Hidden Boston

I’ve always been a proponent of being a tourist in one’s own town; having taken many pictures documenting the city’s iconic spaces over the years, here are a baker’s dozen that you likely won’t find on a tourism map or website.

We begin in Louisburg Square, arguably the toniest enclave of Beacon Hill, the city’s toniest neighborhood. I don’t remember this old-fashioned mailbox always being there although it’s possible someone may have recently painted or gussied it up. Sitting along old row homes and cobblestone sidewalks, its antiquity fits right in.

A couple blocks away on Beacon Street near the State House sits this somewhat dingy luncheonette which, at least from the outside hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1977. I haven’t tried it (as with most downtown eating places, it’s only open during working week hours) but I’d be sad if it ever closed for good as it’s part of a vanishing breed gradually being taken over by your Cavas, Sweetgreens and Chipotles.

A Google search reveals that Scotch n’ Sirloin, a restaurant overlooking a stretch of I-93 that wasn’t entirely consumed by the Big Dig twenty-odd years ago closed in 1991 and yet the sign remains (the above photo is from December 2020) and likely will until the building gets rehabbed or torn down.

For years, this truck for Kitty’s Restaurant and Lounge in the far North suburbs has been a fixture at Haymarket. I don’t know why, exactly, but it’s always parked there and I rarely fail to notice its distinctive logo.

The North End is a tourism Mecca but out-of-towners tend to flock there for the restaurants, the Italian pastries, the Freedom Trail, etc. People actually live there too and occasionally need to service their vehicles (though let’s face it, the word “LUBRICATION” caught my eye more than anything else.)

Also spotted in the North End: a fake owl on top of a tow-zone sign. I don’t get it, either.

On the opposite end of downtown is Boston’s Chinatown, an ideal spot for Dim Sum but perhaps not so much for those seeking medical attention. My first thought upon seeing this unflashy dated signage in 2015 was, “Oh, really?”; according to Google Maps, work was being done on it as of 2020.

Speaking of dated signage, when Copley Place mall in the Back Bay began finally updating their 1980s-designed interior a few years ago, I knew I had to get a shot of this, located in hallway next to what was then Barney’s (and, long ago, a multiplex cinema with postage-stamp sized theaters) and is now Saks Fifth Avenue Mens’ Store.

A few blocks from the mall, probably on Marlborough St. or Commonwealth Ave. The neighborhood rivals (probably exceeds) Beacon Hill in terms of wealth, yet I tend to see the most elaborate (not to mention unsettling) Halloween decorations there every year.

Stepping away from Central Boston, it’s the Marmo Pedestrian Overpass in Orient Heights, a section of East Boston that I visited in May 2016 simply because I could (the Blue Line T goes out there.) It’s a pleasant, unremarkable neighborhood, most notable for Constitution Beach and this colorful footbridge. I posted a bunch of pix from there on my now-defunct Tumblr and maybe I’ll repost some of them here one day.

From East Boston to the city’s Westernmost boundary, which happens to be a ten minute walk from where I currently live. I’ll post an entire essay on West Roxbury some other time, but for now, here’s Sawmill Brook at Millennium Park, a vista I’ve taken dozens of shots of over the years; it’s almost as far West as one can go while staying within the city limits.

I was going to conclude with this whimsical hydrant on a residential West Roxbury street that I got to know well via many pandemic-era neighborhood walks.

However, I spotted this twin hydrant one street over the other day. Now I’m curious as to whether others exist throughout this neighborhood and beyond. Stay tuned.