Galway House Streetcar | Jamaica Plain Public Art

Artist: Chris Plunkett, a Boston-based artist born in Jamaica Plain.  In addition to creating, Chris also teaches visual art at Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury, MA. Chris has exhibited his work at over 15 locations across the Boston area, including Jamaica Plain Open Studios, Bella Luna Restaurant, and James Gate Gallery. He has been commissioned to create works at various Boston establishments, including Galway House and The Real Deal. His most recent art focuses on architectural structures and trees.

galway house jamaica plain

Location: Galway House, owned by Eddie Lanzillo. Opened in 1962 by Italian owners, who named the bar/restaurant Galway House because at the time all the bars had Irish names. Lanzillo was a regular at the bar before started managing food operations in 1980. He became sole owner in 2007.

green line galway door

Story Of The Art

Eddie commissioned Chris to paint a streetcar on what was originally a plain green door. It’s the old green line that went down Centre/South St to Forest Hills back in the day. The last stop was Arborway, but the tracks were paved over in 2008. Chris recalled that as a kid, those tracks in the road were tough to negotiate on a bicycle.

The door was all Eddie’s idea. Chris knew Eddie because he used to work in the kitchen as a teenager. One personal item Chris put in the painting is in the windshield of the trolly. It’s a reflection of the building across the street – the corner of Burough and Centre. He painted the reflection in the window as a nod to his good friend James Bruce who grew up on the top floor. He had a lot of parties there when they were teenagers, and putting it there is sort of a homage from Chris to his old crew back in the 90’s, back before JP got sort of “taken over” and before most of the guys Chris grew up with moved away.

Other random facts about the painting:

There were originally supposed to be 3 more lights built into it:  The two red reflectors on the top left and right were supposed to be actual red lights.

There was supposed to be a large light at the top of the trolley. It turned out to be too difficult to properly wire, but if you look closely you can see where Chris drew out the circle where it was supposed to go.

The trolley used to be orange before it was green. They still run that type of trolley out of Mattapan, and that’s where Chris did his research for the painting.

About the Green Line – MBTA Arborway Line

Streetcar service began on the Arborway line in the early 19th century. Jamaica Plain was one of the first suburban regions in America that had streetcar service to a major downtown. The line which ran along South Huntington, Centre St. and South St. was an integral part of Boston’s streetcar network for about a century.

On December 27, 1985 the MBTA “temporarily” suspended E branch service in order to execute two construction projects along Huntington Ave. In one project, the City of Boston rebuilt part of Huntington Ave east of Brigham Circle, where the Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) run on the street with the cars. The second project was to rebuild the portal (where the streetcars enter the subway) to allow for the then new and heavier Type 7 LRVs to run on the E branch. While the branch was suspended its service was picked up by a bus line that went from Copley Square to Forest Hills. (*the 39 bus)

In 1986 service was restored to the inner part of the line but terminated at Brigham Circle. Then three years later streetcar service was restored but only to the current terminus of Heath Street. This section is the only remaining section of street-running tracks in regular use by the MBTA. The section of the line from Heath St. to Arborway, to this day, has yet to be restored.

Today, in effect, the MBTA has phased out the Arborway Line between Heath St. and Forest Hills. Although it is still officially “temporarily” suspended, the perception that the line has forever closed has gradually strengthened. There was some hope for the defunct line during the Big Dig, but, like many things that were linked to the  Big Dig, nothing ever came of it. The T was supposed to restore service to this section in order to comply with the Clean Air Act which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. They were to eliminate the #39 bus and restore electric streetcar service. This has still yet to happen!