History of Fort Hill, Part 2 (2008). Mural by: Loray McDuffie, Taylor Saintable, Edwin Perez-Clancy, Christine O'Connell, Julia Andreasson, Jorge Benitez, Divah Payne, Lucy Saintcyr, Laua Dedonato, Gregg Bernstein.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Centre Street on a winter evening

The flash photograph is of Paul Dudley's Parting Stone, located at the head of Centre Street.

In the evening on the old road to Dedham, however, things change and settle down from the bustle of the day time. The waves of folk who use Centre Street to meet their transportation needs recede. Parking becomes available. Traffic diminishes. The inexpert u-turns cease. The commuters are gone and the neighborhood returns to the Centre Street residents.

The greatest noise in the later evening is the low susurration of Columbus Avenue traffic and the slightly louder Orange Line, commuter rail, and Amtrak regional trains. The Amtrak Accela makes barely a whisper. Ambulance and Fire Department traffic is considerably less than in years past as they now tend to use Columbus Avenue. When the wind is still, one can just hear the bing! bing! of the Orange Line announcements. Occasionally one can hear the Mission Hill church bells tell the quarter hour.

On a recent Thursday night around 10:30 pm, there was only the occasional car and one The Ride van. Later at 12:40 am, five minutes passed between cars. There were few pedestrians. After midnight, the frequency of passing cars and pedestrians falls off even further. The silent bicycles go unnoticed.

The loudest audial events in the evenings on Centre Street are made by the Centre/Eliot and Heath St buses. Then, by eight-thirty or nine o'clock, their sound falls silent too, as the last bus of the evening goes by.

This quiet is even more pronounced—and valuable—during the warm spring, summer, and autumn evenings. With the windows open one can hear the urban night life: the wind in the trees, the call of the mockingbird, the wings of the bats, the insects, the rustling in the underbrush of the neighborhood raccoon, skunks, the opossum family, and the feral cats. Overlaid on this natural activity is the sound of the arriving cars of one's neighbors and the quiet conversations of the few pedestrians conversing among themselves as they walk home.

At night, as with the rest of Highland Park, folk aren't generally in the neighborhood unless they are coming to the neighborhood. With the exception of the drivers who prefer Centre Street over Columbus Avenue and those who use Cedar Street to cross over the hill, if you are driving, walking, or riding your bicycle in the neighborhood, it means you have a residential destination in the neighborhood.

It means you live here, or you are visiting someone who does. Highland Park, including the Centre Street neighborhood, is not a destination for others in the city.

The next post will be about the zoning for the Centre Street neighborhood and its current, limited, commercial activity.

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