I recently got back from a trip to Boston, one of my favorite cities. The main reason I love this city is that it has so much history. Okay, that’s a lie. I love this city because of the FOOD!
But the history is a close second. I love the beautiful historical old buildings. I love how they’re juxtaposed with modern skyscrapers. It’s a city that merges old with new so seamlessly.
My friend and I visited many historical landmarks and buildings (okay, restaurants). Each one had a fascinating story behind them including the Union Oyster House (the oldest restaurant in America), the original Cheers bar (originally the Bull & Finch), and the Warren Tavern (oldest tavern in Massachusetts).
When we did our walking tour of Harvard, I loved the stories our student guide told, pointing out George Washington’s house and the dorm where Bill Gates lived. One building I loved in particular was the Widener Library or Harvard’s Memorial Library.
Of course I love any library but what I loved most of all was the story. Harry Elkins Widener graduated from Harvard in 1907. He was a bibliophile and went to England in 1912 to purchase some rare books. Unfortunately, Harry’s journey back to America was aboard the Titanic. He and his books never made it back.
Harry’s mother, Eleanor Widener, donated $3 million to Harvard to build a library to house her son’s book collection. However, the university must adhere to three conditions: First, the outside of the library could not be changed or remodeled in any way. Of course, over the years, the library acquired more and more books resulting in less space. It was essential to make room for these books but how could they without going against Mrs. Widener’s wishes? They tunneled under the ground. The library’s bookshelves extend underneath the ground for 50 miles. 50 miles!
The second condition was that fresh flowers must be placed underneath her son’s portrait in the chapel every day. This is done to this day.
The third condition was that every Harvard graduate must learn to swim. I guess she was worried students would end up drowning like her poor son, Harry. This was done for years until the Disabilities Act went into effect and now it’s optional for students.
For more information on Harry Widener and his tragic voyage, check out this link: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/harry-elkins-widener.html
Los Angeles doesn’t have as many historical beautiful buildings as Boston but we have our share. One that I love is Union Station in downtown L.A. near Olvera Street. For a little history check out this link: https://www.metro.net/about/union-station/history/
It has beautiful marble tiles and arched ceilings. My mom and I used to come here at least once every couple months when I was little. We’d take the train from Orange County to downtown L.A. to go shopping at the garment district. The garment district was a collection of buildings that housed discounted clothing stores. It was a couple blocks long. I loved these trips and not just for the cute clothes but to see Union Station.
More recently, I went to Union Station for a wine festival and was amazed how gorgeous it still looked. It brought me back to those days when I was a little girl, arriving in exciting downtown L.A. with my mom.
After the festival, my friend and I went to dinner on nearby Olvera Street for some amazing Mexican food. When we returned about an hour and a half later, the station was completely emptied out. It was kind of eerie.
It inspired me to write this 50-word story which was selected to be published in Blink Ink’s latest issue #23 “Mystery Train.”
For more info on Blink Ink: http://www.blink-ink.org/
What buildings have inspired you? What’s your favorite “building story”?
Sarah M. Chen juggles several jobs including indie bookseller, transcriber, and insurance adjuster. Her crime fiction short stories have been accepted for publication online and in various anthologies, including All Due Respect, Akashic, Plan B, Shotgun Honey, Crime Factory, Out of the Gutter, Betty Fedora, Spelk, and the Sisters in Crime/LA anthology, Ladies Night. Her noir novella, Cleaning Up Finn, is coming out May 2016 with All Due Respect Books. www.sarahmchen.com