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The story behind the book

Sammarco’s ‘Lost Boston’ teases out memories of places long erased

The original home of the Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in 1876 and was razed in 1910.

boston Public library

The original home of the Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in 1876 and was razed in 1910.

Writing about his hometown is nothing new for Anthony Sammarco. For years, the Dorchester native has researched and written local history, along with holding down a day job and teaching at the Urban College of Boston.

His latest, “Lost Boston,” combines photos and essays to memorialize buildings and places that now live only in memory, from Braves Field to Jordan Marsh to the old elephant house at Franklin Park Zoo (“I remember that one as a child,” Sammarco says).

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Filled with images from every decade since the invention of photography, the book also covers the full range of Boston’s geography.

“I wanted it to include the neighborhoods,” Sammarco says.

And it’s powered by the stories he collected from all kinds of people, not just historians and archivists but regular folks, too. Whether gathering memories via his Facebook page or just “listening to people over a drink or at a dinner party,” Sammarco wanted to hear why people cared about lost Boston places, and what they remembered.

“It’s not just history,” he says, “but it’s also something about why it was so emotional when this building was demolished, or destroyed by fire.”

Local histories are popping up all over, Sammarco notices: “Every city, every town, every village seems to have one.” But Bostonians are particularly fond of this kind of thing.

“People are aficionados,” he says. “They love history. Everyone seems to have not only a favorite, but something to say.”

He hopes that this book — his 68th! — will reach even people who don’t think they care about local history. “Many people look at the pictures and say, ‘Wow, I remember these, but I haven’t thought of them in 40 years.’ ”

“There are things that when they’re lost, they seem totally lost,” Sammarco says. “But when you remember them, it makes people begin to realize that not everything can be saved, but you can at least preserve some things in the form of memory.”

Sammarco will read and show images from the new book Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Bestsellers Cafe, 24 High St., Medford.

Kate Tuttle, a writer and editor, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.
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