Why We Should Invest in Our Cambridge River Parklands

13 Mar
Cambridge and the Charles River Basin. The river parklands are our Central Park; our connection with nature.

Cambridge and the Charles River Basin. The river parklands are our Central Park; our connection with nature.

Deputy Director of the Solomon Foundation (and former Cambridge resident) Herb Nolan’s case for investing Cambridge’s Community Benefit dollars into our riverfront parks:

The city is full of tiny neighborhood parks as you can see in attached diagram and many of them are lovely.  However, I would argue that Kendall Square needs better urbanism in the form of well framed streets and squares – not more mini parks. Why build small spaces at the base of office towers that will benefit few people when major well-used parks a few blocks away languish for lack of funds?

What Cambridge, as a whole, desperately needs is a sustained investment in its one citywide park – the Charles River Basin.  If properly funded and reclaimed, places like Magazine Beach on the Charles River would regain the crowds of people that once thronged to its shores in the early 20th century.  It would become a center of community life once again. This will not happen without serious investment in its infrastructure and an ongoing commitment to park managment.  The role of parks has changed since Charles Eliot’s day. Magazine Beach is no longer a place for factory workers to recuperate after a long day of assembling model T Fords across the street.  It is a place for creative people to relax, have fun together, and connect with each other. These are the folks in Cambridgeport and nearby neighborhoods who help power the Kendall Square economy. Sophisticated developers and CEOs will understand this important role of parks and will want to support them.

Fifteen years ago I helped produce the Charles River Master with input from hundreds of Cambridge residents.  We are seeing key parts of that plan move ahead today which signals something of a river renaissance in my view.  The work of the DCR with the Magazine Beach Committee (CNA), the Charles River Conservancy, and the Esplanade Association has made a tremendous difference.  Now is the time to gather this momentum together and keep this river renaissance going.    

Note: For information about other Cambridge river parkland projects in the works, see: Greenough Boulevard improvements: /www.solomonfoundation.org/pages/projects/her.html; skate park: www.thecharles.org/projects-and-programs/skate-park/ and DCR’s parkway project: http://blog.livablestreets.info/?p=1060

Found: One of the Disappointed Charles River Swimmers

3 Mar
Magazine Beach and all Charles River swimming beaches were closed for good in 1949 due to pollution. The Boston Globe reported that the biggest crowd of disappointed swimmers would be at Magazine Beach, which still attracted 4,000 bathers each summer.

Magazine Beach and all Charles River swimming beaches were closed for good in 1949 due to pollution. The Boston Globe reported that the biggest crowd of disappointed swimmers would be at Magazine Beach, which still attracted 4,000 bathers each summer. Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe Library.

On Friday, during the last hours of Magazine Beach—A Place Apart, who should walk into the gallery but Bobbie Halliday, the daughter of Barbara Costa Halliday, pictured on the right above. Bobbie had come hoping to find the photo, taken by a Boston Globe photographer in 1948, for an article about the closing of the Charles River swimming beaches due to sewer overflow. In 1949 all seven of the river’s beaches were closed for good.

Barbara Costa Halliday, now 78, spoke with her daughter about the photograph and Magazine Beach:

I have been going there since I can remember. I lived at 28 Elm St. with 9 brothers and sisters and my father (Joseph Costa) would pile us in his station wagon and drive us down there. Once in a while he would take a couple of neighborhood kids if they asked. On the weekends, he would pack us lunches, and if was really hot out, he would take us when he got home from work.  

The day the picture was taken, a photographer asked if I would pose in front of the picture with another girl I used to play with. That’s how the picture came about. Everyone was so upset. They actually let us swim for that day, but no more after that. 

When the pools opened [in 1951], they called my father and asked us if we would come down to take another picture for the paper and we did. I guess I went there on and off until I was a young teenager. 

When I had you kids I would take you almost everyday in the summer (we lived at 101 Magazine St.) and you would play in the kiddie pool until you were old enough to go into the big pool. A lot of my friends had kids too, and we would have cookouts on the weekends in the summer. 

Bobbie remembers going there until third grade, the year they moved to Somerville. “It was a blast, and I am still friends with people I met there.”

Thank you Bobbie and Barbara, for sharing your memories and the photos below of the Halliday and Famara families enjoying the park in the late 1960s. That’s Barbara to the left of the nun, her sister Phyliss, in the photo at the bottom.

Do you have stories and photographs of the park? Please share them by contacting Cathie at cathzusy@gmail.com. Many thanks to Kit Rawlins of the Cambridge Historical Commission for scanning the photos!

A Cure for the Winter Blues: Magazine Beach–A Place Apart & Best Ever Chicken!

24 Feb

Hot off the press and wonderful: Celeste LeCompte, a Neiman Fellow at Harvard, created this piece, Who Cares About Magazine Beach?, which includes many short interviews recorded at the party. Check it out.

About 80 came out last night in the freezing cold to partake in our Community Potluck/Dessert Cafe at Cambridge Arts. Best Ever Chicken serenaded us with Cambridge’s best bluegrass and neighbors and partnering organizations brought favorite dishes and desserts to share.

Thank you to all who attended and who made the event happen: the Magazine Beach Committee of the CNA, Cambridge Arts, the Charles River Conservancy, Riverside Boat Club, Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge Historical Society and Best Ever Chicken.

Magazine Beach–A Place Apart is in its final week at the City Hall Annex (344 Broadway). See it while you can, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30am-5pm and Friday from 8:30am to 12noon. It’s a short walk from Central Square at the corner of Inman and Broadway.

Community Potluck & Dessert Café Mon., Feb. 23

19 Feb
David Torrey with CAC Director of Public Art, Lillian Hsu

David Torrey with CAC Director of Public Art, Lillian Hsu at Magazine Beach–A Place Apart

Got a case of the Winter Blues? How about a cozy evening with neighbors, great food and bluegrass, too, at Cambridge Arts, Monday, Feb. 23, 6-8pm. The Cambridgeport Neighborhood Assn. is co-hosting a Community Potluck & Dessert Café that night with bluegrass by Cambridge’s Best Ever Chicken.

The event will celebrate the exhibition Magazine Beach—A Place Apart—open through Februrary 27th. And Charles Sullivan of the Cambridge Historical Commission, Renata von Tscharner of the Charles River Conservancy, and Tom Reece of DCR will share remarks. All are welcome. Bring a dish to share.

The Potluck is being co-sponsored by Cambridge Arts, the CNA, Cambridge Historical Society, Cambridge Historical Commission, Charles River Conservancy, Riverside Boat Club and Riverside Neighborhood Assn. Music will be provided by Cambridge’s own Best Ever Chicken.

This event is free and at City Hall Annex at 344 Broadway. Due to all the snow, parking will be very difficult, so please walk or take the T to Central Square and walk up Inman Street to Broadway–the City Hall Annex is at the corner of Inman & Broadway. The exhibit is open Monday, 8:30am-8pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30am-5pm; and Friday, 8:30-12noon.

Snow Delays Monday’s Dessert Cafe Once Again

8 Feb


Due to more snow, we’re postponing Monday’s Dessert Cafe for a second time. Now, we’ll combine it with our Community Potluck at Cambridge Arts on Monday, Feb. 23, 6-8pm. Please join us then for delicious food, sweets, great conversation, bluegrass by Best Ever Chicken, and our exhibition: Magazine Beach—A Place Apart!

In case of even more snow on Feb. 23, check here for updates.

Magazine Beach—A Place Apart is on view at Cambridge Arts (City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway) through February 27th. While the show’s focus is Magazine Beach, it’s really about how we make decisions about public land. The exhibition is open Monday, 8:30am-8pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30am-5pm; and Friday, 8:30-12noon.

Thanks for your patience and enjoy the snow!

Two Birds at Magazine Beach: One in 2014; Another 25 Years Before

4 Feb

Above: A red juvenile hawk downed a drone at our the park Oct. 11, 2014. This youtube video, by Christopher Schmidt, has had over 4.5m views to date. (Thank you, Chris, for the correction and original video link. Note: Chris says that both the hawk and drone survived the encounter.)

Below:  Deputy Fire Chief Jack Gelinas and now Asst. Fire Chief Gerard E. Mahoney (a firefighter then) beside a presidential helicopter May 21, 1989. That day, helicopters delivered President H. W. Bush and French President Francois Mitterrand to Magazine Beach, to a speaking engagement at Boston University. Thanks to Asst. Fire Chief Gerard E. Mahoney for sharing the photo and his memories of the event–below.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 8.09.52 PM

On May 21, 1989 President George H. W. Bush and French President Francois Mitterrand delivered a joint commencement address at Boston University on Nickerson Field.

A decision was made among the US Secret Service and local and state law enforcement to have the helicopters land at Magazine Beach.

I was working that day as the Aide to Deputy Fire Chief Jack Gelinas. He called me at home the day before to alert me to what our assignment would be for the day. We had fire department assets staged at Magazine Beach several hours before the presidential party arrived. They flew down from Kennebunkport where the Bush’s had hosted the Mitterrand’s. As a young firefighter I can tell you it was an awesome experience.

There were three identical helicopters commonly known as Marine 1. Only seconds before the landing were we told which one was carrying the two Presidents. The two first ladies flew on another chopper and White House as well as French staff were on the third.

They were accompanied by two very large “birds” as they call them which were carrying the White House Press Corps.

While the commencement was going on we all had the opportunity to tour Marine 1 but it was not the actual helicopter carrying the President. We also had a great group photo taken in front of Marine 1 with the President’s pilot who was a Marine Corps Colonel.

–Asst. Chief Gerard E. Mahoney 

Do you have stories of Magazine Beach? We’re collecting them. E-mail them to cathzusy@gmail.com.

Dessert Cafe Postponed to 2.9 & Collecting Park Memories…

3 Feb

[Update 2.6.15: Due to the snowstorm predicted for this weekend and Monday, we may need to postpone the Dessert Cafe again to Monday, Feb. 23, from 6-8pm. Look for an update here late Sunday afternoon. C.]

Due to Monday’s snow, we postponed our Dessert Cafe until next Monday, Feb. 9th. Same time and same place: 6-8pm at Cambridge Arts (City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway). Please join us for delicious sweets, hot drinks, great conversation and our exhibit, Magazine Beach–A Place Apart, too!

Party Goers Share Memories of the Park 1.31

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Time slowed down on Saturday afternoon, as guests shared stories of Magazine Beach. They spoke of seagulls, wayward youth, baseball games, a nearby ice cream shop and drive-in, pool and river swims, playing ball to the bright lights of Braves Field (across the river, now BU’s Nickerson Field), renting paddle boats, launching boats into the river at Lindstrom Boat Launch, discovering a kicker for the N.E. Patriots doing an exhibition night there, and catching a glimpse of President George H. W. Bush and his helicopter, landing in the fields–Pres. Bush arriving to speak at BU. Many thanks to all who participated in the Memory Party and all who made the event happen.

If you couldn’t make the event, but have a story, please contact cathzusy@gmail.com or 617-868-0489. We want your Magazine Beach memories! Or you can share your story at Magazine Beach Its History and Your Memories on Thursday, Feb. 5th at 1pm, at the Citywide Senior Center, at Central Square. See you there!

Magazine Beach is Now Open for Business–the Business of Making Snowmen!


Photos of the Memory Party are courtesy of Michael Schaffer. Thank you, Michael!


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