When Boston still had elevated tracks

Mystery Boston scene

The folks at the Boston City Archives wonder if you can figure out when and where this photo was taken. See it larger.



Free tagging: 


    Lowell Street at Minot Street

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    In the good old West End. The elevated structure were the old Cambridge Viaduct that brought trolleys to Lechmere.

    It looks like Lowell St. @

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    It looks like Lowell St. @ Causeway, the curve in the el was sharper at that location than Lowell @ Minot, and the 1938 Ward map link does show the el going over small buildings at the corner at that turn. If that is the spot, the O'Neil Federal Building would be in the left corner of the photo today.

    Lowell at Causeway, not Minot

    For this to be Minot, the sun would be shining from the North. Also, where the elevated turned off of Lowell towards the Viaduct was at Willard Street and there were no buildings. The City Ice and Fuel Co would be on the left and is not.

    I was just about to change my answer

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    I don't know why I wanted to be that far north, but upon looking at the map for a second (or third) time, Causeway was the way to go.

    I tip my hat to you.

    Those are obviously Green Line tracks

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    (overhead wires). So it's got to be somewhere in the West End (adjacent to the current Leverett Circle?) before they built the elevated Central Artery and the old DPW/RMV headquarters building.

    Found this


    "When I went to Boston Museum (of Fine Arts) School in the late 1940s, the studio I shared with a fellow student was in the West End of Boston, over Sadie's Hat Shoppe It had 3 huge plate glass windows filling the width and height of the loft, at the end facing the street with a stunning view of the tracks of the elevated subway (oxymoron) And the sound was ear splitting when the train turned the corner outside our studio. But hey, it was $15/month for cold water, unheated loft. We used a range oil space heater, ice was delivered for icebox (no fridge) We heated water for dishes and bath on kitchen cast iron stove, we had no shower. Talk about retro living. It was heaven on earth, I slept in sleeping bag. We lived la vie Boheme and partied plenty with lots of $1 bottle of Chianti wrapped in straw"

    Lowell Street

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    "… 2nd story cold water loft over "Sadie's Hat Shop" on Lowell St. …"

    Lowell Street, like most streets in the West End, no longer exists.



    Here's roughly the same view today.


    EDIT: As others have pointed out, it is Causeway at Lowell Streets. The maps at WardMaps shows the Shapiro Building at the southwest corner of the intersection.

    The same view today.


    Ah, yes, how urban design has improved so much in the past six decades.

    I don't know where it was,

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    I don't know where it was, but I wish I could get in a time machine and visit. I see at least TWO antique stores and a CORSET shop and I want to see what that could possibly have been like. Too bad they tore it all down and put up a vast waste of nothing.

    The Answer!

    This one was tricky, because the street no longer exists. This is Lowell St at the intersection of Causeway on December 4, 1952. Lowell Street was demolished during urban renewal. Thanks for playing!


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    Madison was right beside North Station. We all got up early to watch them blow it up in the early 80s. Big boom, cloud, glorious collapse and then a shout from the crowd: "TO THE LENOX!"

    Isn't one of those buildings

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    Isn't one of those buildings on the right, behind the tracks, The Last Tenement?

    Or is 'the last tenement'

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    Or is 'the last tenement' supporting the billboard above and to the right of the Budweiser truck. The 1938 map is key to understanding this I think. Bromfield Antiques at #12 is pretty early in the first block, but then at the end of that block there is a big gap not on the map, and behind the Bud truck we can see the long, low City Ice and Fuel building and also the elevated curving off to the left. (I've noticed in these older photos that background space gets collapsed a bit and gets pulled closer, at least relative to google streetview).

    So had urban renewal already begun in this photo? Or more likely, a significant portion of that second block fell after 1938 to make parking for all the new car commuters. Anyway we know that building has to be older than 1938 so it has to be there somewhere on the right, either blocked by the truck or the billboard.