Sewing for Success for Teens and Tweens on Six "Sewing Fridays" from 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM. Call to Register.

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So your teens and tweens don’t know how to sew? The South End branch will offer six one-hour “sewing Fridays” in October and November for teens and tweens. Kelli Bos (Sewing for Success) has installed a lovely display about sewing in the library’s park-side window, featuring a sewing machine, many books about sewing, fabrics, samples of finished pieces and various props.

The first session will be on October 12, followed by instruction hours on October 19 and 26 and November 2, 9 and 16. All dates are on Fridays, from 3:30 to 4:30 PM. Fabrics and sewing materials will be provided. For further information or registration, contact Anne Smart or Margaret Gardner at the South End branch at 617 536-8241. Or call Kelli Bos at 617 455 4547, extension 800, or #sheiskellibos.

The Acclaimed Author of "The Widow of Wall Street," Randy Susan Meyers, Says her Little Branch Library in Brooklyn, NY, Is the First Place Where She Lied...

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Randy Susan Meyers, known for her novels of domestic drama (Accidents of Marriage; The Murderer’s Daughter; The Comfort of Lies), told the audience at the South End library in late September that she was “raised by a library” and “worshipped at its altar.” It was an old, shabby public-library branch in Brooklyn, NY, “as small as my hand,” she recalled. But that’s where she discovered Betty Smith’s 1943 coming-of-age novel about Francie Nolan, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. “I must have read it 10 or 20 times,” she said. Herself the daughter of a single mother with a challenging history of domestic violence, Meyers felt she was not alone any more.

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That little library was also the first place where she lied, Meyers confessed: She would get a ‘smart’ book that she knew she’d never read and put it on top of the pile of books she really wanted. “I didn’t want the librarian to think I was a dope,” she said. “But I didn’t really read smart books.”

It was perhaps the first step on a long road of better lies and other misdeeds like regular shop lifting when a teenager. This was followed by years of working with families impacted by violence, counseling convicted criminals out on probation and coming to terms with a father who tried to murder her mother that helped her write the fictionalized character of her latest book, The Widow of all Street. Based on the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the novel’s character, Jake, was a nasty guy. “I had to find a way to get into his head,” Meyers said. Focusing on her life experience, including her own transgressions, made that possible for her.

Meyers published her first novel at fifty-seven, her version of winning the lottery. The Widow of Wall Street, her fourth, is told from two points of view: Jake, a man with a criminal lust for money, and Phoebe, his wife, who had no idea. What would it be like to be Madoff’s wife? Meyers asked herself, to be married to a man who pulled the wool over the eyes of the Securities and Exchange Commission and many captains of industry? “What I learned is how different one spouse’s idea of a marriage can be from the other, and how often the children are collateral damage,” she said. The arc of her fictional themes represents her personal long journey from idolizing “bad boys” to “loving a good man.”

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The Widow of Wall Street, was called an “engrossing emotional journey” by Kirkus Review, and “compelling” by the Associated Press. Library Journal wrote it was  “full of deceit, scandal, and guilt" and that it "expertly explores how rising to the top only to hit rock bottom affects a family. The consequences will leave readers reeling.” Meyers, who describes her latest book a roman à clef, in which real people or events appear with invented names, is a form of fiction she enjoys reading herself. The author won the 2015 Must Read Fiction Massachusetts Book Award for her earlier work, Accidents of Marriage. The Boston Globe reviewer said Accidents, which explores emotional abuse in an educated but stressed-out family living in a Jamaica Plain Victorian, a 'complex, captivating tale.'  It was chosen by People Magazine as "Pick of the Week."  

Iory Allison, Blogger, Collage Artist and Author of "Glamour Galore Trilogy" Calls Libraries "the Great Cultural Achievement of Our Country" and Public Lending "An Invention"

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Iory Allison, whose profile’s adjectives include world traveler, blogger, and husband to Leo Romero of Back Bay's Casa Romero where he was a host for 20 years. He came to the South End library in early September to talk about his Glamour Galore Trilogy , newly completed with Book Three, titled The Mermaid and the Sailor? 

He described it as a sequence of mystery, farce and romance, a set of gay novels “to escape from the mundane drudgery.” Each book shows different characters, starting with those in an old Bostonian family which loses its jewels, and the subsequent books in the series shifting locale to gay clubs and its visitors.

  Iory Allison speaking about his life’s work at the South End library in September

Iory Allison speaking about his life’s work at the South End library in September

Allison grew up in New Canaan, CT, with a father plying his trade as an advertising man who wrote theatre and nightclub reviews for local papers on the side, in a house where family life “was centered around the library.” He began his trilogy in 1990 in the Boston Atheneum, where he wrote mornings, five days a week. Relying on his imagination but using material from his own life, he took three years for each novel in the series. Exhibiting an affinity for words, which he describes as “ancient magic,” he suggested that “the history of a word will reveal much of its meaning to you.” The name “Iory” is Welsh, Allison explained, with an original meaning of ‘fair lord.’

Almost two decades ago, Allison learned how to build a website from a certain Vlad, who he described as ‘a tech-savvy refugee from the newly collapsed USSR.’ Acquiring website skills allowed Allson to develop a blog and, eventually, another skill, namely digital collages. The blog illuminates “subjects near and dear to me,” Allison said, including adventures by himself and husband Leo. The collages can be found on the covers of his books which he designed himself but were influenced by, among other artists, Joseph Cornell. Once familiar with it, he found himself able to work more precisely and to discover a treasure trove of images to use. “So after resisting it for a long time, I’m now ok with digital collaging,” Allison said. “I especially like edges that are faded out.”

In this being, at the end of his talk, Allison wanted to say something about libraries: “Libraries, public or private, are the great cultural achievement of our country,” he said. “And free public lending is an invention.”

 

The Ayer Mansion, the Only Surviving Building Designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Is the Subject of This Month's Local/Focus Installation

  The September Local/Focus installation in the Tremont Street window of the South End library

The September Local/Focus installation in the Tremont Street window of the South End library

Since 1998, Jeanne Pelletier, Esq. a longtime South End resident active in numerous local community projects, has been the Preservation Advisor to the Campaign for the Ayer Mansion, the only surviving mansion designed entirely by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Known mostly as the creator of magnificent stained-glass windows and luminous stained-glass lamp shades, Louis Comfort Tiffany was also an amateur architect and a talented decorator who pioneered interior design as a profession. He designed five houses in New York City, none of which survive today. The Ayer Mansion, located at 395 Commonwealth Avenue on the outbound side, is the only Tiffany-designed building that remains.

  The Ayer Mansion at 395 Commonwealth Avenue, the last surviving mansion designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany

The Ayer Mansion at 395 Commonwealth Avenue, the last surviving mansion designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany

 With architect A.J. Manning, Tiffany created the mansion for Frederick Ayer and his second wife, Ellen Banning Ayer. Born poor, Ayer founded a patent medicine company with his brother James, and became fantastically rich from marketing such products as Ayer’s Cherry Pectoral and Ayer’s Hair Vigor. Ellen Banning Ayer was a trained actress and socialite who likely pushed Frederick to create a home in Boston where she could be closer to the theater and social events. Built between 1899 and 1902, the Ayer Mansion was unlike the conventional brick-and-brownstone Boston townhouse or the European revival styles prevalent at that time. Tiffany created a striking white granite and limestone façade punctuated with Moorish stone mosaic panels, elaborate, stained-glass screens, massive bright copper-clad doors, and grand stone columns embedded with glass and gold foil.  The interior of the mansion builds on this palette, with lavish glass and gold mosaics and grand architectural flourishes. 

  One of the Tiffany-designed windows at the Ayer mansion

One of the Tiffany-designed windows at the Ayer mansion

Tiffany’s approach aimed to ensure that the Ayer Mansion and its nouveau-riche owners would not be overlooked. It might also have been a snub to the old Boston society the Ayer couple couldn’t join. After the Ayers’ death in 1918, the house was sold to a succession of businesses, and the Ayer Mansion’s lavish stained glass and magnificent Tiffany interior and exterior artwork began to quietly decay. In 1998, new owners, Bayridge Residence and Cultural Center, together with the Campaign for the Ayer Mansion, began to restore this hidden gem.  In 2005, the house was named a National Historic Landmark, the nation’s highest ranking for historic properties.

 The house is open for public tours and events. For more information, click here.

 Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).

 

 

 

A Refreshed and Much-improved Library Park Has Been Reopened, but New Park Furniture Is Still on Back Order and Trees Are Awaiting their Pruning

  A broad plaza/walkway leads from the South End branch to the park entrance at Rutland Square. The chairs in the image were in good-enough condition to preserve for the newly improved park.

A broad plaza/walkway leads from the South End branch to the park entrance at Rutland Square. The chairs in the image were in good-enough condition to preserve for the newly improved park.

Library Park was reopened to the public featuring a beautiful wide concrete walkway plaza with new paver detail strips that have replaced the broken bluestone surface and worn-out concrete-and-brick benches of previous decades. Four black single seats that were in Library Park before have been re-installed, and as soon as new park benches and cafe tables arrive from the back-order planet they, too, will become part of the green space's landscape. 

  The new furniture for Library Park will be added to the already installed chairs saved from the previous park layout.

The new furniture for Library Park will be added to the already installed chairs saved from the previous park layout.

The contractors laid down a new sub-base for the plaza and amended the impoverished soil where plantings struggled to live. A huge load of mulch has topped off the garden areas to help new plantings thrive and shine. How to landscape the park will be the subject of discussion this fall with the Parks Department, the BPL (which officially owns the site) and the FOSEL board.

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There are still several projects left to be done, including the pruning of the trees which. according to Lauren Bryant, the Parks Department's project manager for Library Park, will be done in the next couple of weeks. The brick edging along Rutland Square will be reset for a smooth transition into the park. In addition, the two LightWells, for which the electrical wiring has been placed underground by the contractors, will need to be refurbished and the areas around them re-landscaped.  Once upon a time, before the rats chewed through their wiring and vandals tried to skateboard over them, they were nicely landscaped seating areas that glowed in a series of hues through the night.

 

 

In the New Era of #MeToo, Author Karen Day Describes her 2018 Debut Novel, "I'll Stay" as a 'Testament' to a Time when Girls Stayed Quiet

  Author Karen Day signing copies of her debut novel,  I'll Stay.

Author Karen Day signing copies of her debut novel, I'll Stay.

Karen Day, a successful author for middle-grade readers (A Million Miles from Boston, No Cream Puffs, and Tall Tales), spent the better part of the last decade writing a novel about close friendships between young women and young women and their mothers. Day's 2018 debut novel for adults, I'll Stay, examines the relationship between Clare and Lee, college friends who on a vacation experience a traumatic event that negatively changes Lee's life forever, while Clare, the daughter of a famous mother, is able to flee to safer grounds. In the novel, the friends went back to school. They didn't talked about the event. The story is narrated by Clare at three different times, 1983, 1986 and 1991.

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The plot was based very loosely on an incident in Day's own life when she and three college friends went backpacking. They found themselves in a scary situation, surrounded by men, but were able to escape unharmed. They returned to school and never talked about it, either. "It was as if nothing happened," said Day, who ever since wondered why not. "We didn't do it because in those days we didn't do things," Day says now. "We blamed ourselves:  We said it was our fault because we flirted with those guys. We questioned our behavior."

Enter the #MeToo era, when Day's book, written before it was okay for women to publicly point the finger at men behaving badly, but published after. Day, a frank and engaging speaker who appeared unafraid to re-examine the premises of her own work, told the audience at the South End library in June that in writing I'll Stay, she explored where stories come from beyond the words on the page, looking to discover who she and her friends were, and how conflicts between them affected their friendships. She now sees her novel as "a cautionary tale about the impact of split-second choices" and a "testament to how easy it is for girls to stay quiet." 

  Novelist Day describing her search of where stories come from and how they evolve.

Novelist Day describing her search of where stories come from and how they evolve.

Day has been writing since she was a child growing up in Indiana, and came East to go school. She was a journalist for newspapers and magazines in the 1990s, and among other articles secured the last interview with tennis champion Arthur Ashe. She has a BA in Journalism, an MA in English Literature and taught undergraduate composition when studying for her doctorate at NYU. With her husband, she raised three children, getting up mornings at 4:30, often with her kids next to her in the beanbag chair, she said. It took her twenty years just to learn how to revise.

I'll Stay was the 2017 winner of BUZZ  Books; a  previous speaker at South End Writes, Jenna Blum, the author of Those Who Save Us, and The Lost Family, called it a “smart, compassionate, psychological spellbinder” with “one of the scariest scenes you’ll read anywhere.” The novel got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

 

Local/Focus Puts the Spotlight on the South End's Union United Methodist Church Celebrating the 200-year Anniversary of its Congregation

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The Union United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American United Methodist Congregation in New England. This year, 2018, the Congregation is celebrating its 200-year anniversary, and a distinguished history committed to Christian love, social justice and “radical hospitality,” that is, a welcoming of strangers that is deep and spiritual.

Union is located at 485 Columbus Avenue, in a magnificent Gothic Revival-style building designed by Alexander R. Estey in the 1870s. It anchors one of the South End’s most popular green spaces, Titus Sparrow Park. The park’s playground was built on land donated by Union.

The Congregation was organized in 1818 out of the Bromfield Street Methodist Episcopal Church by Pastor Samuel Snowden, a former slave turned abolitionist. The Union story had begun earlier, in 1796, with a group of African-American believers on Beacon Hill who formed the May Street Meeting House. David Walker, who published the radical and influential anti-slavery ‘An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World’ in 1829, was a member of its congregation.

The church moved to Revere Street, a station along the famed Underground Railroad, and next to Shawmut Avenue in Roxbury in 1911, where it was known as Fourth Methodist Episcopal. That is where in 1916 the Hattie B. Cooper Center for Children first opened its doors to 69 children; it was named after the first chairperson of the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 

  The current Local/Focus installation features a slide show about its congregation on FOSEL's flat screen.

The current Local/Focus installation features a slide show about its congregation on FOSEL's flat screen.

In 1949, Union moved to its current home on Columbus Avenue, a site previously occupied by the New England Home for Little Wanderers, a charity that cared for children orphaned and made homeless by the Civil War. On its Inaugural Day, May 18, 1949, the keynote speaker was Mary McLeod Bethune, the prominent civil rights activist and educator who was an advisor to both President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1950, Union hosted the 1950 NAACP convention that voted to pursue Brown v. Board of Education. In 1966, it showcased a performance by the legendary Duke Ellington and the Duke Ellington Sacred Jazz Orchestra during the liturgical phase of Ellington’s music. In 1968 after the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Union helped create Boston’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial BreakfastNow in its fortieth year, the annual event is the nation’s oldest continuous celebration of Dr. King’s life and attracts leaders from the business, civic and educational community state-wide.

In the 1970s, Union developed the Meth-Union Manor, a four- building affordable housing cooperative in the South End. In the 1980s and 1990s, Union was active in local and national efforts in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and for economic equality at home. In 2000, Union’s Congregation became the first historically Black church to vote to formalize what it had been for decades: a safe space for the LGBTQ community.

   
  
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     Gary Bailey, a FOSEL board member and a trustee of Boston’s Union United Methodist Church, in front of the UUMC installation for Local/Focus. He is holding a picture of easier congregants of Union United. Bailey is a professor of Social Work at Simmons College. 

Gary Bailey, a FOSEL board member and a trustee of Boston’s Union United Methodist Church, in front of the UUMC installation for Local/Focus. He is holding a picture of easier congregants of Union United. Bailey is a professor of Social Work at Simmons College. 

Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).

Whoops and Cheers for Internationally Acclaimed Saxophonist Elan Trotman Accompanied by Pat Loomis and his Friends Playing a Celebratory Jazz & Blues Concert, the Last One in the 'Old' Library Park

  The last (and best?) performance before the reconstruction of Library Park

The last (and best?) performance before the reconstruction of Library Park

Pat Loomis and Friends brought best-selling recording artist and internationally acclaimed saxophonist, Elan Trotman, to Library Park on July 10. The concert elicited loud applause and cheers from a large crowd of Southenders who on the hot and sultry summer night also celebrated the upcoming and long-overdue park's reconstruction, which since has begun. The band included Pat Loomis, alto saxophone;  Antonio Loomis, guitar; Amy Bellamy, keyboards; Daniel Day, bass; Zeke Martin, drums; and Zayra Pola Ocasio, percussion. Elan Trotman played tenor saxophone. 

  Alto-saxophonist Pat Loomis, on the left, with Elan Trotman, on tenor-saxophone

Alto-saxophonist Pat Loomis, on the left, with Elan Trotman, on tenor-saxophone

The Friends of the South End Library have sponsored four Summer Jazz & Blues concerts in Library Park for more than a decade, raising money for the musicians from local benefactors and library supporters, including the Ann H. Symington Foundation. This year, FOSEL and Pat Loomis agreed to upgrade the concerts with 'Special Guest Performers;' Elan Trotman was the first.

He will not be the last: Every musician in the Loomis band was energized and inspired by Trotman's performance, which turned the South End library part of Tremont Street into a party scene. The audience whooped and cheered as the band played The Chicken (Pee Wee Ellis);  Can't Hide Love (Earth, Wind, and Fire); Never Too Much (Luther Vandross); Georgia On My Mind (Ray Charles); Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder); Europa (Carlos Santana);  Spain (Chick Corea); and ended with Happy People (Kenny Garrett). 

  Happy neighbors on both sides of the fence at Library Park

Happy neighbors on both sides of the fence at Library Park

Regrettably, the July 10 performance may be the only outdoor concert this year as Library Park will be under reconstruction for the next three months. The traditional Holiday Concert inside the library, usually held around mid-December, may well feature another special guest, details of which event will be publicized as soon as we know who it will be. 

 

 

  From left to right: Zeke Martin, drums; Daniel Day, bass; Zayra Pola Ocassio, percussion; Antonio Loomis, guitar; Pat Loomis, alto sax; and Elan Trotman, tenor sax.

From left to right: Zeke Martin, drums; Daniel Day, bass; Zayra Pola Ocassio, percussion; Antonio Loomis, guitar; Pat Loomis, alto sax; and Elan Trotman, tenor sax.

Mayor Walsh Adds Funding to FY19 City Capital Budget to Keep Renovations of South End Library and Library Park on Track

  Mayor Marty Walsh speaking at a Coffee Hour in Titus Sparrow Park in early May about his commitment to South End's needs, including the renovations of Library Park and the South End Branch Library of the BPL

Mayor Marty Walsh speaking at a Coffee Hour in Titus Sparrow Park in early May about his commitment to South End's needs, including the renovations of Library Park and the South End Branch Library of the BPL

  The proposed layout of the South End library's downstairs interior representing Phases One and Two by architect and FOSEL board member Michelle Laboy

The proposed layout of the South End library's downstairs interior representing Phases One and Two by architect and FOSEL board member Michelle Laboy

  Library Park's redesigned space, for which construction will commence the week of July 16, 2018. In addition to the design above, enthusiastically approved by the South End Landmark District Commission in April, the work will include major infrastructure work to remove any obstacles still buried underneath from the early 1970s when it was first built, and re-grade the park's surface.

Library Park's redesigned space, for which construction will commence the week of July 16, 2018. In addition to the design above, enthusiastically approved by the South End Landmark District Commission in April, the work will include major infrastructure work to remove any obstacles still buried underneath from the early 1970s when it was first built, and re-grade the park's surface.

  Library Park in its previous state, with a large area of broken pavement and limited usage options. The new design, featured above, will have multiple seating arrangements. The construction, which began late July, may take three months.

Library Park in its previous state, with a large area of broken pavement and limited usage options. The new design, featured above, will have multiple seating arrangements. The construction, which began late July, may take three months.

 The Friends of the South End Library (FOSEL) is very happy to report that, late last week, capital funding of $400,000 was restored in the FY 2019 budget for Phase Two of the South End library's interior renovation. This means that our efforts to quickly improve a cramped and outdated branch by means of a pubic/private partnership between the Boston Public Library (BPL) and FOSEL will succeed. It is the first  partnership for a Boston branch library in the history of the BPL in which private contributions raised by FOSEL from local library supporters combined with a dedicated BPL capital allocation is used for an accelerated library renovation. In addition, money was added to the Parks Department budget to start the reconstruction of Library Park. 

The current 2019 city budget, linked here, shows two capital allocations for the South End branch, $100,000 for a program study leading to a major overhaul and expansion of the library; and $400,000 to be spent on short-term improvements outlined in Phase Two. Both projects will be subject to public hearings. The proposed redesign for Phases One and Two is illustrated in the drawing above. Further details are on our website, linked here.

There are many people to thank, but first and foremost Mayor Marty Walsh, who visited the library several times since his election and each time pledged his full support for the branch's renovation, and for the redesign of the library's adjacent green space, Library Park. This spring, both library and park projects were suddenly delayed, each for different reasons, but both were put back on track with the same solution: the Mayor's strong support for more funding for these two important and long-neglected civic spaces in the South End. 

The unwavering efforts on our behalf by District 2 Councilor, Ed Flynn, was another key factor. Flynn and his staff rallied the South End's other two councilors, Frank Baker (District 3) and Kim Janey (District 7), and all at-large councilors (Michelle Wu, Ayanna Pressley, Annissa Essaibi-George and Michael Flaherty), to sign their letter requesting the necessary funding from BPL President David Leonard and Mayor Walsh. Flynn met separately with the Mayor, as well, to plead FOSEL's case. The signature of City Council President, Andrea Campbell, who grew up in the South End, moreover, was at the top of the list.

Faisa Sharif, the South End's liaison to the Mayor's Office, performed a yeoman's job going through the budget details with David Leonard to secure city dollars for park and library, and kept FOSEL in the loop at all times. Our State Rep., Byron Rushing, a BPL trustee since 2009, assured audiences at several South End events recently that 'all would work out fine.' Did he know something we did not? Who knows: He was right. 

Our BPL partner in the public/private enterprise, President David Leonard, has reached out to us to plan the next steps in the library project in meetings that will include Faisa Sharif, Ed Flynn and Byron Rushing. We are looking forward to continuing our productive relationship to benefit the South End library and its users. You will be kept apprised of important details.

Last but not least, we thank you, our loyal supporters, and every member of the FOSEL board, for emailing and phoning our elected representatives and the BPL. The turnaround could not have happened without you.
 

 

DO YOU HAVE 15 MINUTES ONCE A WEEK? South End Wire Sculptor, Will Corcoran Has Installed a New Local/Focus Display in the Library's Window

Recent studies have shown that the power of being read to at any age changes the brain’s chemistry in such a way that the power of recall is greatly enhanced. Will Corcoran can still vividly remember the books read to him by his mother for fifteen minutes, once a week, fifty years ago. Corcoran is a South End artist whose wire sculptures have been on display for years in front of his home, at the corner of Pembroke Street and Warren Avenue. All outside pieces are made of hex wire. Some art works are ‘spinners’ which literally (spin) in the breeze. Most Installs happen at noon when the collective buzz of people, nature, trucks and taxis create a breeze that bring them to life. The collective movement of the city becomes an integral part of the piece.

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Sculptures are changed twice a month year-round. “Kids wait and wonder about the next install,” he says. For most interior pieces aluminum screening is used. This affords a transparent   effect by day and solid sculptures at night, “with amazing shadows,” he says.

Corcoran creates his works standing at a table in the bay window of his home overlooking Harriet Tubman Park. “The screening material is delicate to work with,” he says. “It is unforgiving and evanescent, much like the energy of the street scene below. There are patterns of light and dark that come and go and are never repeated the same way. Loud music floats up from moving cars. Motorcycles hum at the red light. There’s a dry cleaner’s, a liquor store, an ATM, a convenience store, a restaurant, a park: The buzz!”

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The artist "tumbled into" wire sculpture a few years ago, and has participated in shows in Provincetown, Truro, and in various locations in Boston, including SoWa. He previously displayed his work in the Tremont Street window of the South End library in April 2016, in an exhibit inspired by the tales of Edgar Allen Poe and the Brothers Grimm. You can follow his spinners, yard mobiles, and more on Twitter (PembrokeYeah!), Instagram (will02118), or his website  www.willcorcoran.com

 “ So pick up a classic and read to someone you Love”

 Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).

 

Harvard Public Health Professor, David Hemenway, Believes the CDC Can Help Prevent Gun Violence With a Campaign Similar to the One That Cut Fatalities from Car Crashes by 85 Percent in the 1950s

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The numbers are mind-boggling: Since 1968, more Americans have died from guns in the United States than on battlefields of all the wars in American history. And if we do nothing about it, one million Americans will be shot in the next decade. Thus according to the June 5 speaker at the library's South End Writes series, David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University, and Director of its Injury Control and Research Center. He presented a picture of a gun culture in the United States that he, and many of his public-health colleagues, believe is unnecessarily violent and destructive. He proposes a multi-faceted public-health approach of changing laws and norms that would reduce the lethal consequence of Americans' affinity for gun ownership to more acceptable levels. 

Hemenway's public-health mantra is: Make it easy for people to stay healthy and difficult too become sick or injured. In other words, focus on prevention to benefit the entire population and switch the focus on gun-violence reduction from the curative (actions to heal individuals after gun violence has occurred) to the preventive (forming a broad and inclusive coalition with shared responsibilities to eliminate harm to the population at large). 

  David Hemenway, economist and Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University's Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, wants to switch the gun debate from 'who's to blame' in gun fatalities to 'what causes the injuries?' and find broad-based solutions to cut the death and injury rates

David Hemenway, economist and Professor of Health Policy at Harvard University's Injury Control Research Center and the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, wants to switch the gun debate from 'who's to blame' in gun fatalities to 'what causes the injuries?' and find broad-based solutions to cut the death and injury rates

The author of Private Guns/Public Health and While We Were Sleeping: Success Stories in Injury and Violence Prevention, Hemenway has solid reasons to believe he is right. He cites the powerful example of the US Center for Disease Control (CDC)'s great public-health accomplishment of the 20th century, namely the 85-percent reduction in deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents. In the 1950s and 60s, public-health physicians changed the question from "who caused the fatal car crash?" to "what caused the injury?" Instead of blaming the driver every time for drinking while driving or running a red light, just as today 'irresponsible'gun owners are blamed for gun violence, researchers in the 1950s looked at what caused the injuries. They found that the quality of the vehicles and the prevailing condition of the roads and highways were sub-par, and often major factors in the fatalities. Resulting safety mandates for automobiles (seatbelts, car seats, head rests, safety glass) and highways (removal of telephone and light poles, trees and better signage) eventually cut the death rate of car fatalities by four-fifth. 

  Boston police Commissioner, Bill Evans, who introduced David Hemenway, had to leave early: Someone had been shot....

Boston police Commissioner, Bill Evans, who introduced David Hemenway, had to leave early: Someone had been shot....

"Just as banning cars was not an option then, neither is banning guns now," Hemenway points out: More than a third of American households own guns. But the unrestricted use of guns and weak gun-control laws that prevail today come with a high cost, financially and emotionally. In the 1990s, the medical cost of gun shot injuries and death was estimated at $6 million a day. Gun injuries are the leading cause of uninsured hospital stays. The best estimate of the price tag of gun violence is about $100 billion a year. The consequences of the emotional trauma of participating in or witnessing gun violence can last a lifetime, he says, and the routine injuries to brain and spinal cord are devastating. 

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Hemenway, who won the Excellence in Science Award from the American Public Health Association and has been recognized by the CDC as one of the twenty most influential injury and violence prevention professional, proposes a multifaceted approach of harm reduction in which no one is blamed but everyone involved in the gun debate participates to find a broad-based solution. The goal is to reduce fatalities by, among other things, lifting the ban on research into gun usage, now mandated by the Dickey Amendment, in place since the mid-1990s. This would produce solid statistics as to why in the US the suicide rate is 12 higher than in similar developed countries, or why homicides here are 18 times higher. "Outside the US, countries have similar rates for violence, crime, bullying and aggression/depression rates among children," Hemenway says. "The only difference seems to be that Americans own an enormous number of fire arms." However, the CDC's so-called Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) which collects state data about U.S. residents regarding their health-related risk behaviors, can't include questions about gun ownership or gun violence in their interviews, or risk losing CDC funding.

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Hemenway's response to 'what we need to know about fire arms research'  can be answered in one word: Everything.  Specifically, the subjects to be researched include gun theft, gun training, open gun carrying, gun storage, gun suicide, gun accidents, gun threats, gun use in self-defense, gun use to intimidate, guns in intimate partner violence, straw purchasers, smart guns, effect of gun laws, gun law enforcement, gun transfers, gun shop practices, concealed gun carrying, guns on college campuses, guns at work, guns and alcohol, police and guns, assault weapons, Saturday night specials, penalties for illegal gun use, gun trafficking, liability laws and guns, insurance for gun owners, women and guns, children and guns, minorities and guns, Second Amendment, gun ranges, guns and hearing loss, guns and lead poisoning, gangs and guns,  background checks, police discretion, machine guns, burglary, home protection alternatives, and so on.

Boston's Police Commissioner, Bill Evans, a strong proponent of strict gun laws, who joined the Boston Police Department as a rookie in 1980, introduced Hemenway for his talk at the South End library. Regrettably, the Commissioner could not stay long after his introduction. He was called away to a public-safety emergency..someone had been shot.

 

Acclaimed Novelist and Short-story Writer, Allegra Goodman, Delves into the World of Teachers and Gamers, the Focus of her Latest Book, "The Chalk Artist"

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When the acclaimed author of short stories and novels, Allegra Goodman, came to the South End library in May, she pointed to a list of 20 names at the beginning of her latest novel, The Chalk Artist. "These are all my teachers," she said. "The first one was Dana Izumi, my Kindergarten teacher; the last, Stephen Orgel, was my dissertation advisor at Stanford." Listing them wasn't just because she ran out of relatives to thank, she joked: "Think of who was your best teacher: probably the one who was toughest on you," she said. "I was not a good student. I was left-handed. I had terrible handwriting. Miss Izumi used her blue pencil freely but she never gave up on me. Actually, I was in love with her. She had a page haircut. She was beautiful."

  Author Allegra Goodman with FOSEL board member, Maura Harrington

Author Allegra Goodman with FOSEL board member, Maura Harrington

Now a prize-winning author whose Kaaterskill Falls novel about a reclusive Orthodox-Jewish community summering in upstate New York was a finalist for the National Book Award, Goodman's research for The Chalk Artist took her to public high schools in Boston, where she found classrooms that were chaotic and problematic with overwhelmed teachers. She saw the demoralization of the teachers, which was also reflected in the students. "No one wanted to be there," she commented. One of the characters in the novel, a young teacher from a wealthy family who wanted "to give back" finds herself having to teach students obsessed by gaming, lured away from 'real life.' To explore that angle of The Chalk Artist, Goodman studied gaming, even creating her own graphics for invented games. As a traditionalist who, when interviewed by The Boston Globe, said her favorite app is a book, and, no, she doesn't text, she was an unlikely person to dive into that world. She concluded that gaming is more social than anything, with a massive audience and multi-game players. "Gamers look for community on-line and engage in elaborate role-playing on-line," she observed. "My book is not about 'literature is good and screen time is bad," she added, "but about the importance of imagination and the push and pull between words and images." 

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Goodman grew up in Hawaii, in a conservative Jewish family of academics who taught at the University of Hawaii. She attended the same exclusive school as did President Obama, though at a different time. Her early stories about intricate family dynamics were published as The Family Markowitz. Her recent ones, Apple Cake and F.A.Q.s came out in The New Yorker, as she focuses her attention on different members of the fictional Rubinstein family of Boston, in clear-eyed but compassionate and often hilarious descriptions of long-buried grudges and unexplored conflicts that can surface unexpectedly at inconvenient times. 

How belief systems are challenged by life's changes is the recurring theme in Goodman's books. Her earlier novel, Intuition, delves into the world of cancer researchers whose particular belief systems are challenged by the 'professional betrayal' of a post-doc whose girlfriend  thinks his data are too good to be true. "The book came about when I was considering the various aspects of marital betrayal and began to wonder, 'what about professional betrayal'?" she explained.

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Goodman described herself as an American Jewish woman writer, but elaborated that "we all own the language we share." She pointed to George Eliot wrote about doctors and Jews but was neither. "It's true that you need to know what you write about," she said "but you need to expand what you know." 

A resident of Cambridge whose fourth child is about to leave the parental home, Goodman is about finished with another novel. A textbook she co-wrote with a colleague about the craft of writing will be published in the next year. Charmed by the South End where she now takes her youngest child to dance lessons, she promised to be back with her new book. 

 

 

The Latest Local/Focus of the Tremont Street Window Displays the Wonders of Coding and Technology Available at the South End Technology Center and its Sibling, the Fab/Lab

THE SOUTH END TECHNOLOGY CENTER/FAB LAB is the brainchild of longtime South End community activist, Mel King. The former state legislator and mayoral candidate founded SETC in the late 1990s together with the Tent City Corporation and MIT, where King was an adjunct professor. SETC’s mission is to enable all young Bostonians to become “producers of knowledge and sharers of ideas and information.” SETC provides free or low-cost access and training in most aspects of computer-related technology with volunteer staff highly skilled in computer technology and its applications. 

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Located at 395 Columbus Avenue at the corner of Yarmouth Street, SETC serves 900 children and adults each year. It offers numerous opportunities to people of all ages, including Open Access to computers and internet; Technology education; Free wireless internet service to residents; an Audio Recording studio; Information on how to use a flatbed scanner, a digital camera, and how to burn CDs and DVDs; a Youth Media Producers program; a Fab Lab Inventer Lounge stocked with laser & vinyl cutters, a milling machine, a 3D printer, a CAD embroidery machine; and free tutoring by appointment, among other services. The Center is supported by foundation grants and individual contributions. It is open to the public Monday thru Thursday, 5 PM to 8 PM; Friday 4 PM to 6 PM; and Saturday 1 PM to 4 PM.  For more information, please contact Susan Klimczak at klimczaksusan@gmail.com or by phone at  SETC at 617.578.0597 or cell 617.817.2877.

Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).

 

Megan Marshall's Acclaimed Biography/Memoir, "Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast," Illuminates the Sestina, a Poetic Measure Used by Marshall in the Biography and by Bishop in her Poems.

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Acclaimed biographer Megan Marshall, who first visited the South End Writes in 2014 to read from her Pulitzer-prize-winning biography of Margaret Fuller, returned on May 8 to find a room full of Southenders eager to hear all about her most recent, and widely praised, biography, Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast.  She was introduced by her colleague, author Joan Wickersham, who described Marshall  as a "peerless biographer who does meticulous scholarly research so that you, as a reader, get to know her subject deeply." 

Marshall, who also wrote The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 and winner of several other awards prestigious awards, had been accepted in 1976 in Elizabeth Bishop's last verse-writing class before the poet died, in 1979 at age 68. Bishop also had been a guest speaker in a Robert Lowell poetry workshop Marshall had attended in the early 1970s when she had hoped to become a poet herself. By that time, Bishop had been the Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress in 1949-1950, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1956, the National Book Award in 1970, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1976.

  Author Joan Wickersham introducing biographer Megan Marshall

Author Joan Wickersham introducing biographer Megan Marshall

The personal connection provided Marshall with the opportunity to innovate the biography of Bishop by interspersing it with her own memoirs, in short sections, as she moves through the biography, said Wickersham. "It is a meditation on how we know another person," she commented. "The memoir part is about Marshall NOT knowing Bishop because, in life, you know people by their role, but not the real stuff. After reading this book, I really knew Bishop."

Wickersham noted the structure of the Bishop biography echoes the sestina, a French poetry measure dating to the 12th century. It consists of six stanzas of six lines and a final triplet, and uses six particular words in a certain pattern. This is a form Bishop used in, among other poems, A Miracle for Breakfast, with the words Balcony, Crumb, Coffee, River, Miracle and Sun. Marshall took those very words to name the six chapters in the biography, using the sestina's poetic form, "to tell the story about the poet," as Wickersham put it. 

  Prize-winning biographer Megan Marshall speaking to admirers at the South End library

Prize-winning biographer Megan Marshall speaking to admirers at the South End library

Bishop wrote both poetry and short stories, many of them published in The New Yorker,; since she produced only 100 poems, Marshall confessed she had thought hers would be "a short biography."  But in 2011, archives no one knew existed suddenly became available after Bishop's last partner, Alice Methfessel, died. It Included letters of passionate love between Methfessel and Bishop, as well as four letters Bishop wrote to her psychoanalyst, Ruth Foster.  “So the book became longer,” Marshall said. And darker.

The archives threw a new light on Bishop's harrowing childhood: her father's early death; her mother's confinement and death in an insane asylum; the molestation by an uncle. Bishop was raised by a succession of relatives in Great Village, Nova Scotia, and Worcester and Revere, MA. She attended Saugus High School, then Walnut Hill School in Natick and Vassar College in New York. Her well-to-do Bishop grandparents (their contracting company built the Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Public Library) provided her with a financial stipend and paid for the custodial care offered by her mother's sisters in Revere.

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Bishop was plagued by shyness, asthma, alcoholism, and a deep frustration that her poems took so long to produce. Marshall speculates the drinking bouts were perhaps a desire for oblivion over the pain caused by the tragic separation from her mother. A get-together her father's relative once had organized for her was so traumatic to even contemplate that Bishop fled. But in January 1977, Marshall and a few other students were invited by Bishop to a party at her home on Lewis Wharf in Boston“Bishop was shy but had parties for friends," Marshal said. "The condo overlooked the harbor where, once "her great-grandfather may have landed." 

Bishop did not see her love for women as problematic, nor, Marshal said, did her analyst, Ruth Foster. She even lived as a married couple in Brazil for more than a decade with the architect, Lota de Macedo Soares. "Bishop found ways to live near, or with, her lovers. She lived as she chose," said Marshall, 'but even though gay liberation had begun in the 1970s, neither she nor her later partner, Alice, were ever really 'out.'"

“There are always things I can identify with,” Marshall said of the subjects of her biographies. “Bishop’s unruly hair reminded me of an elementary school report I received where the teacher asked, 'Can’t Megan ever comb her hair?' And I did not know until I began to research the book that Bishop was interested in Early Music," she added, revealing she studied piano and harpsichord for many years herself.

Marshall, who is currently exploring the women in the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne, was asked what question she'd have for Elizabeth Bishop, if she were alive today. Marshall wondered about the letters to her analyst: Why did she write them? Were they ever sent? Did the analyst ask her to? Reading them, Marshall said, "was as if I was sitting in on the sessions.”  

Author William Kuhn, Presenting his Light-hearted Coming-of-age Novel, "Prince Harry Boy to Man", Suggests a Monarchy Can be a Unifying and Positive Factor in a --Usually Contentious-- Democracy

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Explaining the different strands in his life that led to his having become a tongue-in-cheek chronicler of the British monarchy, author William Kuhn told the audience at the South End library on April 10 that he could think of three: Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, as the 'typical Midwestern kid starved for glamour;' being the son of an Ohio State English professor who took the family to London for a sabbatical when he and his brother Fritz were still boys; and watching the opening of the British Parliament and suddenly wondering what exactly the role of a monarchy was in a modern industrial democracy. 

"Some of my rivals had concluded it was an invented system meant to keep the proletariat down," he said. "But I came to the opinion that in a contentious democracy, a monarchy could be unifying and positive factor, albeit with a comic dimension." Starting out doing scholarly research, Kuhn subsequently wrote  biographies about 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli) and Jackie Kennedy Onassis (Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books). His continuing interest in the British monarchy, including its comic dimension, resulted in Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, which became a bestseller that was optioned to be a motion picture.

"By Harvey Weinstein," Kuhn said ruefully. "The option expired."

The novel posited Queen Elizabeth, depressed after the death of Princess Diane, walking out of Buckingham Palace and taking the train to Scotland by herself, chased by a group of unlikely courtiers. "It took about eight months to write," commented Kuhn, "but it was more successful than anything else I'd spent much more time on until then." Having done research in the Windsor archives, he was invited to the Buckingham Palace Christmas party, where he met Princess Diane. "She looked more spectacular than ever," Kuhn recalled, "with a beautiful red dress and red silk shoes. My academic colleagues would say, 'power to the people' but I said, 'yes, but did you see Princess Diane?'"

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Researching Prince Harry Boy to Man, Kuhn saw that there were early indications of the rebellious personality of Prince Harry, which he illustrated with a picture in the accompanying slide show of toddler Harry sticking out his tongue to the photographer, while in his mother's arms. Unlike his older brother William, Harry was not a distinguished student and went straight into the army where he received officer’s training at Sandhurst. As second lieutenant, he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 but left within a few weeks after a UK media embargo on his time there was broken, which meant he could have become an enemy  target. He was redeployed there later.

"There were a number of taboo images circulated by his army buddies, Kuhn said. "He was obviously a sexy guy, which is why I wrote about him,” he added dryly. He noted a similarity between the portrayal of King Henry IV by actor Alex Hassell in an ArtsEmerson production, in the arc of "troubled kid caught wearing a nazi unform, kicking out windows at a party, and his general lack of maturity" but eventually growing up as part of the British army.  A segment of Prince Harry Boy to Man's dialogue was read by three event participants: FOSEL board member, Michael Cox; Kuhn's brother, Fritz; and writer Linda Markarian.

Answering audience questions, Kuhn said has not yet been invited to Harry’s wedding. Asked about his biography of Benjamin Disraeli (Benjamin Disraeli, The Politics of Pleasure), he said his interest in the 19th century British statesman, who became a Prime Minister, was piqued when he noticed the consistent homo-erotic themes in the politician's twelve books. His Jackie Kennedy Onassis biography (Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books) was inspired by an exhibit catalogue of her dresses, which led him to look into her twenty years as a book editor for Viking Publishing and Doubleday. Kuhn tracked down authors still alive today who had worked with her, all of whom praised her editing skills, and saying she had 'improved their work.'  

  In addition to presenting a slide show, author Kuhn had three friends read part of the dialogue from a chapter in   Prince Harry Boy to Man.  They included FOSEL board member, Michael Cox, Kuhn's brother, Fritz, and author Linda Markarian.

In addition to presenting a slide show, author Kuhn had three friends read part of the dialogue from a chapter in  Prince Harry Boy to Man. They included FOSEL board member, Michael Cox, Kuhn's brother, Fritz, and author Linda Markarian.

Kuhn, a South End resident, is currently working on two projects: one on (Lord) Byron;  the other about Tennessee Williams and Lilian Hellman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The South End Landmark District Commissioners Approved the Proposed Library Park Redesign; Construction to Start in June

On April 3, the South End Landmark District Commission approved a revised proposal for the redesign of  Library Park, as presented by the Boston Parks Department (see below). With their approval, came a compliment from the commissioners: "Thank you for having heard us," they told the Parks Department team. Construction is scheduled to start in June. 

At the previous presentation to the SELDC in January, project director Lauren Bryant was asked to come back with an amended proposal to include the commissioners' concerns about protection of the park's oak trees root systems, easy flow of foot traffic unimpeded by park furniture and an upgraded, more interesting hardscape that would include some details of typical South End materials like brick, slate or bluestone. The redesign of the redesign was different enough to require a second public hearing about Library Park's future, which was held at the South End library on March 22. The commissioners praised the more dynamic design and the care that was taken to protect the trees. 

  The proposed re-design for Library Park that was presented to the South End Landmark District Commission on Tuesday, April 3

The proposed re-design for Library Park that was presented to the South End Landmark District Commission on Tuesday, April 3

The March 22nd public hearing solicited a number of comments, including a request to create more intimate spaces through seating and paving areas. There was a question about what to do with the granite blocks that are a play opportunity for kids, but uncomfortable to sit on; a request to inset tables with game boards; and a concern that the seating feels restrictive given that it lines both sides of the plaza. The single chairs of the current park appear to be in good shape and will be re-used and matched in style with additional curved benches, cafe tables and chairs. The oak trees will be pruned.

A large part of the work will be devoted to improving the park's infrastructure, including the clean-up of the site, underneath which there is expected to be a great deal of remnants from previous housing, including oil tanks and a lot of bricks. The soil will be improved and re-graded to enhance future landscaping. Another important aspect of the reconstruction will be groundwater management and water filtration to benefit root systems of trees, shrubs and plantings.  

At the first public hearing in November last year, Parks Department's Bryant and Brandon Kunkel, landscape architect with the Weston & Sampson design and engineering firm, presented attendees with three proposals. The one below was favored by the audience and was presented to Landmarks in January, but has been altered to comply with Landmarks's comments.  

  The re-design of Library Park proposed in January but not accepted by South End Landmark commissioners concerned about root system protection, foot traffic flow and the quality of the concrete hardscape.

The re-design of Library Park proposed in January but not accepted by South End Landmark commissioners concerned about root system protection, foot traffic flow and the quality of the concrete hardscape.

After deducting the cost of design services, the remaining budget for the reconfiguration is $115,000, a small amount, which will be augmented with private fundraising efforts by the Friends of the South End Library until a more comprehensive renovation of library and park will take place in the next few years. Further information about the current project can be obtained at the Parks Department website, linked here.

 

The South End Historical Society's Local/Focus Installation for April Showcases 1912 Maps, Images of Chester Square and a Slide Show of Ye Old South End in the Library's Tremont Street Window


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The South End Historical Society (SEHS) has called Chester Square home since the mid-1970s. SEHS was founded in 1966 by a group of residents concerned with preserving the unique architectural integrity of the neighborhood. As a result, SEHS filed an application to have the South End listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. As part of the application, SEHS took photographs of every existing building in the South End during that time, and these photos are now part of SEHS’s largest collection.

The City of Boston created Chester Street and Chester Square in 1850 as a grand boulevard and residential square for the South End’s fashionable upper middle-class residents. It was the widest and grandest of the neighborhood’s famed garden squares, with several walking paths and a three-tiered cast iron fountain situated in the center of the park. A 987-foot cast iron fence identical to the lotus style fence that still surrounds Beacon Hill’s Louisburg Square enclosed the park. 

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In the 1950s, Boston divided Chester Park with a six-lane continuation of Massachusetts Avenue to accommodate traffic from the newly constructed Southeast Expressway. It destroyed the square, which became run down. A recent redesign of the divided park by Halverson Design Partnership encourages pedestrian traffic and created small gathering spaces. The twin fountains recall the original fountain and help buffer the sounds of traffic from Mass Ave. The park is maintained by the City of Boston and the Chester Square Area Neighborhood Association.

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Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).

 

 

State Rep Byron Rushing, in a Talk about his Political Career, Says the Most Gracious Thing in Our Politics is Finding Ways to "Be" in the "We"

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In a room filled with admirers, friends and curious  constituents, State Representative Byron Rushing reflected about his life as a social justice activist and politician in the Massachusetts State House, in a talk called My Life and Debt in the Massachusetts State House.  The legislator quickly described himself as one of a select group of politicians, paid by constituents to represent them fairly. But “we are all politicians,” Rushing declared, though not necessarily paid. When teenagers succeed in convincing their parents to have a later curfew, they engage politically to get a rule changed. Changing rules or making new ones is all part of being politically active. 

Rushing, who is up for reelection this November after 35 years in the Massachusetts House,   said that what he engages in for his constituents comes out of his "understanding of who is in the 'we' of 'we the people.'"  "If John Quincy Adams was here today, he’d be very surprised to see me in the Massachusetts legislature," he said. "That is my 'debt' to all those who fought to be in the 'we,' and my guide to the politics I engage in."

As soon as the words "we, the people," were written down centuries ago, no one could agree on who “we” was, Rushing said. "When the Constitution was written, most of the adults in the US could not vote. People knew way back when that 'we' was not everybody. The most gracious thing in our politics is," said Rushing, "that people could find a way to be in the “we.”  Even though Thomas Jefferson owned and sexually abused people, he said, among them were those who heard the words, 'we the people' and figured out ways, as he put it, "to be the 'we'".

Rushing, currently the Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts State House, has represented the Ninth Suffolk district since 1983, succeeding the influential South End social justice activist, Mel King, who spoke at the South End library last year.  Rushing sponsored the law to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public schools, as well as the original gay rights bill in Massachusetts. He also led the effort for Massachusetts state pension funds to invest in the development of poor communities in the state, among many other efforts to promote equal justice in the state. 

During the 1960s he was active in the civil rights movement, working for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Syracuse, NY, and as a community organizer for the Northern Student Movement in Boston. He directed a group of organizers, Roxbury Associates, who helped found the Lower Roxbury Community Corporation, one of the first community development corporations in the nation, and began some of the earliest organizing efforts in black communities against the war in Vietnam.

From 1972 to 1985, Rushing was president of the Museum of Afro-American History, when it purchased and began the restoration of the African Meeting House, the oldest  black church building in the United States. In 1979, Rushing oversaw the lobbying effort in Congress to establish the Boston African American National Historical Site, a component of the National Park Service. Byron led the Museum in the study of the history of Roxbury for which the Museum conducted the archaeological investigation of the Southwest Corridor for the MBTA. As a legislator he sponsored the creation of Roxbury Heritage State Park and occasionally leads walking tours of African American and working class neighborhoods in Boston and Roxbury. 

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Having attended Harvard College and MIT, Rushing is an elected deputy to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church; a founding member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus; and serves on the boards of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice. His priorities are and have been human and civil rights and liberties; local human, economic and housing development; environmental justice and health care. 

In 2010, Rushing was appointed a trustee of the Boston Public Library by Mayor Thomas Menino, who was under fire at the time over his unfortunate attempt to close up to a third of the BPL branches. His appointment was seen by library advocates as a signal that, as long as Rushing was a BPL trustee, no libraries would be closed in Boston.

 

Lauren Prescott, the Dynamic New Leader of the South End Historical Society, Is Looking for Ways to Make the Organization a Vibrant Local Institution Relevant to All

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Since she arrived in 2016 as the new executive director of the South End Historical Society, Lauren Prescott has immersed herself into projects that would make the organization broadly relevant to as many South-enders as possible. She is working on using social media to connect archived stories in the SEHS collection. She wants to enlarge the SEHS  oral history archives. She has agreed to install a Local/Focus display in the library's Tremont Street window with historical images of the South End on a continuous loop on a flat screen.

Judging from the standing-room only crowd that came to hear her present her first book and watch the slide show, Boston's South End, a Post Card History, Prescott may have succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. All the copies of the book she brought were sold. Many people had to leave for lack of space. And numerous  comments from the engaged audience made it clear that there is a large group of 'old-timers' living here whose memories and personal stories about growing up in the South End are needle sharp. "My father used to take me to the stables on Shawmut to see the horses," said one. "I got my first job at the First National Store where Foodies is now," said another. "There was a fudge room next to the library in the Franklin Square Hotel," reminisced a former occupant. 

 Lauren Prescott, executive director of the South End Historical Society, signing copies of  Boston's South End, a Postcard History,  at the South End Library

Lauren Prescott, executive director of the South End Historical Society, signing copies of Boston's South End, a Postcard History, at the South End Library

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Prescott, who was born in New Bedford, MA, is a public historian who received a B.A. in History at UMass Amherst and M.A. in Public History at UMass Boston. She was introduced by one of the South End's three district councilors, Frank Baker, who told the audience that many of the postcards date from what is called “the golden age of postcards,” the period from the late 1890s into the first two decades of the 20th century. In 1905 alone seven billion postcards were mailed around the world. In 1907, the postcards’ popularity may have skyrocketed further after Congress passed an act to allow senders to use the left side of the back of postcards to write personal messages. Those were the days when, in a number of cities in the United States, there were up to seven mail deliveries a day; in New York City, nine. (In London, England, there were twelve.)

For an interview with Prescott by FOSEL board member Kim Clark, click here. 

 

Local Floral Design Studio, Table & Tulip, Has Installed a Spring-inspired Display in the South End Library's Tremont Street Window for March, Defying Prevailing Weather Conditions

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Table & Tulip, located on a charming cul-de-sac on Shawmut Avenue between Rutland and West Concord Streets, is a full-service floral design studio committed to dreaming up and executing amazing floral environments. The owners founded the studio 10 years ago in the belief that if you love your work, love your community, and pursue excellence, good things will come.

Table & Tulip offers a range of services, from personally delivered hand-held bouquets to big events and even at-home plant maintenance. They were named Best Florist by Boston Magazine's Best of Boston multiple times.

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If you would like to join Table & Tulip for a workshop, grab a hand-wrapped bouquet, or simply visit their South End shop and pretend you’re in the English countryside, stop by their studio  located at 461 Shawmut Ave, one block east of the South End library. You can also reach them at 617 262-3100, or shop online at www.tableandtulip.com.

Local/Focus is a program sponsored by the Friends of the South End Library to connect the South End branch of the BPL with local artists, non-profit institutions and creative entrepreneurs through informative and interesting installations in the library’s Tremont Street window(s).