What’s Happening on Main Streets

By Richard Rouse


Construction on the 15 Francis St. entrance to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is fully under way. Just recall any time you’ve done a home improvement and the resulting headaches it creates. The hospital is excavating an enormous pit to create a 406-space underground parking garage that will be capped with a promenade-style park leading up to the grand Greek revival facade of the old Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Thea and James Stoneman Centennial Park is named in honor of the project’s benefactors, who broke ground with Mayor Menino, Councilor Mike Ross and Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez on May 30.

There has been considerable angst by local merchants as to how this project will impact their businesses. However, hospital honcho John McGonagle, a longtime Main Streets board member, has been diligently attempting to address the concerns of all. All rehabs are a hassle, but definitely worth the sacrifice when the task is completed.

Speaking of facelifts, the staging on the frontage of 800 Huntington Ave. has come down, revealing a gorgeous countenance to that part of Mission Hill. Theresa Parks, Anna Adams and all the folks at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard tell me they can’t wait to see the finished product.

Harvard School of Public Health is losing its two biggest boosters with the recent retirements of two marvelous Mission Hillers, Mary Jane Curran and Bruce Smith. With their many decades of service, these two selfless individuals have done more to enhance the reputation of the “world’s greatest university” around here than all of Harvard’s Nobel laureates put together. Thank you and congrats.

Keep Sat., Sept. 22 open on your calendar for the second Mission Hill Healthy Food Festival, a collaboration sponsored by the Mission Hill Health Movement, Sociedad Latina and Mission Hill Main Streets. Expected partners this year include Northeastern University’s Heart Healthy Initiative, Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, and Brigham and Women’s Dietary Staff. Last year’s festival was a huge success with special kudos to Wentworth Institute’s Mike Pankiewicz and the Tobin Center’s Bill Romond.  Matt Postal from Lilly’s Fresh Pasta still boasts of winning last year’s “Healthiest Recipe” award. It’s hard to be humble!

Local eating establishments are all buzzing about the upcoming round-robin soccer challenge among their staff teams on July 20. It appears that the various kitchen staffs began a little trash talking among themselves as to the athletic prowess of each restaurant’s employees. Area merchants such as Mission Bar and Grill’s Michel Soltani, The Crossing’s Sharon Driscoll, The Squealing Pig’s Diarmuid O’Neill, Flann O’Brien’s Tony O’Brien and Penguin Pizza’s Dermot Doyne have been encouraging this good-natured competition among their diverse staffers. Who knows, we might be witnessing the beginning of a Beanpot-style tradition among the bistros?

Having spent my childhood in a three-decker, these distinctly New England architectural dwellings hold a special place in my heart. Boston has the most of these unique homes first constructed after the Civil War until the end of WWI as a way for many immigrant families to build affordable homes as the streetcar suburbs expanded the city away from downtown. Current economic conditions have once again revived consumer interest in these gems much as they did in the 1970s. Back then, the renaissance was spearheaded by Boston Redevelopment Authority director and Mission Hill native Bob Ryan and Mayor Kevin White renaming them “triple-deckers.”

The structures possess a wide array of stylistic features and embellishments depending on the budget of their builders. These features range from the simple unadorned boxes seen in South and East Boston to the elaborately corniced bow-fronts seen in Roxbury and Dorchester.

Mission Hill holds the largest number of “Roxbury-roofed” designs with distinctive slate-covered hip roofs as distinguished from their flat-roofed cousins. Homeowners appear to be rehabbing their castles throughout the city and Mission Hill appears to be leading the way. Keep on the lookout for the removal of the aluminum siding as well as the installation of window boxes and ornate woodwork adornments and multiple distinctive paint colors popular during the Victorian era. There are many ugly ducklings yearning to become the swans of the neighborhood.

The writer is the executive director of Mission Hill Main Streets.

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