Thursday, July 7, 2011

Boston, MA - 4th-5th July

I've now been in the US for three nights now, though it seems like much longer. I arrived into Boston (via Iceland) on the evening of July 4th and after travelling into town and grabbing some food downtown I made it to my bed for the first night just in time of the July 4th firework display. I viewed the display from an 8th floor glass-fronted lounge overlooking the Charles river with downtown Boston providing an amazing backdrop to the extravagant show. Exhausted after 12 hours (on my English body-clock) of travelling I turned in for the night.

View from the lounge: July 4th fireworks display over the Charles river, Boston

The next morning, Tuesday 5th, I travelled over to Lucy Goodhart's with whom I was to stay with for two nights in her lovely house in Brookline. After some lunch with her and her husband, Gordon Bennett, I (like Owain) borrowed Gordon's bike and bike map of Boston and set to exploring. The heat was unbearable - highs of 93 - but the cycle from Brookline to Harvard and then over and along the North bank of the Charles river from Harvard bridge to Downtown was wonderful despite the overpowering heat.

On the way to Harvard I passed an abandoned electrical and car repair shop. The door was open, and it looked like workmen were inside removing wiring, salvaging remaining valuables before the building was laid to rest. Hardly the most exciting photograph I've taken, but my first abandoned shot on my travels.

Carburetors - Electrical - Brakes

Boston's not the greatest city for finding (architecturally) interesting abandoned buildings. For a start, being up north it's liable to receiving heavy snowfall. For this reason when buildings become disused and dilapidated they tend to be torn down. Secondly, during the late 70s and 80s much of Boston (Brookline, where I was staying, included) underwent massive regeneration and redevelopment to make it the clean-cutting, business city it is today.

However, one interpretation of abandonment I'm interested in pursuing is the abandonment due to the economic downturn of 2008. In many ways Boston isn't a particularly good example of this. It's economy (centred primarily around education and healthcare) has been relatively insulated from the depression of 2008, and its marks from the perspective of abandoned buildings are barely visible. However, some notable scars remain, and I find it telling to compare these to buildings I hope to visit that have lain empty to waste since the Wall Street crash in 1929.

One such notable scar in Boston is the remnants of the Harvard Science Centre project Harvard recently abandoned as part of a cost-cutting exercise following the massive hits it took to its endowment ($36 billion in 2008 to $27 in 2010).  The $1 billion Science project now exists as little more than a concrete hole in the ground shielded by a gargantuan wooden fence in an attempt to preserve Harvard's modesty.
Harvard's $1bn Science Centre - abandoned pending further funding

Patrolled by security I was told I wasn't allowed in, but Gordon's bike and a nearby tree made a good make-shift ladder, and I was soon perched on top of the 9ft fence. I decided not to drop down and into the site as it looked like if I did there'd be no way to climb back out, so I stuck to taking some (unexciting) shots from my vantage point.

I returned after a day's exploring and had supper with Gordon and their eldest son Teddy, 10, who had returned from baseball practice just as I landed in. Afterwards we watched the end of the Red Sox and Blue Jays game which gave me an opportunity to get some free baseball tuition from Gordon, a fan of all things sports. By the end of the game, under Gordon's apprenticeship, I knew my Baltimore chops from my beanballs and my golden sombreros from my grandslams. Sufficiently smug with my new-found baseball knowledge I called it a night.

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