Daffodils are sprouting forth from their winter hibernation as Mission Hill sheds its winter grey to springtime green. William Butler Yeats in his famous poem “Easter 1916” said, “Whenever green is worn are (sic) changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.”
Locals of Irish extraction undoubtedly recognize those sentiments as readily as Americans upon hearing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words, “On the eighteenth of April, in seventy-five; Hardly a man is now alive, who remembers that famous day and year.” Both poetic excerpts refer to revolutionary events in April and have ties to this neighborhood.
Each Patriot’s Day, the ride of Paul Revere’s fellow town crier William Dawes is reenacted on horseback through Mission Hill alerting the populace to the approaching British Army of 1775. Since this month marks the centennial celebration of the Easter Rising of the Irish Republic from the British rule, I’ll share with you a local tie to that seminal event which you may not know.
The seven signers of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic (which bears an uncanny resemblance to our own Declaration of Independence) became martyrs in the cause of Irish freedom. One of them, James Connolly, lived for several months with his wife Lillie and their children on Mission Hill. A devout Catholic, he frequently worshiped at our own Mission Church. From 1903 until 1910, Connolly resided in various cities in the United States and spoke in places like Faneuil Hall advocating for Irish freedom and labor rights.
On April 24, 1916, as commandant of the Irish Brigade, Connolly seized the General Post Office in Dublin where the Proclamation was read and held off an overwhelming force of the British Army for several days. The effort is not considered a military masterpiece, yet it was Connolly’s punishment along with the deaths of a few hundred British troops, which brought global attention to the event. A number of the participants in the rising were executed.
On May 12, 1916 the 47-year old-Connolly, near death from battle injuries, was delivered by ambulance to Kilmainham Jail, tied to a chair and executed by firing squad. The brutality of the heavy-handed English response backfired with public opinion and the rest, as they say, is history. There are statues honoring Connolly in Dublin, Chicago, and New York. One of the main railroad depots in Dublin is called Connolly Station and a hospital is named for him in Blanchardstown. Diamuid O’Neill, the Irish history buff who owns the Squealing Pig, should, at least, name a beverage in Connolly’s honor.
A large crane was recently spotted along the Jamaicaway. Have I suddenly taken up ornithology? No, I’m referring to the renaissance of South Huntington Avenue with flocks of industrious tradesmen erecting the Nader brothers Serenity project at number 105A S. Huntington Ave. The BRA approved two other projects at their March meeting, which will bring even more life to the long-dormant parcels along that trolley way.
Thirty-eight residential units with commercial and retail space at the street level will soon be breaking ground at the 12,000 square-foot vacant lot at 35 South Huntington Ave. next to the Wok n’ Talk Restaurant. The design of the project by RODE Architects in the South End respected the row house character of the block and has received lots of praise at the community meetings I attended.
Further along the avenue at numbers 201-205, the Goddard House renovation and redevelopment received its approval to expand and re-adapt the closed nearly-century old nursing home into 167 dwelling units. I was glad to have been named to the community Impact Advisory Group (IAG) for this project because it preserves the handsome design by renowned Boston architect firm Shepley Bulfinch.
Many of the classic campus structures at Harvard University in Cambridge were created by the company at the same time as the Goddard House. Shepley Bulfinch was the same company that was founded by H.H. Richardson, one of America’s greatest designers of the nineteenth century. This will be a first-class project that preserves an elegant edifice that will enhance the appearance of the area for generations to come. The proponents of this project are Eden Properties, along with Samuels and Associates who have earned impressive reputations for their previous work on large-scale projects and who took the concerns and suggestions of neighborhood residents to heart.
On March 9, Mayor Martin Walsh unveiled a new small business plan, a five-year effort to help businesses start and grow in Boston. With over 40,000 small businesses generating about $15 billion in annual revenue and approximately 170,000 jobs, the City hopes to become more supportive to small business than ever before. We at Mission Hill Main Streets applaud the City for this initiative. The Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement this month selected Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services Director Patricia Flaherty as one of this year’s “Extraordinary Women of Boston” Awards. She certainly is!
Mission Hill is losing one of its most admired merchants as Felix Figueroa shuffles off into retirement. “I came to Mission Hill in ’64 and ran this place for more than 40 years… it’s been great!,” he said. When neighbors refer to Figueroa’s market they do so with reverence. Susan Goldberg of Delle Avenue told me, “My beloved dog Pancho wandered off one day and I had to go out of town. Felix helped spread the word, circulated flyers and cared for the (prodigal) pitbull until I returned home. He is such a kind man!”
Felix doesn’t like to talk about himself, yet loves to brag about his kids. “My oldest son Robert is a Boston cop, Jeanette is with the MBTA, Diana works at Boston Medical Center and Linda does livery and construction…they are my joy!,” he said. Felix claims he’s had “no problems” in all that time at his Delle Avenue and Parker Street corner store. He tells me that the new owner is a nice guy and will quickly learn “how nice these neighbors are.” Congratulations and best wishes, Felix.