International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

158 Longwood Avenue, The Fenway

For five days in March 1981, seventy-three physicians from the United States, Western Europe, and the Soviet Union met in Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., to launch International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). In the preceding year, a trio of physicians affiliated with Harvard Medical School had begun conversations with medical counterparts in the Soviet Union. Despite their professional credentials, they were acutely away of their relative marginality in the context of a growing U.S. military buildup, Cold War tensions, and the election to the U.S. presidency of Ronald Reagan, which promised even steeper military spending. In this context, Bernard Lown, a cardiologist, and his colleagues carefully crafted a message based on their competency as physicians: “we must stick unswervingly to the medical facts about nuclear war,” they stated.

Lown and his colleagues first met in Geneva with a group of Soviet medical practitioners in December 1980. After a difficult start, their deliberations concluded with a call for the 1981 meeting. Although intimidated by the prospects of organizing an international gathering in just three months, the doctors set up shop in the Longwood area of the Fenway, in a small, 2nd floor office above Sparr’s Drug, a provider of medical supplies and equipment and an old-style drugstore with soda fountains. There they turned to a volunteer corps of a dozen Harvard Medical School students and raised over $250,000 to pull off the Virginia conference. 

Sparr’s drug store, circa 1960-1969. Source: Northeastern University Library Archives and Special Collections.

The gathering ended with appeals to fellow physicians, leaders of the United Nations, and the Soviet and U.S. leaderships, each premised in the “abiding faith in the concept that what humanity creates, humanity can control.” Arguing against the Reagan Administration’s perspective, they stated the nuclear war was unwinnable and catastrophic, and further, that international cooperation was needed to reduce nuclear stockpiles. IPPNW’s influence continued to grow alongside that era’s burgeoning anti-nuclear movement. The organization won international recognition, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War remains active. Its offices are now located at 339 Pleasant Street in Malden. Sparr’s Drug closed down in 2002. The Harvard School of Public Health currently owns the building.

Building that housed IPPNW and Sparr’s, Longwood and Huntington Avenues. Photo by Eleni Macrakis, 2018.

Getting there:

Green Line “E” to Longwood Station.

To learn more:

Bernard Lown, Prescription for Survival: A Doctor’s Journey to End Nuclear Madness. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2008.

Parker Brothers Headquarters

190 Bridge Street, Salem

Parker Brothers is a well-known game company established in Salem in 1883, by siblings George, Charles, and Edward Parker. As the company grew, it purchased the property at 190 Bridge Street where it eventually built a 35,000-square-foot facility that housed its factory and offices.

Parker Brothers’ most famous game was, and remains, Monopoly. While many credit Charles Brace Darrow with the game’s invention (Parker Brothers purchased the rights to it from him in 1935), Elizabeth Magie (later Magie Phillips) first devised it.

Magie’s version, which she called “The Landlord’s Game,” grew out of her progressive politics. Indeed, she designed the game as a protest against the monopolistic practices of the likes of John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. A student of the writings of the 19th century political-economist Henry George, who argued that natural resources—including land—should belong equally to all, Magie patented the game in 1903, hoping that it would teach people the importance of sharing wealth. Unfortunately for Magie, Darrow’s capitalistic adaptation of the game captured the attention of many more people and it was he who made millions from the game’s purchase by Parker Brothers.

Hasbro bought Parker Brothers in 1991 and closed down the factory soon thereafter, tearing it down in 1994. It is now the site of an apartment complex.

Former site of Parker Brothers Headquarters, as seem from Salem Commuter Rail Station, July 2015.

Getting there:

MBTA Commuter Rail (from North Station) to Salem. MBTA bus from Orient Heights Station on the Blue Line.

To learn more:

Mary Pilon, “Monopoly’s Inventor: The Progressive Who Didn’t Pass ‘Go’,” The New York Times, February 13, 2015.

New England Historical Society, “The Parker Brothers of Salem, Mass.,” undated, circa 2013.

The Country Club

191 Clyde Street, Brookline

The County Club, circa 1910-1915. Library of Congress.

Boston Brahmins were eager to have a private club for racing horses and associated activities, yet free of the gambling which took place at public racetracks and which they found repulsive. So, in 1882, they founded The Country Club on 100 acres of land. Brookline, with its then-open countryside and proximity (in terms of travel by horse coach) to their homes in Boston, was an ideal location.

Horse-related activities dominated The Country Club for only a brief period. By the early 1900s, it was a multipurpose establishment dedicated to a variety of sporting endeavors, but still ones seen as “rural”—such as lawn tennis. Indeed, by this time what had been the racetrack was part of the golf course.

The Country Club, the first such establishment in the United States, both reflected and helped to define what it meant to be a member of Boston’s upper-class establishment. And, by inspiring the founding of other country clubs across the United States, it helped to produce the suburban lifestyle of the affluent and the associated landscape on a national scale. Long a bastion of WASP male privilege, The Country Club reportedly did not admit Jews until the 1970s, women (as full members) until 1989, and its first African American member until the following year.

Today, The Country Club sits on 236 acres of land. The privatized property is Brookline’s largest “green” space. Its membership of approximately 1300 individuals is secret, but it includes some of the Boston area’s most powerful individuals. Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots football team (who lives in an adjacent estate), is reportedly a member. And, until moving to Florida in 2020, so, too, were team quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Giselle Bundchen, his spouse.

Getting there:  

A MBTA bus, which runs between Forest Hill Station (Orange Line) and Reservoir Station (Green Line, D Branch), stops near the club’s entrance.

To learn more:

Richard J. Moss, Golf and the American Country Club, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Michael Rawson, Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Charlestown State Prison/Bunker Hill Community College

250 New Rutherford Avenue, Charlestown

In late January 1955, four prisoners, following a botched escape attempt, held hostage five guards and numerous fellow inmates in the “Cherry Hill” section of the Charlestown State Prison. With the prison surrounded by police and National Guard troops, the armed prisoners surrendered after three-and-a-half days. However, they succeeded in having their grievances about the institution’s inhumane conditions and the state-wide penal system heard by a “citizens committee” charged with negotiating with them. The committee’s seven members agreed to work to improve prison conditions across the state, thus helping to bring to a peaceful end to what was then the second-longest prison insurrection in U.S. history.

Charlestown State Prison, 1900. Public domain.

In its report on the 85-hour stand-off, Time described Charlestown State Prison as “a cramped compound of blackened granite and dilapidated brick buildings” The newsweekly went on to characterize it as “the oldest, most disreputable prison in the U.S.”—it opened in 1805—and as a place “damned for 80 years as a verminous pesthole, unfit for human habitation.” Condemned by the state in 1876, it had replaced the state’s prison at Fort Independence on South Boston’s Castle Island, standing on a five-acre site in what then known as the Lynde Point section of Charlestown. In 1946-1948, Malcolm Little (later known as Malcolm X) was incarcerated there.

Over its years, the prison was the site of 61 executions, employing, beginning in 1901, the electric chair. Sacco and Vanzetti, who spent their last days in the same Sugar Hill cell block that saw the 1955 insurrection, were its most famous victims, executed on August 23, 1927. On May 9, 1947, the last state executions in Massachusetts took place in Charlestown State Prison: those of Phillip Bellino and Edward Gertso.

Police guarding the entrance to Charlestown State Prison. 22 August 1927, in anticipation of protests of the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Source: Boston Public Library/Digital Commonwealth.

In 1955, Massachusetts closed Charlestown State Prison, moving the incarcerated men to facilities in Norfolk and Walpole, and tore it down. Since 1973, the site has been the home of Bunker Hill Community College. There is no visible marker on the campus indicating what once stood in its place.

Getting there:

Take the Orange Line to the Community College station and follow the signs for Bunker Hill Community College.

To learn more:

“Citizens Committee Settles Charlestown Prison Riot,” Daily Boston Globe, January 22, 1955: 5.

“Oldest Prison in U. S., Condemned in 1876,” Daily Boston Globe, January 19, 1955: 11.

“The Siege of Cherry Hill,” Time, Vol. 65, Issue 5, January 31, 1955.

O’Neil, Helen. “Where Sacco, Vanzetti and Malcolm X Stayed in Charlestown.” Charlestown Patch. March 6, 2012.

“Past Events.” Charlestown Historical Society website.

Lucy Stone House

45 Boutwell Street, Dorchester

Lucy Stone, circa 1840-1860, public domain

The first woman from Massachusetts to receive a college degree, Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was a leading abolitionist and a pioneer in the struggle for gender equality. She played a key role in the first National Women’s Rights Convention (which took place in 1850, in Worcester, Massachusetts), and helped to set up the anti-slavery Woman’s National Loyal League. Along with her husband, Henry Browne Blackwell, she also founded the Women’s Journal, a national weekly newspaper based in Boston, in 1870.

It was that same year when the couple, along with their daughter, Alice Stone Blackwell (who would become a prominent feminist, suffragette, and humanitarian), moved to the 17-room house on Boutwell Street. Although the house was demolished in 1971, two pillars at the end of the driveway remain from Lucy Stone’s home, one of them adorned with a plaque honoring her.

Lucy Stone’s ashes are interred in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. There is a statue of her (along with ones of Phillis Wheatley and Abigail Adams) at the Boston Women’s Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue. The first U.S. woman to retain her name after marriage, she once famously said that “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost.”

Getting there:

Red Line to Ashmont Station. Exit to Dorchester Avenue and go right (north) until Ashmont Street (about 200 feet). Take a right and continue on Ashmont past Adams Street. Take a left on Train Street, and take the third right onto Boutwell. Number 45 is on the left. (0.9 miles, about an 18-minute walk.) A bus from Fields Corner Station also passes nearby.

To learn more:

“Lucy Stone, 1818-1893,” Dorchester Atheneum website.

Sally G. McMillen, Lucy Stone: An Unapologetic Life, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.