Tag Archives: blue collar

Prettying Up Union Square

Deriving its name from the Civil War era, Union Square was once a major recruitment center for the Union Army. Today it is a melting pot where the working class of East Somerville intersects with the city’s fashionable western parts, and is one of the oldest and largest commercial areas in town.

There is much to say about bustling Union Square, but for today I wanted to write specifically about one step that was taken a few years ago to better the community through art and the active involvement of its residents, a hallmark of Mayor Curtatone’s legacy.

In 2005 the Somerville Arts Council held a design competition for local artists and craftsmen to design and build street furniture. The competition was based on 4 objectives: to engage local artists/craftsmen in design and fabrication, to recognize the city’s cultural diversity, to celebrate Union Square’s unique character, and to create beautiful and innovative new street furniture designs. The uncommon furniture can be found throughout Union Square.

Glass-top benches: Aaron Binkley; copper benches: Mitch Ryerson; trash barrel covers: Christina Lanzl, Phil Manker; engraved design on glass: Heather Townsend, Jeff Czekaj, Julie Chen, Wes Boyd.

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DAILY TRIVIA: The Queen Anne residential building at 113 College Ave. became a major national focus in 1968 for an alternative Jewish religious movement; it is still the home of the Havurat Shalom community.

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Somerville’s Oldest Pub

The oldest liquor license in town belongs to the Sligo Pub on Elm Street.  In operation for more than 75 years — long before the red line came through town — it’s everything a dive bar should be: small, dingy, cheap and regularly sprinkled with old timers grumbling at the bar about the latest Bruins game.

The local watering hole takes its name from Sligo, Ireland – the town from where the original owners hailed. Once frequented exclusively by locals in mostly blue collar trades, the crowd is now comprised of town folk, college kids from nearby Tufts University and everyone in between.

I’ve always been a fan of dive bars, and this is definitely one of my favorites. I love the high tables and friendly staff; the place just has a comfortable vibe that makes it my preferred meeting spot for grabbing a casual drink in Davis.  There’s a jukebox with a decent selection of tunes in the back, across from the graffiti-strewn tables and next to the lottery ticket machine where I once won $500 with a couple of friends… good times…

An interesting side note: many years ago, a friend and I were smoking cigarettes outside when we were approached by a black gentleman who looked to be in his 50s. He told us that his dad used to kneel exactly where we were standing and shine shoes for pennies as a boy; “Negroes” weren’t allowed inside at that time, the man said, so he had to work outside.  He also told us that for decades right above our heads there was a sign warning that ladies were not allowed inside the bar unless accompanied by a gentleman. It’s fascinating to contemplate the history this place has seen over the years.

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DAILY TRIVIA: Somerville’s “Sister City” is Gaeta, Italy.

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