Once again I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge through all of April 2017. The basic idea is to make one blog post a day for each letter of the alphabet in alphabetical order (taking a day off on Sundays). Then you visit other A to Z participants to read their excellent posts and leave comments and hopefully even start conversations and make new friends.
Last year I documented my home neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston in JP A to Z.
I got a new camera last summer, my first digital SLR, and recently completed a photography course, so my theme this year will simply a new photograph each day, A to Z. To make things more interesting and guarantee that you’re seeing fresh photographs each day, I will take the photograph no more than 24 hours before the day it’s posted. I’m hoping that will encourage some creativity and inspiration on my part finding a subject.
Please come back and take a look at my photos each day. I’m looking forward to reading comments of what people think and feel when they see the photographs, and more technical feedback from experienced photographers.
If you have a blog and want to participate in the A to Z Challenge, read this post about how to get involved: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2017/02/announcing-2017-blogging-from-to-z.html
April and the Blogging A to Z Challenge are now over. Thanks for joining me on a journey through 26 things about my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston, MA. I hope it was illuminating, although it barely scratches the surface. I could make another A to Z list with completely different topics (except Q, I have no idea to do with Q).
If you started reading this blog for the A to Z Challenge, I hope you stick around. My About page lists the typical topics you will see covered in this blog as well as other ways to connect with me.
Franklin Park Zoo is part of the large Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park on the border between Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. It’s a popular destination for local families. Although it’s not a particularly great zoo compared to others I visited, it does have some strong points. One is the African Lion exhibit, once home to the late & lamented Christopher whose roars echoed through the city, and now home to the brothers Dinari and Kamaia. The premier exhibit is the Tropical Forest which is home to a troop of gorillas including the baby Azize born last May. The Franklin Farm contains a petting zoo, and we’re eagerly awaiting the opening of the new children’s zoo Nature’s Neighborhoods.
Dinari and Kamaia on their birthday.
Baby Nigerian Dwarf Goat Chewbacca rests on her mom.
Condor takes flight.
Post for “Z” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
Jamaica Plainers like to knit and stitch. And when they’re not making clothing, tea cosies, and afghan blankets, they sometimes “yarn bomb” – a colorful way of bringing a little cheer to the neighborhood. With yarn.
Sadly, yarn bombing seems to be a seasonal activity so I haven’t found too many examples out in the wild this April.
JP Knit & Stitch routinely yarn bomb a post outside the store, but it never seems to be there when I have my camera. Here’s a photo on Instagram.
Post for “Y” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
X marks the spot, and today’s JP A to Z post marks things that used to be in JP but are now long gone. I’m sure longtime JP residents can list many things that used to be in JP (please list in the comments!) but I’m just going to focus on a few major ones.
Boston Children’s Museum
I visited Boston for the first time as a child in 1980 and a highlight of that vacation was going to the Boston Children’s Museum at Fort Point Channel. I’ve been back many times taking my kids. It’s a terrific museum and I’m sure its current location makes it easy from families all over Boston and out-of-town to get there, but how cool is it that the museum actually got its start in Jamaica Plain? And how convenient would it be if it were still there?
The Children’s Museum opened in Pinebank Mansion overlooking Jamaica Pond in 1913 (the mansion was demolished in 2007). In 1936 the museum opened in a new location on Burroughs Street where it remained until moving to Fort Point in 1979. That location is still there betraying very little of its hands-on museum past.
Green Line Arborway Branch
The Green Line E Branch or Arborway Branch once ran along S. Huntington Street to Centre Street to South Street to Forest Hills Station. In 1985, service on this line was “temporarily” suspended, but it has not been restored in 31 years despites lawsuits and debates (and the fact the slow, overcrowded 39 bus is not an adequate replacement). A few years back the tracks on the street were paved over and the trolley shelters at Forest Hills were removed as part of construction for Casey Arborway.
There are still signs of the trolley if you know where to look.
From 1909 to 1987, elevated rapid transit trains rumbled over Washington Street in Jamaica Plain (roughly parallel to where the Orange Line now runs in the Southwest Corridor) making stops at Egleston Square, Green Street, and Forest Hills. It was a popular route and its existence certainly changed Jamaica Plain making it place where working people could live and commute into the city. On the downside, it was noisy and blocked out sunlight on Washington Street, so many people were probably relieved when it came down. Still, it would’ve been kind of cool if it had been renovated and maintained as an elevated walking/biking path akin to the High Line in New York.
Post for “X” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
The winters in Jamaica Plain can be very harsh, so each spring the neighborhood explodes in springtime joy at the Wake Up the Earth Festival. The event, sponsored by Spontaneous Celebrations, begins with festive DIY parades that converge on the Southwest Corridor Park near Stony Brook station for a full day of music, dance, storytelling, food, arts, and a whole lot of fun.
The festival originated from the protests that stopped the construction of I-95 through the heart of Boston in the 1960s & 70s leading to the construction of the Southwest Corridor linear park instead. Today instead of 40,000 cars a day, the Southwest Corridor moves people on trains (Amtrak, commuter rail, & Orange Line), bikes, feet, scooters, and skateboards, and one day of the year a wicked awesome party.
If the A to Z challenge extended into May, I could “live blog” the Wake Up the Earth Festival on May 7, but in the meantime you’ll have to check out some photos from the previous 7 years.
Today’s JP A to Z is a bit of a mystery. Ukraine Way is possibly the shortest through street in the city of Boston connecting Hyde Park Avenue to Washington Street just southwest of Forest Hills Station. No one has a Ukraine Way address, because there are no buildings on Ukraine Way where people can live or work. In fact most of the street is elevated over the railroad tracks.
The mystery begins with a neighborhood map in the Forest Hills Station that indicates that Ukraine Way is an extension of Walk Hill Street (which would be confusing since it doesn’t actually connect with Walk Hill Street). That map probably dates to 1987 when the new Forest Hills Station opened. Sometime after 1987 the street was renamed after the European nation. I searched a database of Boston newspapers and the earliest reference to Ukraine Way is 1997, but no mention of when or why it got that name.
Of course, the most likely explanation is that the St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church sits on a hill overlooking Forest Hills Station. The street was probably renamed to honor the local Ukrainian-American community, as well eliminate any confusion over Walk Hill Street.
A couple of years ago, during the height of the Crimean Crisis, I noticed that someone had decorated the street sign on Ukraine Way with two flags: one for Ukraine and one for the European Union. In this way the little street in Jamaica Plain made a big geopolitical statement. The flags are gone now, but I took a blurry photo from my phone.
Post for “U” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
The three-decker (sometimes called triple-decker) is a type of apartment building that is prominent in eastern Massachusetts but rarely found elsewhere. It’s a simple design in which each of the three floors is a single apartment. These were built primarily from 1870s to the 1920s as an economical way of housing lots of immigrant workers, but having more light and fresh air than row houses.
I’ve lived on the top floor of a three-decker for 18 years now, first in Somerville, now in JP. Because the floorplan is virtually identical, I find myself having memories of things happening in this house and then realizing that they happened in the previous house. Most three-deckers are pretty simple, unadorned wood-frame structures. But on Brookside Street in Jamaica Plain there are a series of three-deckers with decorative elements of Victorian architecture styles known as The Seven Sisters (sadly, one of them burnt down so only Six Sisters survive).
Post for “T” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
On an otherwise quiet back street near Stony Brook station stands this festive building. It was built in the 1870s as the clubhouse for the Boylston Schul-Verein, one of the many ethnic social clubs common in Jamaica Plain in the 19th century. Today it is home to Spontaneous Celebrations, a contemporary community group that brings people together for many social and activist activities. I’ve spent many hours in the building for choir practice and dance parties, and it always seems booked for rehearsals, art projects, concerts, parties, and meetings.
Spontaneous Celebrations’ signature event is The Wake Up the Earth Festival, but you’ll have to wait for my April 27th post to read about it here.
Post for “S” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
Every year hundreds of children aged 7 to 15 come out to play baseball and softball on dozens of teams in the eight divisions of the Regan Youth League. The season kicks off with a parade, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the street, and ceremonies at Daisy Field.
If you’re out and about on the morning of Saturday, April 23rd come out and cheer for the players and coaches. Below are some photos from a few years back.
Post for “R” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
I’m definitely cheating a bit to get a Q in here. After all, I could have posted Latin Quarter for L instead of a couple of poets. And I could’ve posted the poets for P instead of Francis Parkman. And I could’ve posted Francis Parkman for F instead of the Footlight Club. And I could’ve posted the Footlight Club as C for community theater or just T for theater. And so on.
But I’m glad I’m able to include this in the A to Z Challenge as Jamaica Plain is home to Latin American immigrants many of them from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic as well as other parts of Central and South America. In fact, the teen leaders of the Hyde Square Task Force are working on a campaign to have the area around Hyde Square and Jackson Square officially designated as Boston’s Latin Quarter
Post for “Q” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
If you visit Jamaica Plain, you’ll run into the name “Parkman” in various places.
It’s the name of a playground:
It’s inscribed on a school building, now home to the BTU K-8 School:
It’s the name of a road running past Jamaica Pond:
And if you brave the ridiculously high-speed traffic on Francis Parkman Drive where there is no crosswalk to be found, you might make your way to this memorial:
All of this is to remember one of Jamaica Plain’s most noted residents, Francis Parkman (1823-1893):
He was so famous that he is the only Jamaica Plain resident to date to appear on a US postage stamp:
Here are some facts about Francis Parkman:
He was a noted historian focusing on the history of conflict between colonizing powers in his seven volume work France and England in North America.
He’s most famous, however, for his book The Oregon Trail, a narrative of a journey out west he took with his friend Quincy Adams Shaw when he was 23.
In addition to history, Parkman was interested in horticulture, active in the Massachusetts Horticulture Society, and briefly a Professor of Horticulture with Harvard University.
He bought a cottage overlooking Jamaica Pond in 1854 and named it Sunnyside.
Parkman served as Trustee of the Boston Athenaeum from 1858 until his death.
During the Civil War he sought to collect publications from the Confederacy resulting in the Athenaeum having one of the worlds largest collections of material published in the Confederacy.
When Jamaica Pond was acquired by the city in the 1890s and given to Frederick Law Olmsted to landscape as part of the Emerald Necklace system of parks, the great respect for Parkman lead to Sunnyside being one of only two houses allowed to remain (the other, Pinebank, was demolished in 2007). After Parkman’s death in 1893, Sunnyside was demolished.
On the sight of Sunnyside stands the memorial to Francis Parkman which includes a sculpture by Daniel Chester French.
The inscription on the memorial reads:
“Here were for many years he lived and where
He died friends of Francis Parkman have placed
This seat in token of their admiration for his
Character and for his achievements”.
Despite living and dying in Jamaica Plain he is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Post for “P” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
The Orange Line is the life line for Jamaica Plain, allowing JP residents a direct rapid transit commute to Downtown Boston and connections to other communities beyond. The Orange Line in Jamaica Plain was originally the Elevated over Washington Street (more on that in a future JP A to Z post) but the El was torn down in 1987, replaced by the Southwest Corridor. There are four Orange Line stops in Jamaica Plain: Jackson Square, Stony Brook, Green Street, and the terminus of the Orange Line in Forest Hills.
Each of the MBTA’s lines has its own personality. I don’t ride the Blue Line much so I can’t speak to that. But the Green Line tends to be dominated by college students and young adults. By day it’s like a study hall, by night it’s like a cocktail party. The Red Line is more for professionals, people in suits going to the Financial District or medical professionals in scrubs going to a hospital. And the Orange Line? To paraphrase James Joyce “Here comes everybody!” Passengers are diverse in ethnic and social backgrounds, and it seems the line where I most often see children commuting with their parents. In fact, for several years I took my son to childcare on the T and I was always impressed by how Orange Line riders would help out – offering a seat, clearing a space, helping carry the stroller, and entertaining a cranky toddler. That’s why I contend that the Orange Line in its own quiet way is the friendliest line of the MBTA system.
Here comes everybody!
I always love that the word is GREEN while the color is ORANGE.
The end of the line at Forest Hills.
Post for “O” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
Jamaica Plain is home to a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, although you have to know where to look for any evidence of the fact. Emily Greene Balch (1867-1961) taught economics at Wellesley College for many years but when she became an outspoken opponent of the United States involvement in the Great War, Wellesley terminated her contract. From this point forward she dedicated her life to the international peace movement and was a prominent leader in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). For her efforts she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.
Post for “N” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
So we are halfway through the Blogging A to Z Challenge. I’ve been trying hard to read, like, and comment on other people’s A to Z posts, but as there are 1758 of you out there, I’m just scratching the surface.
I decided that I would highlight some of my favorite A to Z projects that you may to read. Please let me know of the great blogs I’m missing out on! There’s a lot of great work going on.
A. J. Sefton introduces us to fascinating people of the Dark Ages
At an island at the fork of two of Jamaica Plain’s “main streets” – Centre and South – stands a prominent landmark, the Soldier’s Monument, known to many as just The Monument. Dedicated in 1871, the Monument is a memorial to the 23 men of West Roxbury (as Jamaica Plain was part of the Town of West Roxbury at the time) who died fighting for the Union in the American Civil War. A smaller plaque remembers the locals who died in the Revolutionary War cause. The Monument still serves as a place of memory and reflection, and is frequently decorated with flags on holidays and solemn occasions by local activist and Boston Marathon bombing hero Carlos Arredondo.
A few years back the Monument was restored and at the rededication ceremony they read off the names of the soldiers who died in the Civil War, all of whom are buried in the South near the battlefields where they died. Several of the men are buried in Williamsburg, VA where I went to college and lived for seven years, making the Monument extra resonant for me.
The soldier stands vigil atop the 27-foot monument.
Revolutionary War dead also remembered.
The Monument on Memorial Day.
The Loring-Greenough House (1760) across the street.
The Monument is surrounded by prominent buildings including the First Church in Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist, Curtis Hall (once the town hall for independent West Roxbury), the Jamaica Plain library branch, and the Loring-Greenough House. A colonial-era milestone by the Monument marks five miles distance from the Old State House in central Boston.
Post for “M” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
Jamaica Plain has connections to not one but two 20th century poets known for the confessional style.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was born on a quiet street in Jamaica Plain. Her father was a botanist who did research in the nearby Arnold Arboretum. She moved away around the age of 4, but published her first poem in the Boston Herald at the age of 8, and maintained ties to the Boston area through her short, troubled life.
Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was born in Newton, MA and lived much of her live in nearby Weston. She is buried in the Forest Hills Cemetery.
Draw a line on a map from Sylvia Plath’s birthplace to Anne Sexton’s burial-place and you have a ley line of confessional poetry crossing Jamaica Plain.
Post for “L” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
If you’ve been reading the Jamaica Plain A to Z series the past couple of weeks, you may be wondering how a neighborhood in Boston ended up getting named Jamaica Plain. The Plain part is deceptively simple. The area around Jamaica Pond where the central village is located is flat. Yet, other parts of the neighborhood are rather hilly.
The Jamaica part is more complicated. There are three theories behind the name.
It was named by colonial residents of the town of Roxbury who were celebrating Britain capturing the Carribean island of Jamaica from Spain.
The inhabitants of this region of Roxbury liked to drink their Jamaica rum plain, that is without ice.
But the most likely explanation is that the English settlers Anglicized the name of Kuchamakin of the local Massachusetts tribe. Kuchamakin was a regent for the sachem of the Massachusetts, Chickatawbut.
A little more Jamaica Plain history. Jamaica Plain has not always been part of Boston, but it has never been an independent municipality. Jamaica Plain, or Jamaica End, was originally part of the town of Roxbury in colonial times. Jamaica Plain joined two other neighborhoods – Roslindale and West Roxbury – in seceding from Roxbury in 1851 to form the town of West Roxbury. Jamaica Plain was the most densely populated area of independent West Roxbury and home to the town hall (now Curtis Hall). Desiring better municipal services, West Roxbury agreed to be annexed by Boston in 1874 (the original Roxbury had already joined Boston in 1868).
I could find no images of Kuchamakin, not even a sketch, but his name is said to mean “big feather.” In his honor, here is a photo of a big feather in Jamaica Plain. Read more on Native Americans in Jamaica Plain.
Post for “K” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.
If you’ve been following my A to Z journey through Jamaica Plain, you may be interested in learning more about the neighborhood on a walking tour.
First, there’s the Jamaica Plain Historical Society whose website is full of articles and research that have been invaluable to me during this project. JPHS offers FREE walking tours through different areas of JP on Saturdays at 10 am from spring to autumn. Note, that while I’ve lead these tours in the past, I don’t currently have the time to lead them but I highly recommend them as a fun and healthy way to learn some local history.
Second, Boston By Foot will be presenting the annual April Fool’s tour True Lies and False Facts in Jamaica Plain this Sunday, April 17 from 2-4 PM, meeting at Stony Brook station on the Orange Line. Once again, while I am a guide for Boston By Foot, I am already committed to attending the Red Sox game at that time, so I won’t be able to make it. But YOU should definitely go if you can make it!