Corner of Blackstone and Hanover Streets, Boston

The corner of Blackstone Street and Hanover Street, in 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

1950s

The same corner in 2011:

067_2011

There’s something rather depressing about comparing these two photos – the bustling marketplace, contrasted with the shuttered storefronts and empty streets.  However, the appearance neighborhood as a whole has improved significantly since 1956 – the first photo was actually taken right in front of the Central Artery – the massive elevated highway that was eventually replaced by the much-maligned yet more aesthetically pleasing Big Dig.  Where I was standing to take the 2011 photo is right about where the highway ran through – if I had taken the photo 10 years earlier, the buildings in the foreground would’ve been barely visible.

I hadn’t seen the 1956 photo before taking this photo; what drew me to the building was the fading 19th century advertisements still visible on the bricks.  The two most prominent are for Bostonia Cigars (top and right-hand side), and W.P.B. Brooks & Co. Furniture Carpets &c.  I couldn’t find out much about either company, but it appears both from the appearance of the advertisements and also some quick online searches about the companies that they existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The building itself, which was constructed around 1835, is actually the same building that has the Boston Stone mounted on its wall, on the opposite side of where this photo was taken.  Behind it is the Blackstone Block, a rare group of buildings from the 18th and 19th century that still maintains the original 1600’s street network.  It is completely surrounded by much newer construction, but it is a small enclave of historic structures.  On the opposite side of this area is one of Boston’s oldest buildings, the home of the Union Oyster House.

This building itself actually used to have more floors, but at some point before the 1956 photo it was trimmed down to just three.  However, recent photos of this same building taken in the past year have shown that a couple more floors have actually been added on to the top of it, which would suggest that its future is brighter than the boarded up storefronts and deserted streets would seem to suggest.

5 thoughts on “Corner of Blackstone and Hanover Streets, Boston”

  1. Page 71 in Jane C Nylander’s book “Our Own Snug Fireside” has an image of a lithograph by William Pendleton c. 1835 -1836 of this corner showing Edward Chamberlain’s “Wholesale China and Glass Warehouse”

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  2. My great-grandfather, Frank X. Oberle, started Bostonia Cigars in the late 1800’s. He was born in Germany and came to the US in his teens. His cigar business was written up in the book “Illustrated Boston: The Metropolis of New England” (copyright 1889, page 260). As Boston has been long known for it’s history, I certainly hope his company’s “ghosting” sign remains as is forever as a reminder of our city’s background.

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    • I just found an intact Frank Oberle’s Bostonia cardboard cigar box in my great grandfather’s possessions. It is currently housing some WWI machine gun bullets and a Brill Brother’s 1918 Victory Medal.

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  3. Worked in the Haymarket at EEGrays just before the BRA threw everyone out ( early sixties ) EGrays had all franchised depts of individual owners. As I remember Irving had the smoke shop and the Russos then later Dom Saia had the Produce. Don’t remember who else had what,but Elm Farm had dry groceries dairy and frozen foods. The Coliseum Restaurant, and Castignetti were upstairs. Across the street was Izzies lunch shop,Kennedy butter and egg, and then the pushcarts started led by Joe Bananas Logrippo.Remember a great little luncheonette just before Union Oyster House called Potters. My favorite memory was climbing the Haymarket ramp off the expressway to get a glimpse of the JFK motorcade on its way to Logan. Those were great times for me and my Dad, I stayed in the food industry for 50 years, but nothing ever lived up to the Haymarket experience.

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    • Jim… wow memories! I recently found a photo among my dad’s belongings of him and his brother working in Egrays at the produce counter. circa mid 1930s. My dad was Sal Abramo and his brother was Joe Abramo. I was unaware of the set-up of Egrays. It almost seems like a consignment-like shop with individual owners having different types of businesses under one roof. I don’t remember this store at all as my dad worked there long before he was married and I was born. He grew up in the West End, when he married he moved to Somerville, where I grew up.

      However, after WWII when he was discharged from the army he and another brother, Leo started a produce business. They had two pushcarts across the street (Abramo Bros. Produce). They had a store on Fulton St, but it was not a retail store, they stored and repackaged produced there. On Friday they were on Blackstone St and on Saturday they were on North Street and on weekdays they delivered produce to retail stores and sub shops around Somerville, Medford, Boston, Cambridge. I worked with them for a time.

      You really struck a memory with Joe Bananas, I remember him well. His pushcart was right next to my dad and uncle. I remember Joe Bramante who had a growing and eventually huge produce business and Tony Dolcimascolo (tomatoes). I know the Saia name… but I’m not sure where I know it from.

      I don’t remember Lizzies, but I remember Dave’s small restaurant/diner and Handschumacher (butcher shop) giving away cooked samples of sausage and kielbasa if front of their store.

      So glad to have run across your post. I was looking for info on Egrays and your post came up in a search. Would you happen to know the address of Egrays?

      I agree… nothing will ever match those years at “the Market” what a wonderful community of people. Thank you for sharing your story.

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