Saturday, January 28, 2012

The narrowest street in the South End

Ghost sign
It was a nice day today, and as I was wandering around past Back Bay station I noticed an old painted billboard on the side of a building. Not being in a hurry to get anywhere, I decided to poke around the South End some more in search of these so-called "ghost signs." I don't normally find myself in the South End much these days. It's a curious neighborhood in some ways. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about it is the omnipresent red brick. The second impression is that of overly wide streets laid out on a regular, grid-like scheme. Historically, much of the South End is built on landfill and was planned like the Back Bay, in the 19th century. That explains why the character is so much different than "Boston Proper."

Something different

I did end up finding a few more ghost signs, and I'm sure there's plenty of others too. I even spotted one of the "controversial" new street signs. But I ended up turning away from the broad arterial streets and poking around some of side roads. You have to be careful when walking around here. The red bricked sidewalks are quaint but bumpy. The neighborhood is fairly pleasant to walk around but the monotonous red brick gets tiresome after a while. I did stumble on some unexpected sights however. One person decided to cover their front entry with curious little statues. I hope they weren't harassed too badly for it by the neighborhood association around here.
Taylor Street

Then nearby, I spotted a real outlier: a narrow street! Almost as narrow as the famous Acorn Street in Beacon Hill. Not too shabby. Shame that about half the length of the street is taken up by a park that isn't open to the public (currently, at least). I wonder how this street came to be. It's fairly close to Washington Street, so it is possibly one of the oldest in the area. There were a few more relatively narrow streets close by, as well, though they had at least one lane of street parking on them. Quite a few parks or playgrounds in the immediate vicinity, and they were pretty popular on this warm winter day.

The narrowest street in the South End!
I thought I'd have to do some more combing to see if any other streets were narrower in other parts of the South End. But then I walked past this little gem, which I doubt can be challenged at all. It's so small that it doesn't even get graced with a name, not even something as generic as "Public Alley" like in the Back Bay. But there's entryways, connecting "alleys" and even a streetlight on it. And no cars. Maybe it's too small. But it's a nice change of pace. Most modern regulatory regimes would forbid the creation of these small streets, even ones wide enough for a car like Taylor Street. That's a shame.

I walked back along Washington Street. I've been past here several times, but never noticed this particular view of the Hancock buildings. The parking lot makes a big contrast with the rest of the neighborhood, although it is sadly typical of Washington Street, which is strangely desolate in this part of town.
New and Old Hancock buildings from Washington Street

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