Glad to See it Go

January 5, 2011
By

Demolition of the East Boston Immigration Building was long overdue

The demolition of the decrepit East Boston Immigration Station has been a long time coming.

It was decrepit when it was being used to process immigrants arriving in East Boston. It grew more decrepit when its day was done. Its demolition is a good thing.

The Boston Landmarks Commission was right in failing to grant the structure historic landmark designation some months back.

This was the structure’s fait accompli.

Only 23,000 immigrant men and women passed through this lonely, deteriorated, structurally unsound building between 1920 and 1954.

It was hardly Ellis Island, as some preservationists have called it.

It is the place where many families began their American journey but basically, it was not much more than a processing center, and not a very busy one at that.

Preserving history has not been one of this neighborhoods strengths over the years.

History is literally erased here everyday and this has been so since the mi-1950’s and 1960’s when vinyl siding replaced wooded exteriors, when plastic triumphed over wood and carpentry for much of this neighborhood’s housing stock.

What used to be a Victorian wonderland of homes built of oak has been reduced to a vinyl sided kingdom where Oak exteriors is something to dream about.

What is truly historic here is when developers strip buildings of vinyl and bring them back to their turn of the century elegance with wood and carpentry and with a sense of design and class.

The suffering East Boston Immigration Station was always ugly and inaesthetic.

Just ask anyone who had to come through it what the experience was like.

Ellis Island was no prize for that matter. It was more like an enclosed Chicago stockyard than anything else.

Ellis Island survives as a piece of history because millions from other lands came through there on their way to their American experience. Millions were bound b y that experience and the millions who came after them all heard the stories – and now millions go back to see what it was all about.

This cannot be achieved by saving the East Boston Immigration Station.

It has outlived its usefulness. It was never that heavily used.

There is, frankly, not much historic about it except that it has managed to escape the wrecker’s ball for all these years.

  • It is so sad that we have lost so much of East Boston’s history. My dad’s family lived for close to 50 years at 133 Condor Street, from what I can tell 133 was right across from the old Hess yard and a converted school….and the pottery plant many year before that. The whole block seems to have been demolished, not sure if this is due to fire, the Hess yard, or just simple deterioration. If anyone has any recollections of what the 130 block of Condor street looked like between the turn of the century to about 1950, and 1950 to now, I would be forever in your gratitude.

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