For most college students, life is full of momentous moves; cart a pickup full of books here and then haul it there. For most, it was an annual ritual, and you left your beginner status at packing behind very early. But I had found this loft building in Charlestown where I was able to stay for several years. It was right by the B&M Railroad tracks and perhaps the last place you’d think of as student housing. And it wasn’t. It was a mix of industrial companies and artists’ studios.
Rent was an astonishing ninety dollars a month, so you could create where you lived. Each loft featured huge, noisy steam pipes for heat and large banks of windows for lights. The owners and the industrial residents were grateful for the lofts occupied by the artists and craftspeople because we were free security for the building. If anyone invaded, we called the police and locked the exits.
Each floor had a simple kitchen for shared use but no refrigerator; you shopped daily for anything that needed refrigeration. Each floor had a bathroom, but the shower facilities were on the first floor. So if you could get used to the spartan facilities, it was a deal.
Cheapness was the first plus, but for creators, it was the light that flooded in during the day. We had frequent parties on the flat roof. Standing by the tracks, the building had a panoramic view north to the Mystic River and south towards Boston. The sunsets on the roof were incredible.
Residents were varied:
- Batik artists
- An abstract artist
- A woodcarver ( myself)
- An aspiring novelist
- Coffin finishers
- A paper supply company
- Wooden block fabricators
- A poet
Today you can still pass the building on the highway near Sullivan Square; it’s brightly redone in yellow and is a condominium. I imagine the views and the light are still big draws, but the monthly payments are significantly higher.
I can only guess where the artists go these days; I’m in Central Massachusetts now and could never afford a location closer to Boston, even if I wanted it.
I wonder if our society is capable of changes in communities that are not accompanied by gentrification. We always seem to disperse artists and local residents so we can enjoy what they have. We create cultural deserts and then call them a community.