A Charlestown Adventure

On New Year’s Eve, I decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and go on a walking adventure around Charlestown. No, I was not inspired by “The Town” (though I did see and enjoy that movie). I was actually inspired by the loading docks I’ve often spied from the eastward vantage point of the 93 bus. I wanted to see the periphery of Charlestown beyond the tidy brownstones and monuments.

I took the bus to the top of the hill and walked (or nearly slid, given the poorly treated sidewalks) down toward what I now know is called the Medford Street Terminal, where I found the abandoned Revere Sugar Refinery. (I am fairly certain, thanks to this court finding, that it is the same Revere Sugar owned by Antonio Floriendo, who had connections to former Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos. Here are some photos of the recently demolished Brooklyn factory.) Charlestown used to be a hotbed of sugar refining, it seems. Here’s how Revere Sugar looked back in the day (thanks to the BPL on Flickr):

Revere Sugar Factory

It turns out that I visited the site on the 24th anniversary of its purchase by Massport. The signage on the fenced off area read: “Revere Sugar Site Demolition / Project Start Date: Jan. 19, 1995 / Projected Completion Date: July 22, 1996.” Uh-huh. Adjacent to the Revere Sugar site was an abandoned rail way that local residents have appropriated as a rail trail of sorts. Lots of people were out walking their dogs. Nearby, I also saw some interesting graffiti scrawlings, like “C-Town” and “Townie 4 Lyfe,” as well as a flag for the Northern Ireland Ulster Volunteer Force painted on a back fence next to the Irish flag.

I made my way back toward the tidy brownstones, procuring the most amazing breakfast sandwich ever at Zume’s Coffee House (homemade English muffins, mmm) before heading over to Paul Revere Park, a new park (opened in 2007 as a byproduct of the Big Dig) which offers great views of the Charles River and a stunning from-below perspective of the Zakim Bridge.

Check out all of the photos from my Charlestown excursion:

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5 responses to “A Charlestown Adventure

  1. My great-grandfather worked at a sugar refinery in Boston. They lived in Dorchester, so I’m not sure where the refinery was, but I can ask my mom. He died relatively young–under 50, I think–but I don’t know if that was because of working in the refinery. My uncle has done a lot of research about family history, and that particular great-grandfather left very little evidence.

    In any case, every year, he got a free Thanksgiving turkey from work–and this was in the 1920s, so the turkey came with feet attached. My grandmother used to talk about how the kids would all fight each other for the feet, and then they’d run around the house chasing each other with them. There was something you could push on the leg that would cause the claws to open and close. Sounds like a good time!

  2. Also, I have no idea why someone would be painting the UVF flag on a fence in Charlestown. They’re a unionist paramilitary group. Places like Charlestown were famously hotbeds for IRA support in this country. Do you remember the “Welcome to South Boston from Sinn Fein” mural with the coats of arms for the four provinces of Ireland that used to be on a building on Dot Ave. between Andrew Square and the Broadway T station?

  3. In researching this post, I found a cool photo of a Domino sugar refinery – http://www.flickr.com/photos/dboo/321584087/ – Maybe your grandfather worked there?

    I remember hearing about the Sinn Fein mural but I don’t think I ever saw it in real life.

  4. Belated reply! Domino sounds about right. He would have worked there until some point in the early 1930s.

    I’m sure there are pictures on Flickr and elsewhere of the Sinn Fein mural. It was striking. Even in a place like Belfast, where you expect to see that, it’s striking, let alone in Boston.

  5. That illustration is the East Cambridge Revere Sugar plant on Millers River, The 1919 Charlestown refinery, on the Mystic, was much larger.

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