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A crowded subway train as seen through one of its windows. Boston Globe via Getty Images

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Revisit these 10 Curbed Boston stories that have nothing to do with coronavirus

If you need a distraction, here’s some choice writing about the Boston region

The novel coronavirus has cranked anxiety in the Boston area to 11, disrupting millions of lives and thousands of businesses and other organizations. If you’re cut off from your routines and need a distraction (no matter how swell your makeshift home office), here is a selection of Curbed Boston material that has nothing to do with coronavirus.

As always, thanks for reading and take care.


An illustration of a woman and a girl looking at a lush indoor garden. Caitlin Keegan

101 things to love about Boston

No other major city in America is trapped in so thick a stereotypical aspic as Boston. We’re the city of dropped r’s and weathered Red Sox caps, the home of the Kennedys and St. Paddy’s Day, the nation’s most territorial residents and its most obnoxious sports fans. Some of these generalizations are earned, some are grossly unfair, and some are long past their expiration dates—green beer is not really a thing, even in mid-March—but all of them obscure the long, inspiring life of the city and its surrounds.

Men on a truck making their way through a cheering crowd in a downtown city. MediaNews Group via Getty Images

How sports drove the debate over development in the Boston area this decade

Still, by forcing officials and residents to debate how the region would handle those “20 Super Bowls all at once,” the Olympics bid did draw attention to challenges that the region faced—and still faces, like the T. “We’re going to be talking about MBTA improvements until I’m 90, I’m quite sure,” the 35-year-old Dinopoulos said.

An old, barn-like house set amid a large field. Newton Free Library/Courtesy of Digital Public Library of America

When This Old House was new

The inaugural episode, which aired on WGBH, features Vila and an appraiser named John Hewitt touring the titular old house—a dilapidated Victorian in Dorchester that a crew of local tradesmen would fix up over 13 half-hour episodes. There were no property owners to impress with a big reveal at the end of the season; the station had purchased the house with the intention of selling it once the renovation was complete.

A line of buildings of no more than four stories each along a street. Tony Luong

A guide to the small towns of Western Massachusetts

Perhaps the most prominent plan B for is the Guthrie Center, an interfaith church that folkie Arlo Guthrie founded to honor his parents Woody Guthrie and Marjorie Mazia-Guthrie. It’s located in an old church where a woman named Alice, whom Arlo knew well, lived with her husband. She became the “Alice” in Arlo’s cult classic “Alice’s Restaurant.”

A grand, multi-story building along a city sidewalk and behind some trees. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts Governor’s Mansion: A history of why there isn’t one

A final push for a Massachusetts Governor’s Mansion came in the early 1970s. According to Donald Dwight—Massachusetts’ lieutenant governor from 1971 to 1975 and, before that, state commissioner of administration and finance—the commonwealth was offered a large property in Back Bay. That property was very likely the 50-room Ames-Webster Mansion at 306 Dartmouth Street (it’s pictured above).

A black-and-white photo of people scrambling around an elevated track outside a grandly large building. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The history of the T

The Tremont Street subway started running Wednesday, September 1, 1897. “Out of the sunlight of the morning and into the white light of the subway rolled the first passenger carrying car at 6.01,” the Boston Daily Globe reported. “The car was from Allston, and it approached the immense yawn in the earth by the way of Pearl st, Cambridgeport, and the Harvard bridge.”

A glassy skyscraper at an up-close angle against a clear sky. Shutterstock

Boston’s height limit: Will the city ever pierce 800 feet?

In much the same way that the middle-class is unlikely to enjoy a renaissance in Boston, developers are unlikely to ever pierce 800 feet in terms of building height. At least not for the foreseeable future. The city’s tallest building by 2020 will be the same as it is today: 200 Clarendon (the former Hancock), which stretches to 790 feet at its tallest architectural detail, not counting antennae and other apparatus. The second-tallest will also be the same, too: The 749-foot Pru.

A spaghetti-like vehicular intersection with a lone biker trying to navigate the converging car traffic. Boston Globe via Getty Images

What will happen to the Boston area’s built environment in the 2020s?

It becomes painfully obvious toward the middle of the decade that transit-oriented development is only as successful as that first part of the phrase. And so the car remains a potent force in Greater Boston.

Aerial shot of a city waterfront with a big, rectangular garage next to taller buildings. The Chiofaro Company

Drink locally: How Boston’s water powers local businesses

Pretend it’s 1966. You’re listening to the radio in Boston. You hear the Standells’ new song, “Dirty Water.” You recognize the water they’re singing about. The Charles River teams with raw sewage, submerged appliances, and toxic waste from old industrial plants. Boston Harbor is filled with “floatables.” With such visibly bad conditions, you wonder if your tap water is safe to drink.

A black-and-white photo of a train trundling down a track in a largely empty urban landscape. City of Boston Archives

How Boston raced—and beat—New York to open the Western Hemisphere’s first subway

“As for the Green Line screeches and the Red Line stops all the time, I wish I had a better answer than this: Shit happens. No, seriously. The system is old and needs modernization. Tracks require tremendous upkeep. No urban transit system makes money, they all bleed profusely. Boston is no exception.”

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