One of my earliest posts for the City Record quoted John Hales's assessment of Boston in 1821: "in even the principal streets you see one house towering above another, some advanced as though to attract attention, others set back seemingly to avoid gaze of notice, some with bow windows and arched doors, others straight and square; roofs and walls equally discordant". Hales came to mind while I was using the Boston Public Library website to do some research using the Boston Globe archives, which are a phenomenal resource for the years 1872-1922. If you have a Boston Public Library card and want to do the same thing, click here.
I was amused to read an article from 30 July 1911 titled "Boston's Dull Architecture" by William E. Curtis, who appears to be the missing link between Hales and those who decry Boston's red brick architecture in the present day. Curtis wrote, "There is no great display of architecture anywhere in the city. In the residence district there is little ostentation, and more home life than in other cities. The people of Boston do not live in restaurants as in New York and San Francisco..." And what of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue? "Both streets are gloomy and monotonous in architecture, but they are broad and are lined with abodes that are especially appropriate for those who occupy them". Curtis does have some nice words for Trinity Church and the Boston Public Library but he is less impressed with the MFA, which isn't up to the standards of New York or Chicago. Even if it were, the people of Boston were apparently philistines in 1911: "The irreverence and indifference for culture shown by certain people in Boston is disheartening. When I asked the starter at Park-st underground station what car I should take to the museum he replied:
"Take any car marked 'baseball grounds.' It's somewhere near there. You can't miss it."
The car was crowded and men clung to the footboards, but they all got off at the ball grounds. Only two of us went on to the art gallery."