One of the cool parts of going to school in Boston is we get to actually use sites in Boston as learning tools. I’ve taken so many classes that have incorporated site visits all over the city. I actually had one called Ancient Civilizations and we went to the MFA almost every week to learn about culture and art from the museum – needless to say, it was one of my favorites. My first year here I also took a class with Professor Louise Ascher called Boston Voyages. Since I’m really wasn’t familiar with any part of the city, this was the perfect class to take early because I learned a great amount about all the neighborhoods, history, and architecture of Boston – we went all over the place!
This past week, my Advanced Topics class visited the West End Museum – a very out-of-the-way, cozy little place near North Station that has the whole history of the demolition and rebuilding of the West End neighborhood. Most people know that Boston didn’t just appear over night as a city; it was stitched, dug, filled, flattened, burned, and built over hundreds of years. We had a great docent who took us out and around the neighborhood where we saw the the last tenement – the only left standing after the demolition of the West End in the mid 20th century. You can see in the picture how small it is! And it’s now being used as a billboard, but people still live there. The museum is full of old photos of what the area looked like when it was 14,000 people dense, as opposed to the current 5,000. As architecture students, we all agreed that the luxury high rise typology destroyed the authentic, organic character of the West End.
There really are amazing stories floating in this city’s history. I encourage anyone to take advantage of free civic amenities like this. I especially encourage any current or future students to take as many of these city-walk classes as possible because despite the fact that it’s 28 degrees out right now, it’s worth it.