however, after some more research, i discovered that the old house at the head of eustis street (built in 1822 in the federal style) belonged to margaret eustis née parker, sister-in-law of the aforementioned william eustis. the house used to be across the street from the cambridge common on mass ave, but was moved in 1861 (a common practice in those days) to its current location; she technically never lived on eustis but the street could've been named in her honor. madame eustis was the mother of abraham (junior), himself a prominent eustis who started out as a lawyer but became a famous army officer who fought in such notable wars as the war of 1812, the black hawk war, and the seminole indian wars (eustis, florida, and fort eustis are both named after him).
since i began my research, i discovered there are a few prominent eustis landmarks in the boston area - a park named after the former governor, his former mansion, and even another street named eustis. out of curiosity i decided to pay them a visit.
before i could do that, there were a few local errands i had to run first. a week or so ago the new owners of lucky garden asked me if i could go pick up a few menus from some of the local chinese restaurants, so they could do some price research. so i went to changsho to grab a menu. next was a visit to the cambridge police station to get a copy of the police report from last saturday's accident. turns out not only is the records office closed on weekends, but they only open until noontime on fridays. and since monday is labor day, their office won't be opened until tuesday morning. i then made my way to central square and got a menu from mary chung.
once i was done, my schedule was pretty much free. i knew i wanted to see the eustis house, but along the way i could also visit this fish store near baifu. since i'd be in the roxbury-dorchester area, i figured it'd be a good opportunity to sample some soul food (i had a craving for good fried chicken). finally, i haven't been to ponkapoag bog all year, so i was due for a visit (just a straight shot down blue hill avenue).
to get from cambridge to the eustis landmarks is actually quite simple on paper: just follow mass ave into boston until i arrive at the william eustis playground in roxbury. google map calculates the distance as approximately 5 miles and taking less than 20 minutes to arrive. oh simple google map, how naive you are! from central square it was already bumper to bumper traffic. i took me an hour to arrive at southampton street and by then i'd probably breathed in enough exhaust fumes to get a kickstart on that lung cancer and my bare forearms were black from baking in the hot sun. first stop was the skipton pet center. a little bit cramped, but well stocked in exotic fishes, both freshwater and marine. the shelves could use some cleaning as i saw traces of mouse droppings and cobwebs around the tanks. i wanted to buy a container of java moss but didn't know how to carrying it back home on the motorcycle. i still think the best aquarium store in the greater boston area is tropic isle in framingham (dan and i visited there once).
my mind must've been on food at that point because i totally forgot about my main objective - to visit the eustis house - but was instead thinking about eating some fried chicken. so i continued southeast down mass ave, thinking it'd intersection blue hill avenue. i came to a multi-direction intersection and decided to go east on columbia road (not to be confused with columbus avenue), heading towards the bayside expo center and the JFK library, narrowly missing the onramp to interstate 93. because i didn't have any maps other than the printout with streets around the eustis street, i was essentially lost. i was afraid to backtrack because i didn't want to face that mass ave traffic. i figured i could ride around until i saw some signs, hoping to eventually get my bearing again. i ended up back on columbia road, heading in the opposite southwest direction this time. at the intersection of columbia and hancock i noticed a new york fried chicken restaurant. figuring i would never find poppa b's (1100 blue hill avenue), i decided to settle and try some new york fried chicken. instead of a nice restaurant, it was essentially a takeout place, with just an empty counter to eat inside. the signs were faded and the selections were few, and although the food didn't seem particularly appetizing, i braved on, deciding to risk it, and asked the indian guy for the 3 piece fried chicken with 2 biscuits - all for the cheap price of $3.25. i asked him if he knew where blue hill avenue was. he hooked his finger and pointed, "down there, keep on going, you'll hit it eventually." outside, a large man loitering by the entrance asked what kind of lens i had on my camera. i asked him for directions as well, and he told me the same thing, keep going down columbia road, eventually it'll intersect blue hill avenue.
with the box of fried chicken clipped to my bag, i continued southwest down columbia road until eventually i got to franklin park and blue hill avenue. by then i just wanted to find a nice place to stop and eat my lunch. instead of going to the park, i traveled south on blue hill avenue, eventually pulling into harvard street. i found a quiet place on top of a hill overlooking some housing development and parked by the side of the road to eat. the area was called harvard commons and dotted with large brand-new single family houses. not sure if they were all the same cases, but the one i was looking at was a furnished model. my focus back on my lunch, new york fried chicken was surprisingly good, much better than KFC. the biscuits were on the sweet side, more cake than bread. in hindsight it would've been smarter to find some shade than sitting out in the sun, but i was too hungry to care. i dug out the sweat-soaked map printout from my pocket and suddenly realized that in all the drama of getting lost i completely forgot to visit the eustis landmarks. i decided i'd head back, forgoing a visit to ponkapoag pog for another time. i finished two pieces of chicken, saving the rest for later. a hungry wasp was bothering me anyway, it was my cue to leave.
had i on gone further south on blue hill avenue, i would've eventually found poppa b's. and a bit further down i would've arrived at the intersection of morton street, a place i have some familiarity with from all the times i've visited ponkapoag bog via jamaica plain and that one rollerskating birthday party at chez vous. with my bearing restored, i rode north up blue hill avenue. i passed by another new york fried chicken (442), apparently they're a chain. at 397 i was compelled to stop when i saw this strikingly impressive church. the stars of david on the bulbous steeples hinted this might be a synagogue, but the sign said this was the first haitian baptist church. like many older buildings in boston, this one also has a history. it was in fact originally a synagogue built in 1905 (late romanesque revival style) when the area had a large jewish population, before they all moved away. it was sold to the ecclesia apostolic in 1967 then sold again in 1978 to the haitian baptist.
once blue hill avenue ended, i turned right onto magazine street (just like in cambridgeport!) and then a simple left onto eustis street. it felt like being in a parallel universe where this particular eustis street looked nothing like the eustis street i know.
i circled the block and ended up on nearby george street to get to shirley street, where the shirley-eustis house is located. there were some interesting large brick warehouses at the start of the street. one of them had GIUGLIANO CORP written in big letters on the side, an everett-based construction company. at the intersection of george and langdon street was a large food project garden, with organized rows of vegetables grown by local kids. it almost didn't seem real, this plot of rural development in an otherwise urban residential area.
just like the good project garden, it was jarring finding the shirley-eustis house smacked in the middle of roxbury. the mansion itself is surrounded by a large manicured lawn with a perennial garden and an orchard. a sign on the front door had instructions to knock on the back entrance for a paid tour, although i didn't think there was anybody inside the house. i basically walked around the property, taking photos. next to the house down a slope was a carriage house. there were overripe peaches and apples on the ground and i was tempted to try one but thought better of it since it seemed none of the neighbors had taken any.
it's called the shirley-eustis house because it was originally the home of william shirley (1747), royal governor of the massachusetts bay colony. during the american revolution the house was seized by the new rebel government as loyalist property and then later changed hands through several owners until it was purchased by william eustis. the house originally occupied 33 acres but after the civil war the then-owner subdivided the property into smaller lots for sale.
returning home was just as much an adventure as coming to. i went northwest on dudley street, then northeast up harrison avenue. my thinking was this was the same harrison avenue that goes to chinatown, and if i could recognize some landmarks, i'd know where i was going. harrison ran across mass ave at the boston medical center. i didn't want to retake mass ave but it was the only way i knew how to get home, so i headed northwest back towards cambridge. stuck in traffic at the intersection of tremont, i took a right turn out of impatience, figuring i might get to copley square and get home that way. tremont cut through the south end and i began to get a better sense of where i was going. once i arrived at berkeley street, i made a straight-shot northwest until i hit storrow drive.
i stopped by the cafe. my mother had already gone home. i dropped off the menus i picked up earlier, but the restaurant owners said they didn't need them anymore (basically wasting my time). i left for belmont.
with the season winding down, the bottle gourds are making a stand. there looks to be 6 good bottle gourds and 2 good calabash gourds. by calabash i'm referring to the bottle gourd with the long neck. there were a few immature bottle gourds that looked promising last week but those have shriveled up. which is for the best, because the vines probably can't sustain anymore gourds. so it looks like on the average each single gourd plant can produce 3 mature gourds. i found some caterpillar droppings and discovered a caterpillar hiding in a gourd flower. i don't know what it could've been eating because i haven't noticed any damaged leaves. i exiled the caterpillar to a distant part of the backyard.
more gladiolas have blossomed, in pinks, reds, and yellows. i keep on reading they're supposed to be fragrant but all the ones in the backyard have been scentless.
i returned to cambridge around 6:00. i was surprised that my roommate was already home. outside on the front doorstep were the fisher-price toy laptops i ordered for him. around 7:00 fire trucks and ambulances had blocked off all access in the neighborhood as there was a report of a house fire on traymore street. nobody really knew what was happening but a lot of neighbors were outside their homes wondering what was happening. finally i went down to see what was going on. apparently it was a dryer fire on the 3rd floor. even worse, the house belonged to alex, my high school classmate. the good thing is nobody got hurt, but there's probably some property damage. i heard some people say they saw firemen smashing windows with axes, and the hydrants must've been turned on because for the rest of the night the water in the bathroom came out rusty red.