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Gertrude Stein might agree: -ectomy is an ectomy is an ectomy

File this one under “why not?”

It’s not a new item, but it made me go wow…

A while back, I read that Vornado Realty Trust left a big hole in Boston’s Downtown Crossing …after demolishing Filene’s Basement.

That was “wow” #1 (not a good wow): Gertrude Stein smelled a rat when she wrote, “there is no there there,” which I’m freely marrying to her “rose is a rose is a rose” to say that “-ectomy” is an ectomy …is an ectomy …is an ectomy.

In another context, we might easily just call it a hatchet job.


Realize, dear reader, that Filene’s Basement was surmounted by a venerable piece of architecture, … namely Filene’s. (… ^Illustrated above)

Alright, I admit to an attachment to traditional (old) department store architecture: it’s a built form that has tons of embedded intelligence, and yep, it’s one of those built forms that, once you tear it down, it’s gone. And it takes a huge chunk of civic and urban history with it.

But alright, let’s move on: since it is already torn down – and the new project is not being built – at least (for the love of it all) put something interesting and striking (and bloody useful!) in its place (even temporarily).

Like this:


Arthur Dent, faced by a Vogon destroyer, might wonder, “what the hell is that?” – but you, dear reader, can rest easy knowing that it’s made-by-humans it could be made by humans (if, that is, it weren’t left unbuilt, and if, that is, humans could overcome their imagination-deficit). What is it? Bio-Fuel Growing Eco Pods [to] Rejuvenate Stalled Boston Project (Sept. 2009).

One can dream. In the waking interim (knowing it’s not gonna happen), some juicy links to the doings of Vornado (and its CEO Steven Roth):

Mayor Battles Vornado in Boston

Downtown Crossing’s money pit

Menino threatens to oust Filene’s site developer

Boston Mayor Blasts Vornado’s Roth Over ‘Blight’ Speech

Is City Truly Wise to Vornado’s Roth Deliberately Stalling Filene’s?

Curbed New York’s articles tagged “Vornado”

All in all, if you read through those links you’ll see that Steven Roth and Vornado have done a heck of a job – the company has given development a very very bad name. That by itself should get them a black eye. That this company has taken out department stores (like Filene’s and Alexander’s) and the social history they embody makes it even worse.

PS: I was going to write a “part 2” to last night’s post about Salim Jiwa’s talk at Social Media Club Victoria. It will have to wait until a later date – I want to gather my thoughts about this, and have had no time to do so today.


  1. OMG!

    Comment by melanieb — May 27, 2010 #

  2. Yeah, I know – it (the bio-fuel growing eco-pod thingy) is a pretty freaky-looking contraption. But as an intervention, it’s fantastic. Of course it’s only a concept – who knows what it would actually look like, were it built!

    Comment by Yule — May 27, 2010 #

  3. […] night, while I was scribbling away on my “-ectomy” post, the spouse and son popped My Man Godfrey into the DVD player. We’ve all seen the […]

    Pingback by » Women in movies: where are they? Yule Heibel's Post Studio © 2003-2010 — May 27, 2010 #

  4. I remember shopping at Filene’s as a kid. We lived in Montreal and my dad had taken a course at Harvard one summer. That meant we all drove down to Boston when it was time to pick him up. One of the places we visited that weekend was Filene’s. I still remember the dress and red sandals my mom bought me!

    Looking forward to your follow-up piece on Social Media Club.

    Comment by Cindy Stephenson — May 27, 2010 #

  5. Yes, the thrill of the hunt at Filene’s Basement, especially if you lived there and could haunt the place regularly, to check on a coveted item you hoped would drop another 10, or 15, or even (gasp!) 70%! Only the downtown Filene’s Basement was up to snuff – the suburban ones were too clean. The downtown store was crazy, with the basement being its own universe in the bowels, and a more luxurious (regular) retail trade on the floors up above…
    Can’t believe that building is torn down.
    (For anyone not familiar with Filene’s system: merchandise would initially be marked 10 or 20% off, with a dated sticker. As time passed, the price was reduced in 10% increments each week. If you were lucky, you could “stalk” your item over the weeks and, provided no one else came along and bought it, buy it at a ridiculous mark-down. Fun. This system was taken to other stores, some of which had nothing to do with clothing retail. In Manchester-by-the-Sea, for example, there’s a furniture/bric-a-brac consignment store started by a couple of women whose husbands worked in the Financial District downtown: they called their store The Stock Exchange (haha). They adopted the same strategy, meaning that if you caught it right, you could buy that antique credenza for a song. Shopping really can be fun!)

    Comment by Yule — May 27, 2010 #

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