Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cabot Farms, Somerville

It's damn cold, cold, cold! Last year was the first Massachusetts winter for me, and I was thinking it's manageable. Ughhh, I was duped. My arms are swelling like Popeye from snow shoveling. I love my Bean Boots, but am getting bored with wearing the same pair day after day. I need somewhere to schmooze like a lethargic lizard to escape from the cold and snow...

Looking at this abandoned function hall, I was imagining myself as a stuffed reptile in the lounge room. It wasn't appealing. Instead, I changed my mind as a dapper drummer smokin' a cigar or pianist who occasionally wears a funny hut and orders a drink saying "Straight, No Chaser"...I confess, I would be quite trashed if I did that. At Cabot Farms, time has stopped sometimes around the mid 20th century.

This glass block clad place has been closed for at least 2o years. Abandoned places tend to draw our rich imagination, so does Cabot Farms. If you ask about the place to Somervillians, they'll tell you rumors something like a real life heist film. Huuum, Somerville.

The premise had several functions: Cabot Farms was a function room catered for events like wedding receptions and group meetings. On Broadway Dance Club took over the place briefly in the 80's as a non-smoking club. A doorway in the middle is an entrance to the apartments upstairs which are still in use. Proudly air conditioned -- I experienced such a claim while I was traveling India-- Garden Room seems to idea...the old folks' boozy-woozy hangout? Each clue on the facade encapsulates the owner's imagination and the time passed by. Let me show you some examples: 

The above is a window dressing for Garden Room. Actually, it does look like a makeshift board-ups...The decoration is comprised with the pictures depicting the history of office environment and technology. Don't see the connection between the Garden and office technology? I'll explain it to you:

My grandpa used to work as a typist.
However, the ruthless wave of technology alienated him.
Now he stays in the place called Garden Room all day long.

What caught my attention is the detail in the "future" office space.

Pen tablet = the future technology

At Cabot Farm/On Broadway part of the premise, the never ending Christmas show is going on. Look at the Christmas themed decorations like pine corns, red and silver decoration balls, and silver dust on the bottom of the window. And don't forget saying hello to the lovely Satchmo; even educated fleas do it.

I need a polarizing filter badly...

Sorry, but who is that dude? He's like James Bond look-a-like. I mean a Sean Connery type, but not as sharp as the Scotchman. I asked Brian: "Ahhhh, James Cagney? No, no, Al Jolson. Don't you think?"

Don't ask me. Maybe, Maybe not.

The result of an image search for Al Jolson made me very nervous; he made his career as a minstrel man in 1927 movie the Jazz singer. No wonder why I didn't know him. Wait, wait, why is he right next to Louis Armstrong!!??
Al Jolson paved the way for African-American performers like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Ethel Waters.It is remarkable that a Jewish mamma's boy from Lithuania could do so much to bridge the cultural gap between black and white America. --From Broadway: The American Musical by PBS
Okay, it can be interpreted like that, but I cannot help thinking it's a cynical display of American show biz.

Instead of getting worked up with photos, I decided to examine the wall. Some insists calling these glass blocks as "VFW bricks", because it helps diffusing the morning light for the old folks inside.What a brilliant interpretation.

I like the green facade, there's a nostalgic ring to it. But why....oh, it's the color of the 80's dial home phone when I was little. That faded lime green PVC body with ceramic like shine. I wonder whether kids now know how to use a dial phone. They are not going to push the hole instead of rotating it, are they?

So, who owns the place now? Are there any plans to convert the space? The answer is simple: it is still owned by the same family. The conversion plan is not on the board because there seems to be an inheritance issue. Oh, that reminds me another abandoned restaurant with similar trouble, Sahara Syrian Restaurant in South End. Instead of being gentrified, those restaurants stay put as an unintended private museum of Boston social life.

Locate Cabot Farms @ Google Map

Ghost Building TwoHarrumph!
Remember Cabot Farms?: the Somerville News
30 to 35 yeas later and so much has changed: the Somerville News Blog

Monday, January 17, 2011

Powder House, Somerville

I've seen this old mill for many times, but something is different today, I thought. The American flag on the top of the tower was at half mast. It usually takes seconds to pick up the reason. This time it was sadly obvious why. Looking at the flag, I was worrying about my Japanese friend and her kids in Arizona.

Powder House is the quintessential Somerville; look at the seal of the city. The structure was originally built as a windmill in 1703-4. What would it look like with the windmill sails? I always thought it is called "Powder" House because it used to be a flour mill. But it seems to to be a different kind of powder. The mill was sold to the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1747 and used as the gunpowder magazine. General Gage seized the mill in 1774, leading to the Battle of Lexington and Concord a year after. Now the inside of the magazine is empty, functioning as the symbol of Somerville and the early history of the United States.

A heavy snowfall hit the area few days ago. Tree branches couldn't hold the amount of the snow accumulated, and finally snapped out. I've seen something like this after a tornado storm in the Midwest.

Looking at the closed gate

The American flag at half mast on the gunpowder magazine surrounded by violently snapped tree branches... While taking pictures, I couldn't help being puzzled by the strange layers of symbols. My mind began to spin: the flag is at half mast because the gun shots in Tuscon brought the death of six people. From Japanese eyes, a gun -- the tool cannot function without what used to be stored inside -- was the object that brought the violence. But some folks argue that more guns would have prevented the tragedy.

I thought what I saw in the snowfield somewhat represented how the guns have been playing the mythic role in this country, weighting on its masculine strength as the tool for the pursuit of freedom. But how can we solve the initial lack of medical support to the assailant, questions regarding freedom of speech, etc.?

The sun was already setting. It was bitterly cold and windy, and a young hawk was staggering in the sky. My mind was swirling like the winged fellow. Ok, I think too much, again. I should go home soon, it's too cold.

Locate Powder House @ Google Map

Monday, January 10, 2011

Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston

From Google Street View

Bummer, it's gone.

I knew it was abandoned, but I thought I didn't need to rush because it was on the National Register of Historic Places.

One day, I overheard the Longwood people talking about a demolition of one certain building, and I had a nagging feeling about it, and dropped by.

And here it is!

Rubble, rubble, rubble... 

Massachusetts Mental Health Center was built in 1912 as Boston Psychopathic Hospital. The center was closed in 2003. There were suggestions to renovate the facility, but well, you see what happened.

There was a handful of information about the demolition of Gaebler Children's Center. (Note: the work completed in last November. I'm planning to write about that in near future.) But until I overheard the conversation, I had no idea about this demolition. It is interesting that those hospital buildings were left abandoned for quite a while, but suddenly they've gone. Is there any reason to hurry up? Job creation?

I've been writing for many time in this blog that demolishing abandoned psychiatric hospitals may indicate that people are trying to forget about the rather uncomfortable past and PRESENT; a building has the power to represent our mind as an unspoken witness.

From Google Street View

I didn't intend to but this became another Apocalyptic post of 2011.

Locate Massachusetts Mental Health Center @ Google Map

Added on Feb 28: Check out the silvertoazzz's You Tube clip, Mass Mental Teardown. My photo is credited there!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Melancholic Crossing

Somewhere in North Cambridge.

I read as "DEPRESSED CROSSING AHEAD". What's your take...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wittemore Ave. Greenhouse, Cambridge

Updated Nov. 24, 2011: Here's the follow up article about the greenhouse; the demolition is going on right now... "Update on Whittemore Ave. Greenhouse"

When I was a kid, I cried over 1999, thinking I was determined to die young. Well, nothing happened. Dragging the feeling of being deceived, I became obsessed with imagining a parallel universe filled with an Apocalyptic cityscape.

But I didn't need to imagine. Apocalypse was now; decays were violently eating into the towns like Detroit and Gary while I was feeling doomed by 1999...Now I don't cry over 2012. I'm too old and cynical for that. 

An abandoned row of greenhouses along the Cambridge section of Minuteman Trail Extension is a sample size of Apocalypse in my North Cambridge neighborhood. I've always thought the property is related to a chemical company right next to. (i.e.: they used to grow plants for...uh, testings, and it failed a soil test or somethin' prior to cranking out a reuse plan.) But the answer was more simple; it was a closed flower and plant nursery called Edward F Norberg Inc.

A rather familiar view from the bikepath
Less familiar view of the entrance

What I don't know is: how long it's been vacant? Trees are popping out from the greenhouses!

We can do an educated guess from the size of trees but there are crucial factors to determine the year of closure: a) they had been trees for sale grown inside of the greenhouses, eventually the overgrown ex-products broke the sheets of glass. Or b) the glass ceilings broke after the prolonged abandonment, and tree seeds entered into the greenhouse through the openings.

The annual snow fall isn't a good news for the poor greenhouses. It must have been filled with vivid flowers and plants before, now the invasion of wild plants eating into the structures.

I know people who are aware of real estate values and neighborhood safety don't like the state of the greenhouses, but there is a strange beauty in this crumbling down structure. Chipped painting, wild plants hanging down in a carefree manner, surreal trees penetrating the glass ceilings... A mock antique themed clothing shop ubiquitous in shopping malls can't beat the space. 

Locate Wittemore Ave. Greenhouses @ Google Map