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November 10, 2006


Doug Holder

Great quote Donald. Union Square is becoming a very vibrant place--the Sherman Cafe is sort of a meeting place for the arts crowd in the Square.. The Times made a good move by quoting the owner of "The Somerville News," a guy who has his hands on the pulse of the city.

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

To the Donald,

"The politicians were corrupt and it was just an unattractive city."

Some things just never change.

Remember my dear boy, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

........and I hope it was the Donald himself who authored the article.

If anyone at the Cambriville News had a spelling error in the article's title about the one and only Mrs. M., they would be certain to get a swift kick in the old nads.

The old Feau Tred Herself,

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

These Old Eyes

Congratulations on the quote. But this white text on grey is very hard on my eyes and I am having trouble looking at the site now.

Born Here

aweful new look, hard to read and follow Dr. Mrs. McCarty shakey handwriting!

Gabbly Must Go!

I don't know what this 'Gabbly Chat' thing is for in the right column, but it's obnoxious and noisy and needs to go away immediately.

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

Mother of Sweet Jesus in Heaven and Cambriville.............

Get your digits off the control/key board. This thing is more active and jumpy than the Skipper's hooty at the cheerleaders tryouts.

What in Gods name are you people doing. I thought I was having a damn stroke. And what's with all the new bells and whistles??

It's bad enough I hear voices coming from the f&^%ing vacumn cleaner now I'm hearing the Bells of St. Marys coming from the freakin keyboard.

Try a nice rose and teal clolour combo. Martha "Shackels" Stewart says it's hot for this year.

The Bells are Ringing for me and my Jamie,

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

My Dearest Jamie,(or anyone else that could help this old French whore)

Could you explain to me what the hell this Gabbly Chat thing is, what is it designed to do and how do I disable it.

Still hearing bells,

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

James Norton

And like that - POOF! - the chat thing is gone.

I knew it wouldn't take long before a knucklehead took it too far. Almost lasted 4 hours - a miracle in this city. Although I had more positive personal emails regarding the chat thing, I don't want my kids or my wife or my mother reading sillyshit stuff on here.

Thanks for the input!


James Norton

Ok this is for everyone who wants to chime in and it is for tonight only. I like the layout of a top frame, a large left frame that is fluid and a right side column. What I am not sure about is the colors I could use to make it "pop". Those who want to give me their opinions have a few hours on here (no more personal emails today my phone has had enough) to give me some suggestions. I can't just experiment on my own because I am color blind. Yeah I know that explains a lot, quiet Mary.

I'm going to go play Socom for a while, I'll check back here in a few hours. Enjoy!


Born Here

This green and yellow sceme is MUCH better than the dark colors eariler today. Definately easier to read and the font is better.....

Ron Newman

but the text in the right column is waaay too small now.

(thanks for getting rid of Gabbly)


I like the color scheme. I prefer to see the recent comments section on the top as opposed to the Recent Posts. It was only a matter of time before some A-hole ruined Gabbly so I'm glad its gone. I do not like the fact that when you click on recent comments it opens a new window. Keep it on the the same window. Also, please bring back Scott Trant who was wrongfully terminated. Thanks.




The above post states:

"Then the 1960s happened, the community changed and half the stores were boarded up. For a long time after that, Somerville was a place that people made fun of. The politicians were corrupt and it was just an unattractive city."

"Nowadays Union Square is coming back to life, he says. "There are several coffee shops that have moved in and there are more on the way. And coffee shops bring in the more educated, artsy crowd."

Could you please inform your readers exactly what stores were boarded up? I don't remember what stores were boarded up so please jog my memory to this "fact".

Yes, politicians were corrupt then as they are now, so what is the point of pointing that out. Also calling Somerville an unattractive city I believe is reaching a tad bit. Could you quantify what an unattractive city is? Does an unattractive city consist of having lower property taxes, tight knit communities that looked out for each other, a slew of companies that employed Somerville residents, a host of department stores, real movie theaters, real buthcher shops, a ton of small pharmacy's (especially Cross Drug with their soda fountain) and small businesses, a Police and Fire department that were proud to wear their uniforms, a vital vetran community that had many post across the city ( many are non-existent now ), neighborhood schools that did not mix younger children with older children. Remember all those schools like the Brown that were spread across the city and then after attending them you were barely ready to face the "big kids" at the Southern, Northeastern, West Somerville etc. Now younger kids are thrown into the fire and learn things that they shoudn't be learning until an older age.

I wholeheartedly believe there was more a sense of community then there is now or ever will be. Of course this is just my opinion. I have to strongly disagree with the statement that this was an "unattractive city". I had a hell of a time growing up in this city then and have a lot of cherished memories that will live on forever.

As to the above statement: "And coffee shops bring in the more educated, artsy crowd." So what did that make us, a bunch of dumb city folk who frequented their local breakfast joints for food and coffee and local neighborhood gossip? I find this statement very offensive and I would hope many other residents living here at that time do so also.

Also the above statement referencing Union Square coming back to life. Coming back to life as what? It is a smattering of international food restaurants and markets. A sick police building and a few convience stores.I believe the Neighborhood Restaurant is the busiest place down there on the weekends because of the college kids and the foolish perception that this "is the pace to be".There is nothing there for me or for many local residents except maybe the post office, St. Josephs Church and a quick place to buy some lottery tickets. So who is kidding who. This is not a "racial" issue, it is what it is, a place that really has no use to residents who grew up here.

JN, I kinda have a feeling what your response to this will be as the above post was written by a family member. But this is my opinion and hopefully you will except it for what it is.




I agree with brickbottom that the "new" Union Square pales in many ways to the "old".

In the late 60s there were not all that many empty strefronts that I can recall. Or perhaps I just missed them while going there to get things we needed. For instance:

Backer Hardware--Like Masse's in Cambridge, you could get everything from paintbrushes to window glass (cut to size). I remmeber buying a bow saw for Boy Scouts there.

There was also Union Sq. Paint and Wallpaper, where much of the wallpaper in this house was purchased. I rented the floor sander that was used to do the floors in this house from them in 1982.

Union Sq. Furniture--where many a newlywed couple's first apartment was furnished thanks to "easy credit" or layaway. How many returning Viet Nam vets in the late 60s set up house out of there? I personally know a couple dozen.

The "old" (not the REALLY old) police station where the Independent is today. I remember us walking down there from the Southern for a Law & Government class field trip. It probably had a hundred monikers, but I'm pretty sure "sick building" wasn't one of them.

The fire station where, IIRC, the city ambulance--a block-long Pontiac--was kept. I remember it bottoming out taking the hard uphill turn into the old ambulance entrance across the street here.

Too many greasy spoons to name. Maybe brickbottom can recall some of them.

No doubt that Union Square's time in the tonyness spotlight is coming fast. However, I can't help but recall all the little things we've lost over the years as well. I hope these don't get forgotten or otherwise get lost to the winds of progress. Speaking for myself, it'll take a whole lot of nouveau chic international eateries to match the character that was once there. Union Square, like Davis Square and Ball and Magoun, was a pretty cool place. The bets part of it is, we didn't even know it!


Dr. Mrs. McCarthy


You never cease to amaze me with your encylopedic memory for the smallest of details. And I love it. Your missive on Union Square sure brings back the thoughts of me and the Union soldiers as I sent them off to battle those damn rebels. Or maybe that was a dream. Or maybe that was during the Cambriville insurection of 05????? Shit I can't remember.

I do remember though that I got a good dose of panty crickets from one of the dive bars in the 40's.

Anyway, thanks for the mamories!

JAR - City Historian Emeritus.

Those Were The Days,

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy

Curt and Tony

DrMrs McCarthy

Panty crickets? You dirty, dirty old bird you.

Ron Newman

I remember Sherman's Hardware, where the veterinary place is now. Was this the same store as Backer, or a different one? Unfortunately, it probably lost out to Home Depot.

James Norton

Brickbottom -

I thought about a very nasty and sarcastic response to you, yes, but after due consideration I decided to not be as overly nit picky as you. Why you would ask me to qualify something my father said is beyond me - like I speak for him. You obviously don't anything about either one of us.

I will say this though - I find it odd that you want to have me produce a list of stores that were closed in the 60's as a factual statment AND quantify the definition of unattractive with respect to Somerville. It's once again painfully clear you are very small minded and didn't get the whole point of the article, the comment in particular, or the bigger picture inferred in the interview itself. I'm sure it wasn't meant to be an exact accounting of what happened in Union Square - clearly - and this is how I interpreted the statement "then the 60's happened..." - that the world in general and obviously Somerville to a lesser respect changed fundamentally from that point on.

If you want to believe that Somerville didn't change after that - through the 70's and into the early 80's, then you live in a fantasy world. I distinctly remember more than a couple of storefronts in Union Square that were empty in the late 70's and early 80's in Union Square - Norton Real Estate as it was known then was located next to the Midnight Variety and I spent quite a bit of time there so that I can speak to personally.

Again, I'm not speaking for him - he's an adult - but I'm sure that my father wasn't asked to produce a narrative, but rather, to make a general statement that qualified the fact that Union Square is NOW becoming a vibrant place again and why that is...This city was ugly for a number of years and Union Square has been in need of a major overhaul in the areas of traffic flow and mixed use development at a minimum. That doesn't mean he didn't enjoy living here and he certainly didn't make it up.

Union Square, even when the area was declining over a period of the last 25 plus years, was undoubtedly a wonderful place to be a part of and certainly was a better place back then than what it has become today. Thats the whole point - the fact that it is evolving and becoming a a vibrant part of the "area" and not just a mess of traffic every afternoon is the whole point of the article. I'm with you that I'd love to see it go back to the old neighborhood it was even before my time, I doubt anyone would argue with that - but the cold hard facts are that it will never be that again, and we can now only hope to effect long term development in this area and keep the evolution going. That's what helps make us a better community - it certainly doesn't hurt does it?

I hate to refer to an overused quote but you obviously "can't see the forest for the trees". That's a shame. I try to defend some of you on here when I get complaints all the time about only "haters" making the majority of the comments on this blog, but it becomes more and more difficult when you miss the bigger picture as obviously as you have here.

I find it very pedestrian to go toe to toe with you over your incredibly ignorant attempt to pick apart the one or two statements in an article that was much larger than you evidently grasp. Instead of continuing down this road, I will say that I for one am very pleased that someone from OUR community was asked to comment in one of the most influential financial publications in the entire world about Union Square in Somerville.

Thank God we have people that are given chances like this and who actually care about our community.



As a college graduate working adult I resent the comment theat the coffee shops bring in the more artsy educated crowd. I have lived in this city for 27 years. The arts crowd is self serving as they are changing the zoning for their needs only. The arts "crowd" does not and will not help the economic development of Union Square. Good artwork is essential to life but studies have proven that they do not help the economics of a city. They do not generate business.

Gastion Belferon


Artists are Great! I guess you did not take any humanity classes in college either? You probably studied business.

Their crowd does help, not that it matters or that it should, or that you would ever understand how and why. besides Union square could be perfectly happy staying affordable for the people who already consider it home . Why split up a community for business reasons?

Give yourself the Boot! and turn in all your gold stars!

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy


Just a friendly word of advice. You may want to stick to your crusade for truth, justice, and the Cambriville way. And oh, ya. Taking a good whack at Office Bob Bwadley every now and then. I happen to know that contrary to what my little Jamie says, he deeply loves his Mom and Dad and even the slightest slight on this site(and elsewhere, right Skipper?)set his digits flying on the keyboard in their defense.

Now stop it you two or I'll be forced to kick both of you in the nutz. This site would not be even remotely entertaining, informative, or important to our civic health without BOTH of you.

The only way it would come even close would be if I was the only one on here.

Respect yourself, respect each other and don't shake it too long or people will think you're playing with it!

Dr. Mrs. McCarthy
(see what you started Donald! I hope you're happy with yourself now.)



As I said: "JN, I kinda have a feeling what your response to this will be as the above post was written by a family member. But this is my opinion and hopefully you will except it for what it is."

As you said: "It's once again painfully clear you are very small minded" and also "I find it very pedestrian to go toe to toe with you over your incredibly ignorant attempt to pick apart the one or two statements in an article that was much larger than you evidently grasp," among other slightly insulting remarks.

You did not prove me wrong! Have a great week!


My Dear Dr. Mrs. McCarthy,

Thank you for your most welcome advice. I also expect that most people would try and defend their parents no matter what.

That being said, I thought this was an open forum to exchange ideas and to critique posts and people that are opposed to one's own feelings.

I guess I was wrong and will not post on this subject again. I in no way would welcome a kick in the nutz by you! :)

Yours as always,




How about....Deprato's where Midnight stands, White Sport Sub Shop, Sal's Sub Shop, the shoe cobbler and that excentric women across the street that sold fruit and veggies. Of course the two hardware stores and Union Sq. furniture. Brennan Insurance. Florida Fruit Mart on Bow St. and that little corner store across the street. A good dose of bars especially the old Town House which was filled every Wednesday when the cops cashed their checks. The barber shop across from St. Joe's and the shoe store right next to it on one side and the cleaners on the other.
The jewelry store that was their for years across from the "Somerville Savings Bank".

Give me time and I'll think of more!

union square

how about the discount store at the bottom of Walnut street. I remember as a kid buying sneakers out of the binds for $3.00 a pair. The only problem was finding two the same size!

Another one is the old Sunny's Deli.


union square,

And let's not forget St. Joseph's Grammar School, High School and the Sisters of Notre Dame Convent. All those kids made a lot of money for those businesses in the square!

Ron Newman

my recollection is that the old police station was at the current location of Toast Lounge, not the Independent. (But I don't remember what was at the Independent's location.)


The Independent's building used to house the local pub call the Town House, which was there for years.


Actually, it would be easier for me to say "The Elephant Walk" as the location of the former police station since it was that for such a relatively long period of time. I may have my latter-day eateries mixed up.

Also, how about Sam's Shoe Store?

I can't speak for others who are posting on this topic here, but speaking as a life-long Somervilleian, I am grateful to see so many people contribute their own little pieces of minutiae, memories, etc.

Therein lies the true value to me of having a forum like this.

Somewhere in cyberspace all of this will be preserved. It's living history, and it's priceless as far as I'm concerned. Thanks Jamie and Donald, and to everyone else who puts this together (especially the esteemed--or is it just "steamed"--Dr. Mrs. McCarthy). In a way, this IS the modern equivalent of the diner or the local store where people gathered to swap stories, gossip, etc. Good stuff. The value of this goes way, way beyond anything the LFT or anyone else can write about Union Square.

Born Here

Sam's shoe store used to send out Birthday cards every year to customers. Love those old "Hush Puppies"

Do you Remember?

Do you guys remember when single family homes were the only type of homes in Somerville? Do you remember how, why and when everyone started turning to multi-family homes? Denser is not always better!

Somerville's urban planning has failed miserably in providing affordable housing. What is going to be different now? As a rule, more dense areas cost more to build in, tend to have higher taxes, higher levels of pollution, and a higher cost of living. Housing affordability in Somerville probably has not of the largest reduction of affordable housing in any major urban area in the nation! Somerville's home ownership rate among lower and middle income levels fell. The poor, of course, suffer the most in this kind of failed policy. Families no longer able to afford single-family homes in Somerville have to move into multifamily units. Can any of you recall what years that housing permits issued for multifamily units were on the biggest increase?

The aggressive promotion of smart growth policies and a gross misrepresentation of the facts is allowing us to steal the affordability of Somerville in the name of progress and big profits for some people. You did it to the American Indians and now you are doing it to the poor of Somerville. Although smart growth proponents advocate land-use control as a means of providing affordable housing, it can punish low-income families, keeping them from ever being able to afford a home of their own and denying them the American Dream when these concepts fall into the hands of certain powers that be.

The flashy veneer of these affordable mixed use programs and re-development initiatives has the appearance of investing in more affordable housing, seemingly in service of keeping middle- and low-income people here in Somerville. But the cold hard fact is that 80% of development within these programs are luxury units, condos, big box retail, and higher rents for owners of properties and more business for shop owners in Union square - which will dramatically change the economic landscape of the neighborhood and will end up kicking out the less affluent.

What's more, in these up-and-coming neighborhoods - suddenly with less affordable supermarkets, laundry mats, and government offices moved out of Davis - the influx of the wealthier has the net result of pushing out the people in the neighborhood who had been living there affordably before the surge of new development. We will lose more affordable housing than we gain. Let us not lie to ourselves or anyone else about these facts. We will lose more affordable housing than we gain.

So at what price are we going to lose all this affordable housing? To answer that lets look at who benefits. We already know who doesn't. Developers will benefit, real-estate agents will benefit and owners of large retail and rental buildings will benefit. Bankers will benefit. The loan industry with their inspectors, bank fees and mortgage lock in fees will benefit. The city will collect more taxes. And more city taxes does not translate into more city services and lower property taxes. No, more city taxes means that Unions, city workers are making money and dpw toys are being bought, which is fine except that unions are corrupt so some connected people will be funneling more of this city money into their pockets than they should be. Local favorite contractors will be getting ridiculous no bid deals to funnel money into their pockets and everybody in city government and their lazy brother-in-law will have a job. How about hiring some un-related people who work for a paycheck? Local connected politicians will benefit. And finally just a few poor people who are well looked after and connected to somebody here will win an affordable housing lottery and they will benefit too. But only a few.


Ron Newman

Single family homes were the only homes in Somerville? When was that?

My 50-unit brick apartment building was built in 1929, and many others around me were built around the same time. Leaving them aside, most of our wooden housing stock are two- and three-families, dating back over 100 years. Usually with the landlord living in one unit and renting out the others.


Do you Remember:

As you wrote: "Denser is not always better!"

In your case truer words were never spoken!


How about George's Shoes, across from St. Joe's church? They had affordable designer shoes which were really affordable. And the name escapes me, but the wallpaper place which was upstairs from the storefront which now sells furniture. They had the best selection and the best prices ever, if you were willing to roam up and down the narrow aisles and look at hundreds of rolls of paper to find what you wanted - we always had fun doing that! And there was a restaurant upstairs from the little disount store, across from the Neighborhood Bakery. The space I believe also served as the Somerville City Club (now on Innerbelt Rd) for a time. And the building on the corner (beside Neighborhood Restaurant) had a walk-in clinic which provided lots of not-quite emergency services which was a great alternative to a visit to the emergency room! And wasn't there a dancing school above Mama Lisa's? I believe it was originally in Davis Square, but again the name escapes me.

Multi Family

Somerville has had more than its share of wooden housing converted from Single familly into two or more familly. Most of the multi familly houses on our street including the one we rent in were once single familly. Except for maybe a triple decker. Is that not true for most other streets here?


"Do you remember?" doesn't make a bit of sense. Multi-family houses have always been the predominent housing in Somerville just like Newman said. Maybe before 1850 there were mostly singles, but not after that. As for density, the lots in East Somerville which developed first were or are larger than the lots in West Somerville on the whole. Take a look at the assessors sheets sometime and you'll see for yourself. That also goes back to when the city was developed and the patterns it was developed in. And yes as Newman also said it was typical for people to buy these two or three families and use the rental income to supplement the mortgage payments. If they were not able to do that, many people would never have been able to afford housing here or in Medford or Everett or even Cambridge years ago. Don't forget also that there were fewer highways and cars and so things like busses and streetcars were the primary means of getting to work from West Somerville to Boston. Even places like East Arlington are mainly two and three families.



How were the lemon squares today?

How come I haven't seen the FP car parked in the driveway for a long time?


hey brick,

I had a mocha slice today. Not sure what's going on with the Town Car. Maybe it has something to do with Thanksgiving coming up which reminds me, have a happy one all you bloggers out there!

the Librarian

The majority of Somerville’s existing housing units are contained in two and threefamily
homes; nearly 70% of the residential buildings in Somerville are two or threefamily
homes and these buildings contain over 60% of the City’s housing units. The
condition of these units is generally worse than newer construction, most often multifamily
condominium structures. According to the Assessor’s Department, roughly
200 single, two and three-family buildings are considered to be in poor or fair
condition, as compared to only 3 condominium buildings and 5 buildings with 4-8

Two family homes out number either single or three family homes by more than 2 to 1. The majority of these two and three family homes were conversions.

Most of the conversions are probably from the time that the good Factory jobs paying living wages disappeared. People converted in order to supplement their income.

Density is the Mother of Displacement

Somerville does have a lot of housing, especially in proportion to other land uses, such as commercial enterprises and open space. The problem with our housing supply is its cost, especially as real estate values escalate, and more modest, decent apartments are transformed into luxury condominiums. While Somerville needs and deserves improved mass transit, improvements like the Green Line extension will further increase the desirability and value of Somerville real estate.

Many people in Massachusetts are looking forward with great interest to the upcoming release of regulations to implement Chapter 40R of the General Laws, the state's new "Smart Growth" statute. The "Smart Growth" philosophy encourages increased densities of development around mass transit nodes ("transit oriented development, or TOD, in the planners' lexicon), among other policies. Some see adoption of new state programs that create incentives for increasing allowable residential densities as the key to gaining state investment in improved transit for Somerville.

I have long advocated for better transit in Somerville, and do not agree with those who think that fighting transit will save Somerville from "gentrification." We do, however, need to keep balance in our city - to preserve the quality of life in existing neighborhoods, and to encourage commercial development as we allow more residential units to be built. It is also essential to the soul of Somerville that it remain home to old timers as well as newcomers, to people of modest means as well as the well-to-do, and to families as well as singles.

To achieve good balance for our future, we need to start planning now, in pace with the forces of change. At a Harvard conference on the state's new "Smart Growth" initiatives, titled "The "D" Word: Density," Stephanie Pollack of the Conservation Law Foundation (she has since left CLF) remarked that, even in communities that welcome Transit Oriented Development, with its increased densities of buildings and people, "you have to be concerned about the other "D" word: displacement."

As Somerville is changing, the real estate speculators are making their plans accordingly. Change can bring us much good provided there is good planning that provides for and relies on community input into the extent, rate, and geographic location of changes in the landscape of our city. We need such a community process, just as we need a diversity of affordable housing options in Somerville, as dual bulwarks against the forces of displacement.


**Can any of you recall what years that housing permits issued for multifamily units were on the biggest increase?**

Um, 1905?


memories, there was a dancing school in Davis over on College Ave. right where the Red Line station is located. It was upstairs from a laundry. I don't know about the one above mama Lisa's. That would be on Broadway, right?

Go Deval

And I mean go. With the Neocons and crazies running our country I like having someone who is genuinely interested in helping regular people as our governor. And no can disagree that Healey was not really interested in keeping us safe. But I think we are going to need to think about balancing the power here. There is bi-partisan culture of corruption in our government that knows no party line. Especially when either party has been in any sort of power for a long time.

I believe we are going to need some conservatives in power at the local level. Even a governor with best character in the world has the potential to do us all a great disservice if he used a long term democratic party machine to get to power.

Deval told us about the shell game. But what he did not mention is what happens to that money when it gets the municipal level. What happens , won't necessarily be in our best interest. Sure lack of money from the State will bring property taxes up in starved cities in the commonwealth. Where else are they going to get it? But, money going the other way will not necessarily mean lower or more stable property taxes if we don't spent it wisely. For that to happen, we need fiscally responsible officials who don't owe party favors to Democrats and Unions. We need someone who is strong in business with working values that believes money is earned by working for it and providing a service.

Lets work together to balance the power in our city. Lets make sure money is being spent in all of our best interests and not just becuase we need to spend it now while we have the chance. What I see right now is lets take care of all our friends in our inner circles right now before the money tree dies off again. This is wrong. Lets get a republican mayor in office. If not a republican than a libertarian or someone else who is not a democrat that knows the value of earned and saved money and where it really comes from.

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