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April 18, 2014     Post-Gazette
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April 18, 2014

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Page 6 POST-GAZETTE APRIL 18, 2014 THOUGHTS BY DAN ABOUT THIS 8< THAT with Daniel A. DiCenso Re-awakenin# the Heart of Boston That big ugly thing Boston- ians have come to call "the hole" is still there, always blocked and often with a crane in the middle. It's still the eyesore of Downtown Crossing, made more pain- ful. to the eye by the remains of the building that was once the symbol of Down- town's elegance and liveli- ness. Filene's shut down in 2006 after a merger with Macy's. The wrecking crew arrived the following year, taking down two of the struc- tures and the plaza to its side, once a summertime hotspot and a haven for cart vendors. Gone too are the mini coffee and smoothie shops that operated beneath the iconic building. All that is left of the old Filene's Department Store now is the neoclassic white shell and the lonely clocks with the word "Filene's" still scrawled across, ghosts of its former life. And, of course, there are always the memo- ries, something we Boston- ians never had a shortage of. What happened to Filene's happened to many of the other icons on the once vibrant Washington Street. Barnes & Noble folded almost a decade ago and has re- mained an empty building since. Borders followed when the company as a whole went belly up in 2011. FYE, a five-story music and video store, bailed out after that. Even Wendy's didn't last. Today Downtown Crossing is in a depressing state, an embarrassment to the spot it used to be. The once hop- ping streets are eerily quiet these days. Most of the stores (even the five & dimes) that gave the place character have been replaced by ge- neric chains that could be at home in any city. And I'm not talking about exclusive stores either. Woolworth, the store where shoppers could find just about anything at a discount and then have the option of visiting an old- fashioned soda fountain, is now just a memory. When Woolworth went out of busi- ness, its former Downtown site became a Marshall's, a store indistinguishable from the neighboring T.J. Maxx and H&M. Worse, most of the build- ings have remained vacant, few companies daring to take a gamble in this economy. What was once the home of Jordan Marsh, Borders, and the Enchanted Village every Christmas is now more or less a ghost town. It's sad to see, especially for those old enough to remember it as the shopping hub of New England. To be sure, the decline was a long time coming. It began with the post-war suburban sprawl and the emergence of the shopping mall, a bigger blow. It was already showing clear signs of being a neigh- bor of the Combat Zone by the time I was a child. But, I am old enough to have seen the work of its two deadliest foes, the rise of online shop- ping and the economic col- lapse of the mid-21st century. But, not all is lost. Last year it seems that my fel- low Bostonians joined me in saying enough is enough regarding the state of our city's Downtown. It's not only the heart of our city but our pride as well. Sure enough, work is being done. This fall saw the completion of the Kensington Complex which opened up this fall as did various hotels around the Paramount Theater. Wal- greens opened its third flag- ship store at the former site of Borders Bookstore. Not long before it opened there Globe writer Paul McMorrow wrote an editorial in which he stated that opening a Walgreens was a sign of low ambition and, yes, Walgreens is no Borders. But arguing about low ambition in an #/mma qua America in History Landing of Columbus Designs created & implemented by Constantino Brumidi (1805-1880) The Michelangelo of the United States Capito] OCTOBER ITALIAN HERITAGE MONTH COMMITTEE Giuseppe Pastorelli, Consul General of Italy, Honorary Chairman James DiStefano, President Dr. John Christoforo, Chairman of the Board Salvatore Bramante, Vice-PresidentFiscalAffairs Marisa Di Pietro, Recording Secretary Dr. Spencer DiScala, Historian Dr. Stephen F. Maio, Director of Education Carmelita Bello, State President OSlA, Director Maurizio Pasquale, President COMITES, Director Anna Quadri, President Italian American Assoc. of N.E. Director Comm. Lino Rullo, President Emeritus Hon. Joseph V. Ferrino, Ret., Chairman Emeritus Hon. Peter W. Agnes, Jr., Chairman Emeritus (617) 499-7955 area that has been spiraling downward for over a decade misses the point. Walgreens, especially an all-purpose store like the flagship (sell- ing food, wine, cheese, medi- cine, vitamins, and the typi- cal merchandise) is exactly the kind of store Downtown needs to attract customers in the post-Woolworth days. But the real promise is the completion of the Millen- nium Towers expected to be finished this fall where Filene's once stood. It will be a large building, consisting of residential apartments, retail, and offices. That will be the real booster shot for the revival of Downtown Crossing. Time will tell how well Downtown Crossing will take to its new lease on life, but it means too much to us Bostonians to just let it go. We have invested too much of our collective identity and memories to the heart of the Hub. We will be here through its renovation and revival, never abandoning the pride of our city. The Downtown Crossing we remember may be gone for good, but its story ain't over yet. JVfapptj asler DIAMONDS ROLEX ESTATE JEWELRY Bought & Sold Jewelers Exch. Bldg. Jim (617) 263-7766 EAST BOSTON COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION 72 Marginal Street, East Boston, MA 02128 Phone: 617.569.5590 Fax: 617.569.4846 Art THAT ZAZZ b.... y. N. DiZazzo _ Madam C. J. Walker was the'first female American millionaire as an entrepreneur in making facial and hair care products for African-American women in the 1920s Ciao Bella, Madam C. J. Walker was an amazing woman. She was born Sarah Breedlove on a Louisiana Plantation after the Emancipation from parents who were former slaves. In 1905 she married a St. Louis newspaperman and changed her name to Madam C. J. Walker. She became interested in hair care in her late 30s when due to damaging hair products and stress caused her hair loss. In order to treat her condition she de- veloped her own formula at home selling it to friends and family and selling it door to door. She built an empire. As quoted by Walker "I am not merely satisfied in mak- ing money for myself, for I am endeavoring to provide employment for the women of my race." Her daughter A'Lelia inherited her mother's beauty and hair care empire. And to this day she admires her mother's self taught business skills in order to achieve such great success catering to the needs of African-American women to this day. Recently on an Antiques Road Show one of Madam C.J. Walker's Beauty Text Books on Beauty Culture was appraised. Being a First Edition the book was ap- praised at $10,000! Wow! So if you have an extra $10,000 you can make his- tory too! BuonaPasqua to all! -- Mary DiZazzo-Trumbull Read prior weeks' "All That Zazz" columns at Mary is a third-generation cosmetolo- gist and a Massachusetts distributor of Kosmea brand rose hip oil products. She may be contacted at (978) 470-8183 or $1,500 7 2 s a Per Ounce! 24K 8 - 86-CASH We Buy Diamonds, Gold and Silver lewelryill We Buy Gold and Silver Coins - 345 Broadway, Revere -- EXTRA SPENDING MONEY-- Hours lO-5:3O pm every day. Saturdays until 3:3O pm ,Buona Pasqua All the glory that was Rome ...... Pompei CAFF( PoNAPEI T{L. 617-227-1562 FA3