As a traveler, I enjoy visiting places off the beaten track. Just because I am a tourist in a new city does not mean I have to (or want to) do what every other tourist does. Sure, I’ll see the main attractions to say “been there, done that” but I’ll also eat at local dives or drive down side roads.
If I stumble across something unique or historic, especially if there is no marker or sign indicating the history or purpose, my research begins. Over the course of my travels, I’ve entered public libraries and administrative offices to speak to the locals and read their books to determine why a street is named such or who the first settler was.
In this sense, I combine mystery with research.
Closer to home, I wrote last week about walking through Boston Common and discovering a structure I’d never seen before. Located about halfway between the Parkman Bandstand and a baseball field, I later learned from a phone call to the Friends of the Public Garden, Inc., that the structure is known as the one-time men’s comfort station.
I wasn’t satisfied and wanted more information on the history of the building. I emailed the reference desk at the Boston Public Library… and received a response today.
To summarize, the comfort station (also known as a convenience station) was designed and built during Mayor James Curley’s term. Planning began as early as 1911 and construction began in 1915. Upon completion, the building’s footprint was 540 square feet and 15 feet high.
During Mayor Ray Flynn’s term, a 1990 Boston Common Management Plan slated the building for removal unless it could be “adaptively reused and contribute to the character of the Common.”
By 1992, the toilets were relocated to the now-Visitors Center (which was previously the women’s comfort station).
My research is not complete, as I’m curious to learn more about the building, its history and its future.