Boston Old Town, July 2006
Walking around Boston, I finally felt like I was in a proper Old Town, or even in a proper city — a feeling that I had not had ever since I came to America. Apart from spending the first few years in a small town that housed a university campus and nothing else, I only lived in suburban areas. It’s inevitable in the US, because suburban areas are (or used to be?) affordable, whereas real estate in the cities is far beyond the reach of middle class. So I reconciled myself with the notion that in the US I will never be able to live inside the “city proper”, the kind I grew up in, but I remember how much I miss it whenever I venture into an urban environment.
Most American cities are not old enough to have an Old Town feel. But Boston is. Walking in Boston, I could imagine myself in a European city, perhaps even like the one I grew up in, though Boston is also different in its own ways. Lots of red brick houses here, and many of them prominently feature fire escapes. A fire escape as a central decorative feature of a building (yes, I realize they are primarily functional) — I haven’t seen that before.
A corner of a street with red brick houses with a fire escape. According to my records, this is Charles street. This may be the only time in Boston that I wrote down the name of the street I was taking pictures of.
Me in Boston old town
A corner of a narrow, curving street in Boston, with an arched passageway to the right, so dear to my heart (because arches!), and a fire escape
The red brick building on the left, surrounded by scaffolding, is the Old State House.
The Union Oyster House, a restaurant in Boston old town, that’s been open since 1825.
What I liked about Boston, and what I like about all cities that evolved organically, is that it’s full of curving streets and generally irregular streets that always invite you to explore; where every corner begs a question, where does this lead to? What’s around that corner? The pictures below are examples of that. I could walk streets like these all day, following every narrow passage and side street, peeking behind every corner. Explorability is what attracts me to a city even if the buildings in it are not very old.
Another street corner that begs exploration. As usual, I didn’t write down the name of the street, except that it has a Boston Stone Gift Shop on the corner. So, according to Google Maps, this street might be the Marshall Street.
Walking down the street seen in the picture above — which is undoubtedly the Marshall street — you come to this photogenic street corner across the Bell In Hand Tavern.
At that time, Boston old town had been taken over by cows. There were painted sculptures of cows scattered throughout the downtown. The cows were painted in patterns you don’t normally see on a cow, like a starry sky, and newsprint, and men in period costumes holding coffee mugs, and something much more abstract. They were in the Boston Common, and Paul Revere mall, and in front of Faneuil Hall, and every public square and park. Here I am being silly with a cow sculpture
A courtyard with an iron gate, a sculpture of a saint (perhaps), and a ubiquitous fire escape.
A fire escape wrapping around the corner of a house.
A downward-sloping street.