AP NEWS

New exhibit celebrates history of Framingham’s downtown

June 13, 2019

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. (AP) — Walking through downtown more than a century ago, visitors found a community on the rise.

Passengers arrived at the handsome train depot on Waverly Street designed by architect H.H. Richardson. Horse-drawn carriages pulled firefighting equipment to the red-brick firehouse on Hollis Street. At the Princess Theater, located at the corner of Concord and Howard streets, musicians provided a live soundtrack for the latest silent films.

The Princess, erected in 1908, was one of the first movie houses to open outside Boston. It was replaced in 1921 by the St. George Theater, which stood for another four decades, entertaining generations of families with double features and vaudeville shows.

New immigrants from Brazil and Latin America sustained the area through an economic downturn, opening restaurants and shops that reinvigorated empty storefronts.

A new exhibition of photos on display throughout the central business district pays tribute to that rich history. Called Thriving Through Time, the project features photos of several iconic buildings, along with captions about the history and present use of each location.

The photos are plastered on utility boxes in seven spots, spanning the area along Rte. 126 from the intersection of Lincoln and Concord streets to the intersection of Hollis and Irving streets.

Flags from countries around the world border the photos — a nod to the mix of cultures that enriched Framingham’s history.

Downtown Framingham, Inc. executive director Courtney Thraen, who spearheaded the project, said she hopes it will encourage visitors to walk around and better understand the city’s past.

“I want them to realize that because of our international influences, people have come here and worked really hard, and that’s the reason that downtown Framingham has ... been able to thrive through time,” she said.

Thraen hatched the concept about one year ago during discussions with Department of Public Works Director Peter Sellers about beautifying downtown and making different areas more distinct.

DFI facilitated a similar initiative last year, bringing artist Franklin Marval to the city to paint a large mural on the side of the shops at 199 Concord St. With vibrant bands of color, the piece provides a distinctive gateway to the central business district.

In her latest effort, Thraen wanted to highlight points of interest farther south, such as the train depot and the Hollis Street fire station, which has been home since 2008 to Amazing Things Arts Center.

Sellers liked the idea of celebrating the history of downtown, and the pair settled on installing photo wraps on the utility boxes rather than painting them, which would have required more long-term planning.

Some locations, such as the firehouse and the Downtown Common, still resemble their appearance around the turn of the 20th century, though others have seen dramatic change. The location that once housed the Princess Theatre and the St. George, for example, is now home to Alta Union House, a five-story, luxury apartment building with 196 units, which has drastically transformed the block since being constructed in the past year.

ICL Imaging, a print shop on Mellen Street, created the photo wraps, which measure about 4 1/2 feet wide by 3 1/2. The Massachusetts Cultural Council provided a $2,500 grant for the initiative, matching funds provided by Downtown Framingham, Inc.

Online: https://bit.ly/2XFA3bA

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Information from: MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.), http://www.metrowestdailynews.com

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