The History of Boston, As Seen Through Haymarket

Boston’s Society of Architects’ latest exhibition, Haymarket: The Soul of the City, takes a look at the historic open-air food market through photography by Justin H. Goodstein. Put together by Historic New England, the exhibition runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 30 at the BSA space overlooking Boston’s Waterfront district.

Curated by Ken Turino, the manager of community engagement and exhibitions at Historic New England, the exhibit examines the cultural impact of Boston’s famous outdoor market. The exhibition consists of 40 black and white photographs that take you on a journey through the four seasons, starting with winter 2013 and ending with fall 2014.

The collection of photographs captures the bustling market’s pushcarts, shops, workers, and customers. Many of the images are accompanied by an oral history of the market and the regular faces that are seen at Haymarket every weekend.

Haymarket: The Soul of the City is a part of a larger entity called the Haymarket Project. In addition to the exhibition, the project includes a book, a series of oral histories, and a documentary film.

Generations of Bostonians have relied on Haymarket for their food and income. Unfortunately, Haymarket is now being threatened by development and has continued to shrink year to year. That is why the BSA has recognized the market and decided to showcase the impact it has had on so many lives. The Boston Society of Architects is not solely about architecture and buildings, but rather more about city planning and design.

The exhibit is located on the second floor of the sleek and contemporary BSA space. The minimalist aesthetic of the BSA fits well with the simple layout of the exhibition and makes the images the focal point.

The framed photographs are hung chronologically on the sweeping white walls, accompanied by large quotes printed around the exhibit. The natural light coming through the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Boston waterfront makes the images pop off the walls.

Without the distraction of color, you can focus on the diverse faces and stories that capture the true essence of the market as you move along the exhibition.

“Haymarket traditionally has served the underserved in Boston,” Turino said. “I feel it has a very important place in Boston’s history, but it’s doing a real service today.”

The entire exhibition took approximately two years to put together, with the oral history and photography being compiled over a year, and the setup taking another year to complete. Together, Turino and Goodstein hand-picked the best images from a collection of 100 that helped tell the story of Haymarket.

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Traditionally, Haymarket served poor Bostonians and immigrants. While for a good part the 20th century, the market mainly consisted of Italians, over the years it has become more international.

“You now have vendors and shoppers from all over the world, and many of those are really the underserved,” Turino said.

Over the years, college students in Boston have shopped at Haymarket due to the affordable produce. Turino hopes the exhibition will encourage more young people to support and visit the market. In the past, the market had a reputation for being unclean and rough, Turino said, but that is less of a problem now.

Recently, Turino accepted the 2016 Merit Award from the American Association for State and Local History at the Leadership in History Awards. In its 71st year, it is the most prestigious competition in the United States for achievement in state and local history.

Located on Blackstone St. in proximity to the Freedom Trail, right in the heart of Boston, Haymarket is open year-round on Fridays and Saturdays.

The BSA is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on weekends and holidays from 10 5 p.m. Admission is free, though the BSA is a nonprofit organization and relies on donations from visitors.

“Boston is distinctly about place, The North and South Ends, the Public Garden, Kenmore Square, etc. Haymarket is a distinct meeting place for people of all races and classes,” Turino in said the exhibit’s press release. “This exhibition celebrates that diversity while making people aware of the pressure from development facing it today.”

Featured Image by William Batchelor

September 21, 2016