Thursday, June 25, 2009

At last, a summer's day! Part 1: Walk in the Garden

Then suddenly, the month of rain ended! Just like in the movie, Forest Gump, when the monsoons stopped in Vietnam: the rain stopped and the sun came out. Suddenly, it was summer!

With the warmth of the sun beaming down, the city came to life. At lunchtime, I walked through the Public Garden. Like a tourist in a new city, I documented the planting beds, the logoon and the famous swan boats.

At last, a summer day! Part 2: Evening at Revere Beach

Revere Beach, a 3-mile long, crescent-shaped barrier beach located about 8 miles north of Boston is America's first public beach. Designed by the renound landscape architect, Charles Eliot, it was part of a Metropolitan Parks System that was born around the dawn of the 20th century.

The parks were accessible by streetcar and provided fresh air and escape from city life in the midst of the industrial revolution. Coal was burned everywhere coating a fresh layer of soot on windowsills and lungs alike. The cobblestone streets were an adventure to navacate, avoiding the droppings of the everpresent horse-drawn transport while not twisting an ankle!

Revere Beach was immensely popular, especially with the working class. Early on there were all sorts of amusements and places to eat. These features fell into bad times in the 1960s and eventually they were demolished and replaced with high-rise apartments.

In the 1990s and recently the state has put money into refurbishing Revere Beach: bringing in sand to restore the beach itself, restoring the shade structures and restoring the beachside promendade on the north end of the beach.

Over the years, Revere Beach has remained a popular place to cool off on a summer's day or evening. On this summer evening, we ate at Kelly's (famous food stand) and walked the beach at sunset. Here's our postcards from today.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

High above the Streets of New York: It’s a .... Park!?

One of the most creative and interesting parks just opened in New York City. But if you walk and walk and walk all over Manhattan, you may never find it!

Why? Because it’s 30 feet above the street!

High Line Park is build on the trestle of the abandoned West Side Line built by the New York Central Railroad in the 1930s. What I find most interesting is the design – an amazing blending of two forms I love, yet are contrary: industrial and naturalist design.

What I love most about it is that they kept the historically defining features: portions of the tracks, the railings, and the great steel structure holding it all up. Then, perhaps inspired by the wildflowers that grew unaided between the abandoned rails, the landscape design brings back intense plantings of a beautiful palate of wildflowers.

A Brief History

By the 1900s, New York was a great port with piers lining the Hudson River. Long before highways and interstates, all that cargo arriving was loaded on trains. And like streetcars, the trains rumbled along rails in the cobblestones, mixing with horses and carts.

The New York Central Railroad had its own “cowboys.” These cowboys didn’t herd cattle; they herded freight trains! Riding horseback, they guided the trains through the west side streets of Manhattan.

Certainly, this was dangerous and inefficient. A plan was drawn up to lift the tracks 30 feet above the streets. The High Line was born. The miles of viaduct meandered above 10th Avenue and even went through right through buildings.

Times changed. As the ‘30s transitioned into the ‘70s, transportation modes changed. Highways got better. The ‘50s brought the interstate system, and with government-provided infrastructure trucks became a faster and more flexible for transporting goods. The High Line slowly died.

Like other relics of a past industrial age, the High Line was scheduled for demolition. But, others had a vision to convert this relic into a linear park above the streets. The advocacy of the Friends of the High Line and others saved the structure. And now a most unique park is born.

Witness the evolution of the High Line: active rail line to abandoned viaduct to park.


The idea for this post come from my friend and fellow blogger, Nando. Check out his video interview about the High Line Park. And his blog post on the High Line at

Most of the photos come from the Friends of the High Line’s web site: You’ll find many photos and videos, and much of the history of the Line and how it was saved.