Boston 50 Years Ago
June 14, 2014 7:37 AM   Subscribe

A tour of Boston (et environs) via car in 1964 Take a ride through the Cambridge, Boston, Brookline and Brighton streets of 1964. As notable for what's still there as what isn't. In 1964, Government Center is a construction site, the Citgo sign is not yet the neon icon we all know and love, and the Prudential Tower was brand new. And yet it all look so familiar as you pass the three-deckers in Cambridge and Brighton, ride down the tree-lined Jamaicaway, and dodge those Ford Fairlanes, Nash Ramblers, and '57 Chevys on Storrow and Mem Drive.
posted by briank (19 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
This is is amazing - River St. in Cambridge looks so similar now, but starting with the gas station on the corner of Mass Ave, Main St. is complete unrecognizable.
posted by ants at 8:08 AM on June 14, 2014

The video title says 1964, but the description says 1958?!
posted by mikeburg at 8:16 AM on June 14, 2014

And I can't image trying to navigate some of those land-yachts around Boston today.
posted by mikeburg at 8:17 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, cool. Thanks.
posted by kinetic at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2014

Well, this brought back one fond old memory for me: around the 1:00 to 1:06 mark, on River Street approaching Central Square, Cambridge, on the left hand side there's a small flatiron-type building. When I lived in Boston ('77 to '84) that corner storefront and basement was occupied by a shop called Cambridge Custom Percussion. I did a few gigs in the basement space, where they'd have occasional performances. Very fond memories indeed.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:36 AM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by ghostbikes at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

More, similar here
posted by growabrain at 8:55 AM on June 14, 2014

Also, This video for the Modern Lover's Roadrunner, unjustly not-yet the official rock song of Massachusetts.
posted by dismas at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

1960's Boston is nearly unrecognizable to me, wow. And it seems so much smaller than Boston today. I could pick out Memorial Drive, River St./Central Square, and that was it.
posted by supermassive at 9:34 AM on June 14, 2014

Ha! I love how the aggressive Boston driving style is evident even back then: last minute lane change to avoid a turning car (0:33), passing slow cars (0:50), riding people's rears (1:10), the aggressive left-turn entry (2:03), putting up with the jaywalking mentality (2:58). This brings me back to my formative driving years. Thanks for the post.
posted by comradechu at 10:08 AM on June 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

"See, it's like I told you, you can't get there from here."

But seriously, I loved that. This really was before they built all the downtown skyscrapers, so it was odd seeing the Pru without the Hancock beside it, and the Customs House really stands out, while today it's kind of dwarfed by other nearer and taller buildings.

The other fascinating place was Charlesgate, in my neighborhood. This was just before theu built the Bowker Overpass, i.e. that rusted hulk with the stagnant water where even the homeless don't like to hang out. There are some rumblings for tearing it down; I hope they do.

It's also interesting that that's where Google map gets it the most wrong, as far as I can tell. Maybe it's because it's using Google's walking directions feature. You just can't easily walk that route anymore — it'd be ugly and dangerous. But that doesn't stop me from being irrationally discomfitted — "What? That map shows them going down Jersey Street when they're clearly taking Park Drive. C'mon, it's even labelled 'Park Drive'."
posted by benito.strauss at 10:17 AM on June 14, 2014

What I really REALLY hoped to see was the IRE-PROOF RAGE WAREHOUSE in its full glory (Mass Ave & Vassar).
posted by whatzit at 10:32 AM on June 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

More, similar here

Actually that's a documentary about the 1985 Philadelphia MOVE incident aptly titled "Let the Fire Burn". Which is actually quite interesting to me as I watched it happen live on TV but it's got nothing to do with Boston in the 1960s or any other era.
posted by scalefree at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2014

In 1964, Government Center is a construction site

The more things change...
posted by koeselitz at 11:10 AM on June 14, 2014

This is good stuff, and as the opening indicates, the film was made by Kevin Lynch in 1958. Lynch was an urban planning theorist probably most well-known for his work The Image of the City, which is about how people mentally model the urban landscape. A lot of it was based on the incomplete but practical maps he and his students could sketch from memory.

Since the film has "View from the Road" in the title, I'm guessing it's connected to a book he co-authored called The View from the Road, which "deals with the esthetics of highways: the way they look to the driver and his passengers, and what this implies for their design. We emphasize the potential beauty of these great engineering achievements, as contrasted with their current ugliness ... [T]his monograph is addressed to the highway engineer."
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:46 AM on June 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Dismas beat me to Roadrunner, so I'll just say: awesome post.
posted by The Michael The at 11:55 AM on June 14, 2014

... a book he co-authored called The View from the Road, ...

That is the most urban-planningest, 1960s-est, auto-centricest, aesthics-of-seeingest thing I have ever beheld.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:00 PM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

So much open space! Brookline and Chestnut Hill look like they're practically out in the country. And like most places in the country, it's striking how different the commercial areas look without the omnipresent blight of plastic corporate signage. Not a CVS or Dunkin Donuts to be seen.
posted by mubba at 5:31 PM on June 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Omnipresent blight needs to go, but it will never happen.
posted by Jaspersen145 at 4:16 PM on June 15, 2014

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