I haven’t had too much to update on Michael Rossi‘s documentary “The Race Underground,” coming from PBS and American Experience, but now I do. The first screening of the documentary is happening Saturday evening, October 1, at 7 p.m., as part of the GlobeDocs Documentary Film Festival.
I’ve seen a rough cut of the film, but not the final version yet. What I saw, I loved, and Michael did an incredible research job on top of my own for the book. The movie focuses on the Boston subway, and is less about New York’s, which makes for a tighter, more focused storytelling experience.
GlobeDocs is an incredible collection of documentaries from around the country, so it’s an honor to have “The Race Underground” included. The event is free, but you still need to reserve tickets, which you can do by clicking here. It’s being shown at the beautiful WGBH Yawkey Studio (photo above), directions here. As with everything I’ve posted about “The Race Underground,” thanks for sharing the news, and thanks so much for all your support.
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So this is sorta cool. The West End Museum, which describes itself as “a neighborhood museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of the history and culture of the West End of Boston,” is doing an event with me in September (Sept. 14 at 6:30 to be precise). It makes perfect sense because the first subway in America, Boston’s, was the result of a company created by Henry Whitney called the West End Street Railway Company. And Whitney is a key figure, of course in my book, “The Race Underground.”
In advance of this event, we’ve put together a fun trivia contest. The link is here, go play!
And all the details on the event can be found by clicking here.
By the way, if you know Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, the North End, but you have no idea where the West End is or what the West End is, you should know! It’s a huge part of Boston’s history. Here is a description, from the museum:
The history of the West End is one of a largely immigrant neighborhood displaced or destroyed by ‘Urban Renewal‘ in a campaign that saw a third of Boston’s downtown demolished between 1958 and 1960, but it’s also the history of a diverse community that produced several influential people, boasted a unique culture and included many places of historical significance.
Among the few famous Bostonians to come out of the West End include Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Sumner Redstone, and Charles Bulfinch.
This map outlines the West End’s boundaries.
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When you think of the biggest names who influenced life in New York City, names like LaGuardia, Rockefeller, Parsons, Belmont, Moses are usually among the first mentioned. Squire Vickers (an old shoot of him at right) is not on that list. But as a great story in the New York Daily News shows, he should be.
Here is how staff writer Keri Blakinger explains it nicely:
You’ve probably never heard of him, but an eccentric man from Rockland County is one of the people most responsible for the look and feel of the New York City subway system.
Squire Vickers, the system’s chief architect for more than three decades, oversaw the design of more stations than any other individual — and he left his stamp on the system, with signature tile station plaques and a distinct Arts and Crafts design that permeates the system to this day.
Essentially he oversaw the design of hundreds of the stations that were part of the system designed by another famous New Yorker, William Barclay Parsons, whose name is now familiar through the engineering firm he founded, Parsons Brinckerhoff, which designed, among many projects, the Cape Cod Canal and the Panama Canal. Parsons deserves the credit for designing the subway system, and even details like where to put the doors on the subway cars, but the little-known Vickers played a huge role in the layout and design of the stations passengers walk through. And those iconic plaques that instantly identify New York’s subway as unique.
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