Cambridge, Massachusetts – August 2019 – Insider Tour of MIT

I am fortunate enough to know someone who has spent considerable time at MIT, and she was kind enough to show us around to sights on campus that most visitors don’t realize is there to be seen.

We started out with some familiar sites; the Kresge Auditorium. Designed and completed in the mid 1950s by Eero Saarinen, it is an excellent example of mid-century modern.






Next door is a chapel, also designed by Saarinen.






The Rogers Building serves as the center of MIT. It’s atrium is beautiful.



The windows facing Mass Avenue are equally impressive.




The Frances Russell Hart Nautical Museum is tucked away on an upper floor of the main building. It contains a number of intricately designed model ships.






As you wander the halls you come across all sort of great sights.



















While this might look like any other hallway at MIT, it is very special. It is known as the Infinite Hall, running the length of the main building and leading to a second building.

You have heard of Stonehenge, perhaps Manhattanhenge (a posting is available), and even Carhenge.

This otherwise nondescript hallway twice a year is the location of MITHenge – the sun shines straight through the entire distance, lighting up the floor. I need to come back in November!




The outdoor space is enhanced with sculptures. MIT is a very cool place, and thanks to an insider we saw some cool sights (all completely open to anyone, you just need to know where to look).






Waltham, Massachusetts – August 2019 – Simple Elegance of Early Mechanical Devices

The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts has a collection of machines and artifacts from the industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is located in the former Boston Manufacturing Company textile mill, which predates those in Lowell.



The visit to the museum provided a great opportunity to show the simple elegance of the early manufacturing.

Much, but not all, of the collection is dedicated to the former Waltham Watch Company.

























Boston – August 2019 – Diverse Architecture for a Historic City

As one of the oldest major American cities, Boston’s architecture represents a diverse collection of styles. You can find Gothic architecture framed by a post modern glass and steel skyscraper.




A quiet Sunday morning is the perfect time to explore a city for the architecture as the streets are empty, and parking is plentiful.



Once we arrived in the financial district the contrasts between old and new became even more apparent.


















Our primary objective however was to find Art Deco buildings, and Boston did not disappoint.
























Brookline, Massachusetts – August 2019 – Larz Anderson Auto Museum

The Larz Anderson Auto Museum in the Boston suburb of Brookline is advertised as America’s oldest automotive museum. Larz and his wife were very early auto enthusiasts, buying their first ‘horseless carriage’ in 1899.

By the 1920s they had collected enough cars they stored them in the carriage house, and opened up their museum.




I had very high hopes for this museum, as it regularly makes the ‘top automotive museum’ lists. When we arrived we were greeted, somewhat, by a lady at the counter who barely had time to interrupt her conversation with her cousin about something to take our money and waive us towards the cars.

This obviously set a tone of disappointment, that fortunately was neutralized by a nice, small collection of some very impressive autos in a display called the Golden Age.









Further back there was a second room with a few more cars, also well displayed.







Another small room had a collection of pedal cars, and other items.



There is some nice automotive art throughout. The lower level had a few more very vintage autos in various states, as well as a bicycle collection.

The Larz Anderson Auto Museum is a nice place – however having seen numerous auto museums across the world I don’t think it rates as one of the premier ones. Perhaps had we attended on one of their numerous special events days where people bring their own classic cars.










Boston – May 2018 – The Waterworks

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir in Boston has been providing water to the city for 130 years. For about 100 years the impressive Waterworks pumping station was the engine behind the supply.

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The huge pumps and pipes pushed millions of gallons of water a day.

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Driven by large steam engines, it is an impressive sight.

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The 3 massive steam engines take up most of the building.

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Giving the entire building a true ‘steam punk’ vibe.

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The wheels are massive, nearly 10′ high.

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The building is roughly 40′ high, with the view from the balcony providing an excellent overview.

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Some of the other buildings have been converted to condos.

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A visit to the Boston Waterworks Museum is well worth the time.

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Acadia National Park, Maine – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 7

Our Friday morning started with us leaving the Longwood Inn by 6 a.m. to avoid the morning rush hour and anyone leaving the city for a long Labor Day weekend, finally stopping a rest area in Maine for breakfast at Burger King and Starbucks.

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The common dining area was the dirtiest rest area I had ever seen. Every table, chair, and floor was covered in crumbs and dirt. A large painted statue of a moose stood outside at the front of the building letting us know that we were in moose territory and I thought that if the moose were in the building at least the crumbs would have been licked up.

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We had a short stop in Portland, Maine along the Eastern Promenade for a view of the harbor with the sun shimmering on the water dotted with boats. As we made our way out of town we found U.S. Highway 1, a road that goes from far northern Maine to Key West, Florida. This would be our route throughout most of Maine, passing through numerous small towns, around bays, and across rivers. While not fast, it was scenic.

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Finally we arrived in Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. After circling the island on the west side we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain within the park, the highest elevation on the U.S. east coast at 1539 feet.   Cadillac Mountain offered us a view of the city of Bar Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.  From this vantage point you could see islands in the ocean and a large anchored cruise ship in the harbor, with tenders shuttling people to Bar Harbor.

Further climbing across the rocky surface of the mountain top provided views of northern and southern exposures.

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Acadia National Park stems from a name given by explorer Giovanni Verrazano in 1524. The shoreline reminded him of a part of Greece named Acadia.

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Completing our hike, we headed into the town of Bar Harbor, checking into the Bar Harbor Grand Hotel, where we were given a complimentary upgrade to a private suite with reserved parking. Our hotel room was a suite with a living room, full kitchen, bath, and king size bed, and it’s own entrance from the parking lot.

Once the bags were dropped we walked down the street for lunch at a restaurant called Blaze, where we had a crab cake and duck breast arugula salad that was very good, as well as a duck and pork belly burger topped with a fried egg. A very interesting lunch to say the least.

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After walking through town to check out the small touristy shops along the way, we headed down to the waterfront. For an hour and a half before until and hour and a half after low tide it is possible to walk across the rocky sandbar of the ocean floor to Bar Island. We arrived just as the water had cleared way, so we headed across.

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Once on the island we hiked the mule trail up the mountain to a vista to look back at Bar Harbor. You can view Cadillac Mountain from this spot, providing an interesting contrast since we were on the mountain at high tide when this island was only accessible by boat.

As we hiked back down and rested on a log at the rocky bottom, finding a fossil in stone that I kept as a souvenir.

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After crossing back over to town, we continued our tour of the local shops. Many shops were open for the Art Walk serving wine and cheese or snacks to visitors. We stopped for dinner at Café This Way hidden in an alley. We had a whole lobster that I had to crack open to eat, as well as lamb with mint pesto sauce and mashed potatoes, which as delicious.

Later we continued the Art Walk, as well as a stop at the Atlantic Brewing Company microbrewery. After a bit of refreshment, we continued on to the Eclipse Gallery, a glass shop with really interesting vases and glasscapes (scenes made completely of different types of glass). One scene resembled Acadia National Park with layers of trees and rock made of colorful glass.  Another glasscape of mountains was made of glass mounted into wooden slots and of trees in a technique called frit (tiny bubbles of glass fused together).

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Finally the temptation of 100 T shirt shops got the best of use, so we stopped in one with giant lobster claws hanging from the store front with lanterns and a lit moose form mounted on the store’s rooftop for our obligatory souvenir. The town was bustling with people drinking wine, eating ice cream, and strolling the streets as we returned to the hotel for the evening.

Boston – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 6

Our cloudy, somewhat rainy day in Boston started out with breakfast for 3 at the Busy Bee Diner, an old city diner owned by Greek immigrants with strong Boston accents on Beacon Street in Brookline. The narrow place had bright turquoise seat booths and an extensive menu.

Our order came with a surprising amount of food of eggs, potatoes, toast and blueberry pancakes. The food was not served all at once so we each ate our serving as delivered but, all in all, the food was great and the prices were cheap. It was a great start to our busy day.

The MBTA train took us to Haymarket Square for us to walk to the North End to see the house of Paul Revere and a statue of him on his horse. We learned that day that Paul Revere left the Old North Church and first took a boat across the Charles River to Charlestown before he set on his famous ride on horseback.

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The Old North Church and the Paul Revere house are now part of the city’s oldest residential neighborhood in Boston since 1630. The North End is famous for its Italian heritage and restaurants, with numerous bakeries full of tempting desserts sat in some of the windows as we passed by.

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From the North End of Boston, we walked to Charlestown to see the Charlestown Naval Yard where the USS Constitution, a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy was docked.  Built in 1797, the USS Constitution was most famously named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America.

We started with a quick look at the Charlestown Naval Yard Visitor Center which is part of the Boston National Historical Park. The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world but was under restoration and closed for us to board.

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Also displayed is the destroyer, Cassin Young, equipped with torpedoes, guns, and other weaponry. The USS Cassin Young refitted and modernized in the yard’s dry-dock, represents the type of ship built in the yard during World War II.   Our self-guided tour allowed us to explore the main deck of the radio room, officers’ dining hall, galley, laundry, and captain’s deck. The Cassin Young was the last ship hit by kamikazes in the vicinity of Okinawa before the Japanese surrender. During the war, there was a tremendous explosion amidships but the crew contained the damage, restored power in one engine and got the ship underway within twenty minutes. Casualties were 22 men dead and 45 wounded. The ship is now maintained and staffed by the National Park Service and volunteers.

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Afterwards, a walk along the harbor towards the city took us to take the train to Harvard. Harvard University has the Mark I, the first programmable computer. Grace Hopper was a programmer of the Mark I who coined the term there is a bug in the system. The term ‘bugs in a computer’ had been used before, but after Grace Hopper wrote in her diary “first actual case of bug being found” the term became really popular, and that’s why we are still using it today.

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The Science building is home to the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, which showcased machines dating back from 1400 to the present in astronomy, navigation, horology, surveying, geology, calculating, physics, biology, medicine, psychology, electricity, and medical, such as: telescopes, clocks, microscopes, compasses, sundials, and the Grand Orrery by Joseph Pope of Boston. This mechanical model of the solar system was acquired by Harvard with funds raised by a lottery in 1788. The celestial dome is supported by bronze figures cast by Paul Revere. This large wood and glass structure reveals the planets rotation inside.

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Most of the items were presented in glass modules that reminded me of a time capsule. The collection now has more than 20,000 objects.

The level above the Putnam Gallery is the Special Exhibitions Gallery that featured Radio Contact: Tuning in to Politics, Technology, & Culture. This exhibition examines the evolving technology and cultures of listening, tinkering, and broadcasting. Radio introduced millions to jazz, the comedy team of Abbott and Costello, Edward R. Murrow, and the shock therapy of talk radio. Radios, transmitters, phonographs, receivers, and antennae were some of the items displayed.  Iconic radio shows, and 50’s music played aloud as we looked at the timeline of communication.

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As we walked through the grounds of the campus, we saw a beautiful church with stained glass windows now used as a dining hall, but we opted to leave the Harvard campus to find something to eat.

Our choice, Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage at Harvard Square, was full of a wacky decor of posters, bumper stickers and funny signs and has fed celebrity customers to include Johnny Cash, Jacqueline Onassis, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Bill Belichick, Al Pacino, Adam Sandler, and Katie Couric. This restaurant is famous for its burgers and also the unusual names for their burgers. Ours included “Our Next President (God Help Us). The Viagra, Caitlyn Jenner (You Go Girl), and Taxachu$ett$, were a few of the titles of other burgers.

Afterwards, we walked the street finding the Curious George store on the corner so we curiously walked in to see the kind of merchandise for sale.

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was our next stop to see the campus museum. The MIT museum had a lot of hands-on exhibits from how the internet worked, how holograms were made, and robotics. There was a section of kinetic sculptures that required the visitor to activate the mechanism for them to move. An example of such art was the “Machine with Wishbone,” a sculpture of wheels, gears, chains, and a small motor that was pulled by a wishbone stepping forward strapped to the machine. Arthur Ganson is the designer of this art in motion and was artist-in-residence at the Mechanical Engineering department of MIT for awhile.

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I saw another mechanical sculpture that lubricated itself by a moving conveyor to the top of the structure and pouring it on the gears. A lovely exhibit of scraps of paper moved up and down in a wing-like motion of a bird by pumping rods connected to a turning axle. I really enjoyed watching these machines that were so ingenious and fun to watch. We saw most of the museum but left to catch a bus to get to the Christian Science Center before it closed.

The Mapparium is a three-story-tall globe made of stained glass that is viewed from a 30-foot-long bridge through its interior designed by Chester Lindsay Churchill. It is an exhibit at The Mary Baker Eddy Library and part of the Christian Science Center building. Built in 1935 and based upon Rand McNally political maps published the previous year, the Mapparium shows the political world as it was at that time.

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The tour allowed us to experience the Mapparium in an accurate geographical relationship to each other, in a concave reversal of the Earth, viewed from within. Standing on the clear catwalk within the globe places the eye at the same distance from every point on the globe.

The illuminated 608 panels of the globe built to scale of approximately 22 miles to the inch were originally designed to be replaceable as the political boundaries of the world changed. There have been several points in the Mapparium’s history where the discussion of updating the map arose. The final time was in the 1960s, when it was finally decided that the Mapparium was a priceless work of art and history, and so should never be updated.

A modern sound system and light system of 206 LED light fixtures can be programmed to produce up to 16 million colors. Our guide controlled the background and lights producing different effects. The hard spherical surface of the globe reflects sound and forms a remarkable whispering gallery so that visitors standing at opposite ends of the bridge can speak softly to each other and yet be heard as if they were standing next to each other.

The Boston Public Library McKim Building in Copley Square opened in 1895, it is a stone building built by the people and dedicated to the advancement of learning. Below each second-story arched window on the three façades are inscribed lists of the names of great historical writers, artists, scientists, philosophers, and statesmen.

Upon entering the building you are met by two stone lions on pillars and paintings of the muses in niches that lined the upper floor. The next floor hung murals by John Singer Sargent as we walked into Bates Hall, the great reading room, with an apse on each end and a series of double coffers in the arched barrel vaulted ceiling of the room. A series of green lampshade desk lamps provided light at each library table.

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The library has an impressive collection of art, manuscripts, early editions of Shakespeare, and Defoe, records of colonial Boston, and volumes of John Adams’ personal library. This branch has the Norman Levanthal Map Center but it was not opened; disappointing to a map junkie but at least the walls of the cafe were covered in large maps.

There was also a nice garden with a fountain in a courtyard surrounded by an arched walkway.

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The train took us back to Brookline for an early dinner at Fairsted Kitchen on Beacon Street. We did not want to eat tapas for dinner again but the restaurant did indeed turn out to be another tapas restaurant (must be a hipster thing). We tried pickled vegetables, Israeli salad, meatballs, and pork kabobs. The portions were very small and costly. We were still a bit hungry so we got frappes at Emack and Bolio’s ice cream store and waited for the train to take us back to our hotel. It was great to spend the day in our daughter’s hometown of the last 6 years.