The Doors of Fall River
June 11, 2018 8:08 PM   Subscribe

The Doors of Fall River. Documenting architecture in a crumbling New England mill town. Fall River is one of Massachusetts's "Gateway Cities" - a once mighty center of the textile trade forgotten as The Hub ascends ever higher. (The Chess School has been out of business since forever, they just used great paint and the space is really that unrentable.)
posted by Slap*Happy (18 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I... lived 33 years in MA and never heard Boston called The Hub. How strange.

I grew up 20 minutes away from Fall River, and don’t remember noticing the doors. But I have an affection for New England houses, in general. I miss them. And every time I go home, everything is a little more in disrepair. Everything looks more abandoned. It always makes me a little sad.

Thanks for posting a slice of home for me!
posted by greermahoney at 8:16 PM on June 11 [3 favorites]

The Island side of the Sakonnet Bridge is the opposite, even the tract-homes from the '70s and '80's in Middletown and Portsmouth are being revamped and updated, and greenspaces that used to be potato fields were secured with Big Money from Newport. Jay Leno has like three car museums on the island, now, one of them at Raytheon, another at the Tiled Building on Bellvue Ave.

MA prosperity is concentrated unfairly in concentric rings. Metro Boston (Yes, Cambridge, you are part of the problem), then the 128 corridor (tho it's confusingly 95 while also being 93, and south is north, and north is south, so we can deny 128 being a thing encircling the city) and then the 495 corridor, where everyone has their DR datacenters, and then catch-as-catch-can.

Lowell, Lawrence, Brockton, Lynn, Springfield, Woosta, New Beige... gateway cities! Under-served urban areas. Terrible mass transit considering the urban density. New Bedford (New Beige) is the largest fishing port in the world, why is it a center for urban poverty?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:38 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Here's my two bits:
1) I used to do a lot of work in Fall River for a tech company that mainly serviced schools. The city sprawls across the river, connected by two large bridges and slit overpasses and bypasses. The rumor we used to tell, while driving around lost looking for the schools, was that someone had died in a local public pool and not been found for 4 days because the water was opaque. The schools were similarly decentralized hellscapes, seemingly designed to put as much distance as possible between classrooms.

2) Coming from the North Shore, I can't honestly say our mill towns did any better. Bobby Kennedy once gave a speech in the south (SE US, that is) trying to convince folks that major industry closing down was ok, because economy was made by people. He backed this up with the claim that cities like Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, and yes Fall River continued to thrive after the textile industry left them behind. Lowell is doing ok (though it struggled for a couple decades) because it has a University. Haverhill experiences a boom and bust cycle because it's surrounded by affluence, but is dirt poor 3 out of 5 years. Lawrence and Fall River are just fucking rough.

I'll also second: no one calls it the hub
posted by es_de_bah at 9:04 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]

I'll also second: no one calls it the hub

Unless you're in it. I mean, live in Boston/Cambridge/Brighton/Alston/Summerville... no, sorry, Newton and Southie and Eastie and Roxbury and Jamaica Plain and Kwinzy and Revere, no Hub for you, despite being in the reach of the subway and bus lines.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:24 PM on June 11

Such lovely New England-y doors!

Fall River will for me always be associated with The Accused.
posted by bendy at 9:27 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]

posted by greermahoney at 10:04 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]

The Hub ascends ever higher

There's nothing more pathetic than giving yourself a nickname because no one likes you enough to give you one.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:17 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]

The newspapers always liked to call Boston the "Hub" in headlines to save on letterspace, but I don't think I've ever hear anyone use it in conversation.
posted by briank at 6:14 AM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Fall River will for me always be associated with The Accused.

I only know it as the site of the Borden murders.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:40 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I think that Boston may be the model for the "Hub City" that's the home of The Question.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:56 AM on June 12

Fall River is home to Vanson Leathers, makers of (arguably) the best leather motorcycle jackets and suits in the world. Most of their products are made in Fall River. I have a Vanson handbag that is going on 20 years old and as pretty as the day I bought it.
posted by workerant at 7:24 AM on June 12

I grew up with clothes from the Fall River Knitting Mill in the 80s.. (Was that an LL Bean imprint ?)
posted by k5.user at 11:57 AM on June 12

The rumor we used to tell, while driving around lost looking for the schools, was that someone had died in a local public pool and not been found for 4 days because the water was opaque

The poor woman who died in the pool was only undiscovered for 2 days, not 4. This really happened in 2011.
posted by monkihed at 12:28 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

My great grandmother's dress factory was the old Borden house (today a museum.)

and I grew up over the river in Somerset.
posted by spbmp at 7:40 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Lowell, Lawrence, Brockton, Lynn, Springfield, Woosta, New Beige

Fake Massachusetts Towns by MICHAEL ANDOR BRODEUR (McSweeney's)
posted by spbmp at 7:45 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Fall River is home to Vanson Leathers

Their factory is an enormous space that is a small part of a gigantic old brick mill that also houses other businesses and entire vacant floors! They have a factory outlet that is a soccer-pitch sized show room within this enormous space, and if you have a *thing* for leather, give this a miss, despite it being an all leather showroom. You could be at ground zero, and if your helmet and boots were made of lead-lined-steel, you'd survive the nuke in a full set of Vanson's. You could take a nap on a belt-sander, and awake refreshed before it got through those stiff, colorful leathers. You get a sense of why Moto GP racers kind of waddle or little-step rather than strut through the paddock. They have the tactile delight of a turtle shell, kinksters beware. Bought a pair of winter gloves for bicycling. So comfy, so warm, so responsive braking or shifting gears, so invulnerable... so horrible for anything not on the bike. Kinda respect that.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:04 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I always figured The Hub was kind of like Gotham. Nobody actually calls it that, but it's poetic shorthand for a certain kind of perspective on the city employed mainly by journalists.
posted by xthlc at 6:04 AM on June 13

I'd never even heard of Vanson Leathers before, but holy shit, this thing scratches my cyberpunk itch in a powerful way.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:38 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]

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