Our Dear, Departed Gilman Square

ma_somerville02.jpgThe Somerville News recently featured an article about a garage formerly used by notorious (and still uncaptured) Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Apparently the mob boss—whose persona inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in the Oscar-winning Scoresese flick The Departed—used the place to dispatch rivals, or at least make them offers they couldn’t refuse.

The garage is in Winter Hill (thus the name “Winter Hill Gang“), but more specifically, in Gilman Square. But even with all the depraved stuff that must have gone down under the ominous trap door of that place, the worst crime ever committed in Gilman was not against any one person, but against the neighborhood itself.

Check out the painting of Gilman Square in the from the Early 20th century above. Lush green space, a train stop the foreground, storefronts and apartments. Beautiful, mixed-use, transit oriented development; the sort of place almost anyone would want to live.

But today, Gilman is almost unrecognizable. This is a different angle, but the white building in the old photo is the brick one in the foreground. The most notable aspects of the formerly bustling intersection are a pair of uninviting gas stations, a dreary abandoned warehouse, and the Paddock Family Restaurant.

Fortunately, as the owners of the church that bought Whitey’s old place can tell you, things are looking up for Gilman. The place is scheduled to get a T stop with the Green Line extension to Medford. Hopefully, the abandoned structures, ugly parking lots, and battered pavement will—like Whitey before them—become a dark blotch in the history of this otherwise pleasant neighborhood.

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