An Unexpected Offer
Welcome to the HSHA’s website’s first blog post! While today we are looking to the future, we thought we might take a moment to look back briefly to how we got here . . . .
About ten years ago we had a minimal, but for that era, respectable, webpage. A first for any neighborhood association in Brookline, it was developed in 2001 by neighbor Hugh Mattison and it contained a few pages of information with some links. We thought we were pretty advanced (for a neighborhood association, that is).
And then I met Tom Elwertowski from Highland Road. He suggested that our site could be much more than it was, if he could be given free reign to develop it. I was quite skeptical that a neighborhood website could become interesting or useful and I doubted that anyone would devote much effort towards such a thankless goal.
But Tom quite quickly built something that surprised us all. From various sources he unearthed historic maps, photos, walking tours and reminiscences from long ago about the neighborhood. He posted links to local institutions and organizations who shared common interests and displayed info about HSHA current events and advovacy.
But Tom did something more. He created new, innovative ways to explore our neighborhood.
- He wrote a program that took the photos and information found on the Town’s Assessor’s online database and combined it seamlessly with the historical info in the Massachusetts Historical Commission database. For the first time anyone could search for houses in town by architectural style, value or architect. Real estate agents loved it and he received an award from the Preservation Commission in 2008.
- He developed an intriguing exploration of the Old Burying Ground on Walnut Street with maps and extensive descriptions of each burial plot including photos and the text of inscriptions on each tombstone. When a featured historian failed to show up for a tour of the Burying Ground Tom filled in giving an informative tour that, by all accounts, bested the scheduled speaker.
- When the 2010 census became available he built a data chart linked to an interactive map. With ease you could graphically see how any part of Brookline changed in the last ten years with respect to many variables– age, race, relationship or size of household.
Tom is no longer actively involved with HSHA but as we launch our new version of our website we want to thank him for all he has done for this neighborhood. His efforts have helped us build connections with our neighbors and pride for the special place we live. He has graciously allowed us to copy the content that he assembled and we will have links to his special Brookline projects that are now on his own site.
Over the last few years our website has essentially remained frozen and lately it has become apparent that, without Tom, we haven’t been able to make necessary improvements. But now with the help of Acron Street neighbor Brian Grossman and some of the HSHA board members, we are making the plunge.
You will find a new look, added content and a much-needed discussion board on which we can network with each other on a variety of topics. It is very much a work in progress though and we expect that everything will be a bit rough as we teach ourselves how to update content and monitor postings. Please let us know where corrections need to be made and tell us how we can improve. As with every other event or activity in the HSHA we expect this to be another example of neighbors helping neighbors.
– Rob Daves