Boston's Alternative Source! image!

Rozzie rejuvenated (continued)

The green giant

ONE OF ROSLINDALE’S biggest selling points is its family-friendly outdoor space. The wee slices of green dotting the area, however, don’t really stack up to town’s giant green neighbor, the Arnold Arboretum. Established in 1872, the Harvard-run arboretum, which comprises an almost incomprehensible 265 acres, is the first jewel in the Emerald Necklace. It’s also the only place in Boston where you can grab a peek at bonsai, 130 different kinds of maples in the fall, and spring’s famed bursting lilacs.

The Hunnewell Building at the Arnold Arboretum, located at 125 The Arborway, in Jamaica Plain, is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on weekends. Plantings throughout are best viewed on foot. Call (617) 524-1718, or visit

— NW

ROSLINDALE HAS come a long way in the last two years. But it’s come even farther in the past hundred and fifty. In the mid 1800s, the area was known as South Street Crossing. The federal government required a name change before granting the community its first US post office in 1870, a move that — combined with establishing a Roslindale stop on the Boston-Providence Railroad — ushered in the first influx of residents. A few years later, in 1873, Roslindale shook off its identity as an adjunct to neighboring Roxbury and West Roxbury when it was annexed to the city as an independent entity. By the end of the 19th century, the once-rural area underwent a surge of population and soon became known as the “superb suburb.” Over the next hundred years, Roslindale welcomed a roster of newcomers who changed its Yankee ways — first Irish, Italian, and other Europeans, then Eastern Mediterranean and Arabic nationalities. Today, these ethnic influences remain: Bob’s Pita Bakery on South Street offers Middle Eastern groceries and Lebanese and Syrian bread, and the Greek-owned Roslindale Fish Market sells cheap olive oil and an odd assortment of fresh produce stored in a mishmash of crates toppling over one another.

By the 1980s and early 1990s, Roslindale took an aesthetic downturn. “It sucked,” says Fred Light, owner of Roommate Connection, who moved to Rozzie from Fort Point Channel in 1994, and bought a six-bedroom colonial house for $134,000. “It looked like Beirut here.... You couldn’t get a cup of coffee you couldn’t cut with a knife.”

But today Light, dressed in a clean-cut, short-sleeved polo shirt tucked into neat khakis, clearly wants to make a different point. It appears to be this: Roslindale is now hip. Or more accurately, it’s about 70 percent there. If only the pesky die-hard store owners with “signs drawn in crayon” would leave, it would be perfect. “When I moved in, all you saw were 1982 rusty Impalas,” he says with a sneer. “I felt like I was in this retro neighborhood.” But then his eyes light up. “Today there are $100,000 Porsches on my block, SUVs in everybody’s driveway.”

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Issue Date: July 12 - 19, 2001

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