February 26th, 2014

Where I Lived Wednesday: The North End Boston

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Groovy Green Livin North End

The apartment wasn’t anything special, but the location was amazing.

The North End of Boston was a happening place. At any moment of the day or night people were roaming the streets with a fresh cannoli in hand. The locals and the yuppies were constantly competing for space. It wasn’t uncommon to see a random chair in the street as an attempt to save a parking space for later use. We all knew not to mess with that spot. It’s been a few years, but I’m guessing things haven’t changed much.

The apartment belonged to my boyfriend at the time (now my husband). We were both in school and I spent most weekdays and weekends living there, although I had my own apartment not too far away.

On a cold and windy Thursday night I was sleeping alone in the apartment while my boyfriend was up in Maine doing an externship for school. My plan was to head to classes the next day and then drive up to Maine to meet him for a weekend of skiing.

Early Friday morning, while I was still deep asleep, someone yelled “fire” and began pounding on the door. The apartment was on the first floor, directly across from a famous North End restaurant where the customers could easily look across and wave (which they often did). The photo above is the actual apartment building.

I’m a deep sleeper so someone yelling “fire” didn’t register for a few seconds. Once I realized what was happening I grabbed what I could, which happened to be my ski gear, and ran through thick smoke to the street outside.

There I stood, along with the other residents of the building and several onlookers, for what seemed like an eternity watching the building burn.

Everyone made it out.

I remember a very kind woman taking me into her home and giving me shoes to wear. The ski jacket, hat and gloves worked, but the flip flops on my feet weren’t going to cut it on this cold and wintry day.

My boyfriend’s sweet mother (now my mother-in-law) drove to the North End at an ungodly hour. We sat in her warm car together watching the building continue to smolder.

Thankfully everyone was fine.  Our possessions were not. The flames impacted the upper apartments the most, however everything was severely smoke damaged. Virtually nothing was salvageable.

A kind firefighter escorted me back into the apartment after the flames subsided to help find my car keys and a few important pieces of paper. It was a crazy scene. Everything was covered in soot and the walls were ripped apart. It was hard to imagine that we had lived there just a few hours before.

To this day I still love heading to the North End of Boston. The North End has some of the best people watching in the city and the restaurants are fabulous. The apartment building has been rebuilt and now looks like something special.

Now I’ve become one of those parents who points at the building, makes her kids stop talking to look at the building and then tells them the same story over and over.

I didn’t ski that weekend, but I survived a fire and I thank my lucky stars.

I felt inspired to write this after seeing the #WhereILivedWednesday prompt over at Ann’s Rants. Head on over to Ann’s wonderful site to see where others have lived.

photo credit: Michael Kappel via photopin cc

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28 Responses to “Where I Lived Wednesday: The North End Boston”

  1. Holy cow!! So glad you were okay, but still pretty traumatic. Thanks so much for joining me for #WhereILivedWednesday :)

  2. Yikes! I’m glad to hear everyone made it out safely. Did he find another apartment in the North End or was that the end of your time there?
    Ellen recently posted..Burning Down the HouseMy Profile

  3. Wild story! So glad everyone made it out safely. Even as I was thinking that, I felt a pang for the losses that could never be recovered. (I love the North End and it’s about the only place in town I feel completely at ease.)
    Cheryl recently posted..#WhereILivedWednesday: 11 Main StreetMy Profile

  4. What a story! And what a quaint corner of the city to live in.
    Anne recently posted..Bat Conservationist Keynotes Discover Life in America Conference in SmokiesMy Profile

  5. woah. so glad everyone was ok – so sad that the building was not. so glad they rebuilt though, what a great place!
    Tara Pohlkotte recently posted..The View From ThereMy Profile

  6. What a crazy story! Isn’t it amazing what the average human endures/experiences during a lifetime? Although I’m sure some of my more harrowing experiences have taken years off my life, I like to believe that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!

  7. I love this Lori! (More personal stories from you!) What a great pic too, Boston has some magical places. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose everything in a fire. It makes me think about how fire fighters face scenes like that everyday. What brave people! I couldn’t help but chuckle as I pictured you carrying your skis out the door!
    Lindsay recently posted..Cultivate discipline in your yoga practiceMy Profile

  8. Thank goodness you made it! I’m from NH and we get into Boston quite a bit. You lived in a great place to people watch.
    Rene recently posted..HomeMy Profile

  9. Thanks for inspiring me to write Ann!

  10. Hi Ellen, He actually ended up moving home to his parents house for a few months and I kept my apartment in Boston.

  11. It was so crazy to lose everything Cheryl. We were students so we didn’t have much- but there were others in the building who really lost everything.

  12. It was such a great spot Anne. I still love that area in Boston.

  13. I’m sure the apartments are gorgeous now Tara!

  14. So true Beth-what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’m super, duper strong :)

  15. Lindsay-the skis were left behind! So were the boots. Flip flops were the easiest to run out in. Not the best choice for snow and ice!

  16. Thanks Rene. It still is a great place to people watch. A lot of interesting characters pass through.

  17. That sounds like an amazing neighbourhood. Man I love Boston. So glad you made it out safely.

    When I was in University our house caught on fire one night because my roommate decided to light a candle right under a curtain. He then tried to put it out with a single glass of water. When the firemen arrived 3 of my roommates were sitting in the smoke filled family room smoking weed. #notsmart
    Jen @ Go Green recently posted..Taking Back BloggingMy Profile

  18. Wowza, what a story. Three of my siblings attended school in Boston and two ended up living there for many years so I’ve visited many times. It’s a fabulous city — minus the weather.
    Betsy (Eco-novice) recently posted..Kids’ Party Favors on EtsyMy Profile

  19. I think you need to write a #WhereILivedWednesday post Jen!That’s quite a story.

  20. Ha! It’s been a rough winter Betsy, but I love the seasons. Let me know when you’re back again.

  21. I think Boston is so beautiful! I am going to be one of those moms and stop and tell the same story over and over! Glad you came out safe!
    Stephanie @GoodGirlGoneGreen recently posted..Anti-Inflammatory Facial MaskMy Profile

  22. Thank goodness someone knocked on your door and you had time to get dressed. We had the smallest of fires in our home a few years ago and we were awake at the time but the firefighters said had we been asleep we all would have probably died because it was a kind of fire that does not make smoke detectors go off till it is wildly out of control. I have always been thankful for that!
    Leigh recently posted..Meatless Monday: Quinoa, Bean, and Broccoli BitesMy Profile

  23. Yikes! Glad you made it out alive, Lori. LOVE Boston. Was only there once for a wedding and hope to go back in the near future. (It was the first time I really got into history!)
    Lynn Hasselberger recently posted..10 Ways to Pull Up Your Winter Boot Straps & Overcome the Winter Blues.My Profile

  24. Oh Lori! I’m sooooo glad nothing happened to you. And, I can totally relate. Our house caught fire when my daughters were 7 and 4. I had a horrible case of heat stroke and went to bed early with my girls sleeping close next to me — directly under old wiring that eventually caught fire that night. My husband’s sensitive and paranoid nose saved us. And, then he saved us again after the firefighters left — without fully extinguishing the embers. It’s a long story – maybe we’ll actually meet some day and I’ll share all the details :) In the meantime, cheers to beating the odds and still standing on this planet to fight for a better world!

  25. When I lived with my parents after college, as I was driving to work, fire trucks rushed by me, with blaring sirens. Unaware it was my parents’ house they were rushing to, I was thinking, “Hope everyone is ok.” When I got to work, I got a phone call to come home. It was a disaster. Soot stains are still on some of my books from that fire. So I can imagine your horror.. Glad you got out ok and can visit the old neighborhood to remind yourself how lucky you were that fateful night. And you are allowed to tell stories over and over again. We are moms. ;)
    Karen recently posted..Homemade Chocolate Larabar RecipeMy Profile

  26. I love Boston and have long admired those beautiful old buildings. They remind me a bit of some of the gorgeous buildings in SF. I’m relieved everyone made it out of the building alive. I can’t even imagine the devastation of losing all of your possessions. But so thankful for life.
    Foxy Wine Pocket recently posted..My Daughter Is Going to Save the World—One Wine Stain at a TimeMy Profile

  27. Haven’t been to Boston since I was younger (I am born and raised NYC), but totally loved it there and you are right it is a great city. Just glad that you made it out of the fire safely and what a tale to tell and share with your kids and us, too. Thanks for visiting today and so happy you did so I could meet you here, too :)
    Janine Huldie recently posted..Perfect Little Girl’s Dress for An Outdoor Family Portrait with CandelaMy Profile

  28. You have to come to Boston Janine. You’re so close! So glad we connected. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I like to make noise and stir the pot especially when an issue hits home and effects the health of our families. Join me as I make some noise and share along the way tips for living a green and healthy life. Read more.

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