southwest Expressway, maybe?

    It might have something to do with the Southwest Expressway, I guess. If that had been built, (and assuming they put an exit there) the American Legion Highway would have been connected the Expressway to Blue Hill Ave and that area of Dorchester/Roxbury/Mattapan more generally.

    Not the Southwest Xway

    See my Barry's Ledge post.

    The Southwest Expressway project would have followed the railroad on an elevated structure not unlike the former RT93 through Boston, now depressed via the BIG DIG.

    A plan to have a clover-leaf at or near Cummins Highway was debated but the road was killed by Gov. Sergeant in '79, but by then a lot of land had already been taken by eminent domain. I lived through that period and the threat having a highway just off my back porch.

    The Southwest Garden at Rowe and Cummins was once a vibrant neighborhood of about 15 homes as well as a street (Shannahan Place) that was leveled for the exit ramp, but the highway never happened.

    DMK

    Barry's Ledge

    I can shed some light on the land having grown up and walked those woods as a kid.

    The former quarry was known as "Barry's Quarry" or better known by locals as "Barry's Ledge." It is one of a handful of open fields that still pepper parts of Boston. As a youth, I remember several full-fledged forest fires up in there that would bring spectators from miles around. It ceased operation sometime in the 50s I believe.

    American legion Highway did indeed end at Cummins Highway until the mid-60s. Some of the land was owned by the Zoppo Construction company (the flat area nearest the fire station - which in those days was brand spanking new having been moved from Roslindale Sq (now the library)).

    The land would sometimes be used for carnivals operated by the local American Legion contingent as a fund raiser and would extend from Cummins Highway back to where Wilmot Street now is.

    At about 1964-65 the land was acquired and the active section of the quarry was leveled and filled in. That is now the area occupied by the Stop & Shop. The stores in those days were Stop & Shop and the Bradlees Department Store, the "Target" of its day.

    American Legion Highway was then extended to meet the new shopping plaza and followed through to where it ends now at Hyde Park Ave.

    The abandoned road you walked was at one time one of the roadways used by trucks to get in and out of the quarry, though there are other roads off Wood Ave. that also went up in there as well.

    Of some interest to historians... at the end of Hyde Park Ave and just set off to the side is a small brick building occupied by a small business nestled at the end of the stub-end of Bradlee Street. It has been added to in modern times, but that was at one time the Cundy-Betthony Musical Instrument factory which produced musical instruments for the US military during WWII. The instruments are now considered collectors items of some value. Many of the metal instruments were made of stainless steel as opposed to brass or other metals due to the shortage of such raw materials at the time.

    Unknown to those who worked there at the time was that the on-site foundry was also manufacturing parts for the military war machine under a top secret designation. It's a little bit of local history that I can attest to since my (still living) elderly mother, now in her mid-80s, worked there.

    Hope that is a tad helpful.

    DMK

    WWI Guns

    Well there was a gunnery battery up there during WWII according to my mom - just in case.

    There were subs sunk off the New England coast.

    There was also the Prisoner of War facility in Hyde Park near the old HP High School that housed the prisoners from Italy that were brought over here to sit out the war. Many stayed.

    The missle launching pad was in the Blue Hills just off Rt 28, but that was decommissioned in the 50s or 60s. I forget when.

    Keep in mind that during Operation Paper Clip, Werner Von Braun and his crew first landed at Thompson Island.

    We are now officially off topic.

    MDC wanted to put an incinerator there

    In 1952, according to the Globe archives. Neighbors were not amused. It wasn't built (nor was one at an alternate site in Franklin Park!).

    In 1936, a "spectacular" fire in the quarry burned up nearly an acre of waste paper and tied up traffic along Cummins Highway for two hours as motorists slowed to watch.

    Imagine a high school up there

    In 1970, the BRA looked at two possible developments for the parcel, one including a new high school (for up to 5,000 students!) to relieve serious overcrowding at Hyde Park High.

    The report is an interesting look at the state of the area 40 years ago: The population around Roslindale Square had collapsed, Penn Central ran Buddliner service from Hyde Park to downtown and the state was still planning the Southwest Expressway - which would feature the aforementioned interchange st Cummins Highway and a new MBTA line (running down the median strip) with a stop there as well.

    Also, the report predicted the then new Stop & Shop/Bradlee's mall would become "the area's major retail outlet."

    My home abuts this land

    My home abuts this land (Pleasantview Street on the other side of the ridge) so I have explored it over the past 10 years - very spooky! But it also makes our area very quiet, like being out in the country. Found out from one of our neighbors that those big green poles were sunk into the blue clay below grade - it seizes up on them, so they can never be removed (except maybe by blasting!) - jfree36008