Beating the Heat
Colorful Jamaica Plain - Part 2

Colorful Jamaica Plain - part 1

There are benefits to walking the same places over and over, across the seasons.  I get to see the little changes and discover patterns (like the tree that Orioles nest in year after year).  But sometimes I just want to see something radically new, to explore the unknown, get lost and find my way out again. 

Oriole and nest 051310

 A couple weeks ago I was in Jamaica Plain (JP) getting ice cream with friends, and I knew that I had to come back on my own to explore.  I admit some of that feeling was based on a desire to have another cone of Bailey's Cheese Cake ice cream at JP Licks, but it was also based on the quirky shops, murals on every corner and the chocolate box-like assortment of architectural styles.  I wanted to see it all.

For anyone reading who's not local, JP is a Boston neighborhood, about 5 miles south of the city.  I've heard it described as "eclectic", "shabby chic", "artsy" and "hip".  But I've had almost no first hand knowledge of the place - until this weekend.

There are a couple reasons why I haven't gotten to know JP sooner.  For one, it's on the south side of the city and I'm usually to the north.  Just as important, the few times I've been there have involved driving on the Jamaicaway (designed for carriages) or Route 9; both are way too skinny for the number of speeding cars on them.   Getting to JP requires advanced driving.

Whale weathervane center st jp 080611

I arrived in JP for my walk with water, a camera, and my GPS in pedestrian mode in case I got thuroughly turned around.  My only plan was to explore until I couldn't resist the siren call of ice cream any longer.  

I'd come to walk, but this sign

Boomerange whitey sign 080611

and the steady stream of people going into a thrift store of all places, caused a small shopping related detour. The sign says:

"Booms has everything you need for your trial watching party. 

Even Whitey Bulger can't deny that Booms has the best deals in town. 

And he loves raising AIDS funds." 

You've got to admit, it's original. 

A purchase heavier and a few dollars lighter, I was back on track.  I took the first side road I saw and wondered if I might have made a mistake.  The yards I passed were overgrown with weeds up to my shoulder.   On the other side of the road a few twigs of men were arguing in front of an apartment building.  They shared the gaunt, leathery look that comes from hard living.  I was just starting to consider turning back and trying a different road, when I came around a corner and the scene changed dramatically. 

The gardens still grew tall, but now instead of wild grasses, they were full of sunflowers, black eyed susans and flowering bushes.  The houses appeared freshly painted in colors fit to challenge the radiance of their gardens. 

Flowers and fence jp 080611

Colorful house jp 080611

Stained glass jp 080611

Sun detail 080611

Even that Boston area mainstay, the 3-family/triple decker had gotten a facelift. 

Colorful triple descker 080611

I saw more than one that had beautiful gardens cascading off the upper balconies. 

And then of course there were the porches.  I love a porch that invites you to sit down and just watch the world go by.  It doesn't take anything elaborate, just a couple comfortable chairs,

Red chairs 080611

a little table for your drink,

Blue porch 080611

and a bit of something green.  No need for an extended family of gnomes, an orchestra of windchimes and so many other things that the space becomes pinched.  A porch is for taking a deep breath, letting your shoulders sink away from your ears and stretching your legs out long and cat-like.   

Walking through JP made me once again wish I knew more about architecture.  If anyone knows a good beginner's book to recognizing what eras different features came from, please be sure to leave a comment or send an email.  I saw:

a terrific cupola atop a grand old house,

Cupola jp 080611

a garage that looked like a cross between a barn and a church,

Great garage 080611

  a playhouse complete with windowboxes, 

Playhouse 080611

and a blue house all but lost between tall apartments, which reminded me instantly of Virginia Lee Burton's book The Little House.  

Little house 080611

On the corner of Green and Alfred Streets I came across a chain link fence decorated with fantastic sculptures made of wood and found objects.

Green street jp 080611
Green street girl jp 080611

Her dress is covered in the words "I am 8 years old" in all the languages of the neighborhood.

Green street girl jpdetail  080611

Green street horse jp 080611

That's a scrub brush for his mane.

Green street jp people tree 080611
I would have loved to see this when the colors were fresh.  To me this one looks like people growing out of a tree.  Is it rebirth?  Showing our connection to the earth?   I tried to find out who was behind this project and what idea inspired the figures, but the only reference I found was an image on Google maps street view.  The next time I'm in JP I'll have to look around and see if there's a sign that I missed.  

The artsy nature of JP is not limited to vacant lots.  In part 2  I'll share some amazing murals and fantastic store decorations.   

I hope you're enjoying this glimpse of Jamaica Plain.





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Former JPer

I just found this while searching for ideas for chain link fence art projects.
Thanks for the photo of this wonderful fence art. I used to live in JP and I remember when that project happened (around 2004?). There was some guy named Alex behind it. I can;t remember his project name but Joseph Porcelli from Neighbors for Neighbors might be able to help you find out more about it.

T. Crockett

Thanks for the lead!

If you're interested in unusual fences, there's a show on the radio called 99% Invisible that did an episode on a fence that has poetry worked right into its form. It's episode 59 if you want to find it on iTunes.

Thanks again

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