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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This is pretty cool. New York Magazine’s Vulture website has compiled 20 great moments from the movies that take place on New York’s subways. Here is the link. I will save this list for when my book comes out as a PBS “American Experience” documentary, which is getting closer and more exciting.
Quick thoughts on Vulture’s list: Glad to see Pelham 123 high on the list, great movie, great subway scenes, a natural for a list like this. But since Vulture focuses only on New York subway scenes, I immediately thought of non-New York subway scenes. Here are a few classics.
The Fugitive fight scene with Harrison Ford.
I can’t find a clip from this, but the scene in Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon rides the Red Line over the Longfellow Bridge. This scene is famous because it’s been cited as a gaffe, because the camera angles are not possible from the direction of the train. But still a memorable scene for Bostonians.
Another great movie scene in a subway that became famous for not being accurate is No Way Out, starring Kevin Costner as a double agent in Washington, D.C. The scene essentially made up subway stations in the Georgetown neighborhood, which anybody who lives in DC knows do not exist.
Back to New York, however, and one of the scenes Vulture lists definitely goes down as one of the spookier ones I remember watching. It’s from Ghost. Remember this?
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