Eagle Feathers #100 – Beacon Street Beat
By Bob (Monty) Doherty
Beacon Street is part of Somerville’s southern border with Cambridge, but wasn’t always called by that name. It was originally part of a toll road called the Middlesex Turnpike. Its marathon length of twenty-six miles connected the Charles River and the Merrimack River over land. Built in 1805, its competitors, the Lowell Railroad and the Middlesex Canal, put it out of business. Today, the turnpike’s existence is almost forgotten and best brought to mind by the Burlington Mall’s address at 75 Middlesex Turnpike. Let’s explore our section of the Turnpike: Beacon Street.
- What if there was a setting that harnessed the intelligence of experts from across our country and around the world and used it for the public good? Such a place exists in our city. It is the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is one of the oldest and most prestigious scholarly societies in the nation.
Its headquarters are now located at 200 Beacon Street, Somerville. The association was the brainchild of John Adams in 1780. It is the second such organization in the country and is said to be one of the greatest think tanks in the world. Born 236 years ago during the fifth year of the Revolutionary War, it is referred to as “The Academy.”
For a portion of four centuries, it has influenced the history of this nation and beyond. Its early members included George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere and Alexander Hamilton. In the 1800’s, members included Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others. The 1900’s and later included Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Duke Ellington, Margaret Mead, and Alan Alda for his acting and communicating science skills. This list just scratches the surface of the esteemed membership list which includes over 100 Pulitzer Prize winners and over 200 Nobel Peace Prize winners, all leaders in their separate fields.
- A large statue of a dog stood for years on the site of 94 Beacon Street, before the eight-story Beacon Place Condominium was erected. It commemorated the alert actions of a canine that saved its family from a fire. In the eyes of his family, he was their Rin Tin Tin.
- 205 Beacon Street marks the intersection of Ivaloo Street that was the address of Caroline Kennedy in 1980 when she graduated from Radcliffe.
- The area just west of the intersection of Beacon Street and Washington Street is called Duck Village. It received its nickname during the prohibition when locals would “duck in” the close-knit area to avoid the G-men of the era and safely quench their moonshine thirst.
- Speaking of thirst, one of Somerville’s most popular pubs is located at 70 Beacon Street. The Thirsty Scholar Pub is famous for movie stars’ visits and the iconic opening scene of the movie The Social Network.
- In1982, in an abandoned warehouse at the rear of 307 Beacon Street, an historical discovery occurred. Workers found over a dozen trunks belonging to the famous Arctic region explorer Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd who was the first man to fly over the North Pole. The trunks were full of historical artifacts from his polar expeditions.
With its celebrity-studded history, Beacon Street is hard to beat!