Boston History

Back Street Art

Original artwork by Cortney Skinner

The research and preparation for painting the three views of the Edwards family property on Back Street in the North End of Boston as it may have looked in 1775 (see video below) was a collaborative, intensive, and continuous process. As new information was found, adjustments were made to the ongoing paintings. With the help of historical specialists, tax records from 1798 were found that revealed details about the buildings. (For example, we learned that the Edwards house was 1,140 square feet, 3 & 2 stories, had 25 windows, and was valued at $3,000.) The 1798 Clough Atlas of Boston helped to lay out the basic placement of the property lines and locations and footprints of the structures.

In some cases, the details of the buildings are conjectural, but based on historic examples. In other cases, 18th century buildings no longer surviving were preserved in 19th and 20th century photographs and provided reference for recreating the structures.

To get the perspective view for how the buildings looked from the viewpoint of the painting, in one case, a model was built upon the map of the 1798 Clough Atlas. In other instances, a digital 3D model of the neighborhood was created, so that a virtual “walk-around” of the properties and buildings could be used to get the view that was desired. Several references were used for the citizens of the North End of Boston. Historically clothed models, and photographs were used in each instance.

One April in Boston

A streaking light in the sky and the future

In the children’s book One April in Boston, on the evening of April 19, 1775, Ben Edwards and his cousin Betsey spot a shooting star from the Edwards family property. Betsey asks if it has anything to do with her future. Ben doesn’t think so but says it might be in their family’s future and he wonders where that would be. They both wish they could see where it landed.

Later on in the story, in 1905, we meet Ben’s great-great-grandson Philip Edwards who lives in the Millville section of Naugatuck, Connecticut. Every time Phil walks to Long Meadow Pond with his fishing buddies John and Warren, he looks through the lens of his ancestor’s spyglass at a large rock along the roadside called the “star stone” that is the basis of a local legend. Members of the community believe it is a meteor that fell to earth shortly after the town was first settled in 1765. To learn more, listen to the two excerpts from the One April in Boston audiobook below.

The artwork transitions from day into night

illustration of Ben and Betsy Edwards

Ben and Betsey Edwards on the evening of April 19, 1775