02-17-14 News

Newton Upper Falls news, activities and events
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The Upper Falls News is an email newsletter about what's going on in our village.  The Upper Falls News is brought to you by the Upper Falls Area Council but it's intended to cover any and all news in the village. 

Upper Falls Trivia - Where in Upper Falls did this charming snow Buddha suddenly appear in recent weeks? (answer below)

A Small Tuna With Tutoring on the Side -  Ben Lee, the owner of Bob's Subs on Elliot St, is organizing a wonderful free tutoring service for neighborhood kids.  He's starting out with free SAT prep classes on Saturday mornings at 9 AM  - 10:30 taught by a very experienced instructor who's been tutoring for SAT's for the past seven years.  Depending on the feedback he gets from all of you, he's planning on expanding the number of subjects taught and times of the classes.  All classes will be held at Bob's Subs and be taught by very experienced (CORI'ed) instructors and all classes will be free to Upper Falls kids.  Depending on demand, he's thinking of starting high school math and Chinese language tutoring next.   If you have any interest in these subjects or any other type of tutoring for any age, please contact Ben and let him know.  As best as he can, he'll try to accommodate whatever needs he can for Upper Falls parents  and kids.   Many thanks to Ben for this great neighborhood service.  If you have any students scheduled to take SAT's this year, consider sending them down to Bob's next Saturday morning at 9AM.

Welcome to Jean & Lee - Jean & Lee Kitchen, Upper Falls' newest restaurant on Oak St next to The Depot just opened for business this past week.  They're open 7 days a week and will feature a Taiwanese dim sum on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30AM - 3:00 PM.  We can't wait to try that out.   In the meantime though we headed down tonight to try out their main menu.  When we arrived we were sat next to our neighbors Anna, Sherry, Jacob and Sam.  Between our two tables we had a pretty good selection of dishes.  It was all excellent and everybody was happy with the food and the friendly service.  Jean & Lee is definitely going to be a good addition to the neighborhood.  Be sure you don't miss the beef filled scallion pancakes.

More on the Mysterious Black "Rocks" - Last issue, we asked for help identifying  these unusual shiny black objects on Spring St.   It turns out, we have our own neighborhood geologist.  Michael Penzo from Chandler St teaches geology at both Northeastern and Bridgewater State University.  Michael took a look and identified them as basalt.  Curiously, these wouldn't be found naturally in Upper Falls.  Michael says "Basalt is a mafic extrusive igneous rock.  In this case it very fine-grained almost glassy and it exhibits the curving “conchoidal fracturing” typically found in volcanic glass (obsidian) but sometimes in basalt.  In this case because the basalt has very fine grains (almost microscopic) that the conchoidal fracturing is present.  Basalt is not native to Newton.  Pretty much all of the rock in Newton consists of the Roxbury Formation, the so-called Roxbury Conglomerate or Puddingstone.  Most likely the basalt came from a basaltic dike (an igneous intrusion).  We see this type of rock all around the Boston basin.  It is likely that it was quarried perhaps from the former Quincy quarries which is granite but did have basaltic dikes cutting through the granite".

More on the Mysterious Castle of Upper Falls - last issue we also wrote about this remarkable and mysterious castle in Julie Levesque's yard on Thurston Rd.  A few readers responded.  Paule Daniels wrote "I grew up at 93 Thurston Rd. The year was about 1969 when I remember venturing down Thurston Rd  and seeing a small castle set up on the ledge behind the house. Needless to say every local child was curious about that castle as well. The owners of the house at that time was Mr. & Mrs. Record. They were a nice elderly couple who kept to themselves. I will ask my brother and parents if they know anything about the castle and let you know."  

Another reader wrote "the castle has been there for as long as I can remember. I grew up on Eliot Hill and we scampered around the cliff nearly every day. I used to wonder about the castle, too, because we admired it and wondered that there did not seem to be other children attached to that house. And, since there were not children, we were probably too scared to do anything other than gaze from afar lest we be told off."

We haven't yet got to the bottom of this but we're still working on it.  Peg Galvin knows the folks who lived there when it was created.  The woman now lives in Ohio and Peg's going to try to track her down and get more details of the castle's story.

Upper Falls, Land of Castles - Another reader pointed us to another castle in Upper Falls.  If these castle sitings keeps up we'll soon be called "Austria on the Charles". This one's in the front yard of a house on Roundwood Rd at the intersection of White Pine Rd.  This one is not nearly as mysterious as the one on Thurston Rd.  It looks like it may be a wooden playhouse.  We'll have to check back when the snow melts for a better look and better photo.

Welcome to Jean & Lee - Jean & Lee Kitchen, Upper Falls newest restaurant has just opened on Oak St next to The Depot.  They're open 7 days a week and will feature a Taiwanese dim sum on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30AM - 3:00 PM.  We can't wait to try it out.   Here's a review

Friends of the Greenway Is Up and Running - On Feb. 11, an enthusiastic group of supporters of the Upper Falls Greenway attended the kickoff meeting of Friends of the Greenway to learn how they could participate in our neighborhood’s work-in-progress.  After reviewing the current state of construction of the new walking/bicycling trail, discussion ensued about eventually connecting the spur line across Needham St to the Christina St Bridge to the Charles River Pathway, ultimately leading to Cutler and Millennium Parks. Iron Horse Preservation,the contractor who's building the Greenway, has worked with the private property owners (Crosspoint and Starck) along that spur line and has already removed all of the track along the spur.  That's a promising first step in eventually connecting the new Greenway to many miles of existing trails.
At the end of the meeting, participants chose to sign up on various committees to enhance the trail.  These committees will be conducting their first meetings soon to establish goals and priorities.
  • landscaping - planting, kiosks, benches, “sunset deck”, wayfinding signs, weed control, RR switch restoration and installation
  • events - NewtonSERVES, ribbon cutting, Gallery on the Greenway, promotions (fun events), fundraising events
  • communications - website, Facebook, newsletter, email lists
  • bridge building - connecting with Needham, extending the spur trail, additional funding opportunities, Hubway
If you have an interest in getting involved to help create the Upper Falls Greenway, please let us know!

An Upper Falls Memory - Dave Down sent these childhood memories of Upper Falls.  "I have fond memories of sliding down Winter Street after snow storms years ago. Newton used the city trash trucks for plowing and so the roads weren't plowed as often as they are today. Most roads in Upper Falls would have a thick layer of packed snow on the pavement for several days after a big snow storm. Most people put chains on their tires to get around. There wasn't much traffic in those days, so it wasn't as dangerous for us to slide on the streets as it would be today. I would guess that most drivers would avoid trying to drive up Winter Street after a snow storm because it was so slippery.

When the snow melted off the streets, we'd slide down the hill across from the Catholic Church. We could also go to the "lower playground" on Chestnut Street and slide down the hill between the two sections of the playground. If we were lucky, our father would take us over to the Newton Center play ground. They had a toboggan slide on the play ground. I'd guess that was operated by the park and recreation dept."

Did You Know ... that cats have 32 muscles in each ear? "Did you know ..." features an interesting and random fact every issue, collected by eleven-year-old Upper Falls resident Jayla Reilly.

Spread The News - Ask your neighbors if they get the Upper Falls News.  If not forward them this issue and they can sign up for their own subscription here.

Send Us Your News - If you have any upcoming events, activities, news, trivia, stories, anecdotes or jokes related to Upper Falls just send them to news@UpperFallsNews.org and we'll include them in the next newsletter.  For those who prefer living in the past, back issues of the Upper Falls News are archived at UpperFallsNews.org.

Upper Falls Trivia Answer - Bobbi Colman writes  "Several weeks ago my daughter and I decided to take a walk to Echo Bridge after a storm. At the entrance to the bridge we decided to make a smiling, joyful Buddha (photo below) welcoming all who visit. You see, Echo Bridge and Hemlock Gorge have always been places of calm, reflection and discovery to me, so naturally, I thought Buddha to be a perfect winter welcomer.  With the expansive view from atop the bridge, this allows anyone a panoramic view unique to Newton. Walking across and stopping on Echo Bridge can be a rich pageant of sight and sound to wake the senses. Because of the many wonders I find here, I was compelled to build this little Buddha of Hemlock Gorge and I hope you enjoyed his welcome if you had the chance".  

Thanks Bobbi for our snow Buddha.  Maybe he can become a regular tradition on Echo Bridge in the winter.  If any of you readers head down to the bridge after the next snow, feel free to recreate your own version of the Buddha of the Bridge.

Read Bobbi's personal tour guide to the pleasures of Hemlock Gorge below.  

"Across the bridge, the path divided offers two roads, both equally luring. Each beckons you to walk down nature's path to enjoy a temporary reprieve from life’s daily demands. Traversing either one you will notice the sound of bird songs filling the air with busy activity all around in tree and bushes. Yet in the quiet hush after the bird chatter, there is silence; no rush of traffic nor any other noisy distraction for that matter. Just peace.

Whether the south trail or the north trail is taken, small adventures await. To the south, if one takes a sharp left at the crossroads, a prestigious view of Echo Bridge awaits to tempt photographers of all talents. The wonderful little summit at the falls offers a bird’s eye view not often seen and gives the feeling of riding on top of the crest of a wave. Here one can sit, find some grounding and listen the constant beat of the waters cascading over the falls. Travelling back towards the bottom, a quaint meadow greets you where local Canadian Geese and even a bunny or two are known to frequent in the summer.

The north trail is a bit more challenging terrain but equally as rewarding. This path has a fork, like its southern neighbor, and to one side a slope that leads to a soft pine needle bedding. As you walk along the hillside, one is immediately transported to a deep forest setting, with towering pines, large logs crossing the path and plenty of fauna during the summer. Here, a hawk family makes their huge nest atop a couple of pines and on occasion one can spot deer or even a crane in summer. At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find a small lake with fish surfacing from time to time and is still quite enjoyable even with an off-ramp straddling alongside.

Halfway back towards the aqueduct, a sharp left leads down a steep grade. Assisting the traveler are some tree roots, steps and fallen trunks to help gently guide one down to a small bridge. The little footbridge crosses to an islet overlooking a dramatic view of Echo Bridge as it casts its reflection in the river flowing underneath. An inviting stone bench sits waiting for passersby to take in the lovely scene. Quiet, calm and peace is the reward for those willing to traverse down this side of Hemlock Gorge.

Moving on, brushing past the shrubbery and rock of this small isle, a recently completed bridge ties together the entire reservation. This small passage over a stream with a little fall of its own, takes you to a clearing at the base of the bridge. With the deck tucked underneath, anyone can ‘give their voice’ to the echo and also take in a dockside view of the river.  

Lastly, safely crossing Ellis Street brings you to the base of a large wooden staircase which winds back upwards to the beginning of the journey. Once at the summit, not only can the climb leave you breathless but the view of the sunset from this perch can as well. What a fitting way to end a thoroughly enjoyable trek across one of Newton’s natural gems."