Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Walking through Somerville and the North End

On last Tuesday evening, I went to a public meeting in Somerville. It took me one trolley, two buses, and a lot of walking to get to Somerville High School. That's an indication of the poor state of public transit in the area (I missed a bus at Lechmere, so my options were waiting 30 minutes for the next bus, or a mile's walk), which I'll touch on more later with the Green Line Extension.

The meeting was about the upcoming Lowering McGrath study, which is a really cool thing. They're going to take an ugly concrete viaduct from the 1950s, which carries Route 28 but divides Somerville, and transform it into an at-grade boulevard. It will facilitate pedestrian and bicycle access and unite the two sides of the city.

The meeting got out just past 8. Rather than take a bus, I decided to walk back to Boston. I wasn't sure I wanted to walk four miles (or more) through the unfamiliar street grid of Cambridge, so I headed for the North End. This route took me along a mile of Route 28, including much of the viaduct. It's a monstrosity, and it wasn't the best walking. The sidewalks - where there were sidewalks - were narrow, unlit, and often flooded.

In Somerville, I passed a building with several arched doorways that I though might have once been a trolley barn. The pictures I took were, sadly, dramatically underexposed. It turns out, though, that it is related to the history of the first elevated railway in Boston, a short-lived monorail. I hope to return soon and take pictures.

My journey took me over the Route 28 bridge under the Green Line's Lechmere viaduct. The viaduct is closed for construction at Science Park, but it still provided a fascinating photographic subject. The viaduct, which turns 100 next June, still contains some original catenary (overhead wire) poles:

Any view west from the bridge is blocked by the Museum of Science, but the hundred-foot arches of the viaduct provide wonderful framing for the Bunker Hill Bridge. (The Spaulding Hospital is on the right side of the bridge.)
I played with saturation on the top image. I love the artistic manipulations that digital photography permits.

From the Charles, I walked east on Nashua Street. My camera was still on night setting when I took this shot of a shuttle bus. It's not the quality I was seeking for Wikipedia, but instead I find a little artistic merit:

From much of the North End, the Bunker Hill bridge is visible above trees and buildings. The Big Dig was in many ways a colossal waste, but I love the bridge. Bridges are frequently beautiful - the same curves that make them strong are often aesthetically pleasing - and this is among the best. It is clean and white, resembling a pair of sailboats more than a freeway.

I walked down Causeway Street, behind North Station and TD Garden. The street was for almost a century covered by the Causeway Street elevated, yet just seven years after its removal few traces remain. Its remains, too, are a future photographic target for me.

At Government Center, after 3.3 miles of wandering, I finally gave in and boarded the T. I hoped to photograph the Brattle Loop, once a busy streetcar turnaround for cars from as far as Medford and Chelsea. Now it's usually empty, with the former platform visible to the thousands who pass through the station despite a wall that hides much of it. However, that night, it was occupied by spare Green Line trams.

(Crossposted from Walking Boston here)

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