Opinion

Jourgensen: The Lynnway’s enduring enticement

For all of its gaudy neon billboards and waterfront hidden behind a sewage treatment plant, a Walmart, and a dairy company, the Lynnway remains a palette for visionaries, urban planners and elected officials intent on turning it into Lynn’s primary economic engine.

It is a commercial roadway, but unlike business thoroughfares like Route 114 or Route 1, the Lynnway rarely gets referred to as Route 1A even though the state road winding its way down the North Shore to Revere includes the Lynnway. Technically the Lynnway is, from a planner’s perspective, a parkway with its status as the entranceway from the General Edwards Bridge into Lynn and its median island dividing the northbound and southbound lanes running in and out of the city.

It borders on remarkable to consider how the Lynnway has resisted change over the decades and somehow defied the designs of planners and municipal and state officials’ schemes to redefine it.

Just over a half century ago, the Lynnway in many respects was the same collection of car dealerships and gas stations with a scattering of industry and restaurants mimicking its appearance today. Of course, the business names have changed and a once-dominant Lynnway occupant — the EM Loew’s Open Air Theatre — is long gone, but the road’s biggest change in 57 years is that traffic on it has increased.

In 1962, the end of the Lynnway developers and planners like to refer to as South Harbor included Gould’s Rent-A-Scooter and the Charter House motel. A drive down the road took you past Sea Crest Cadillac and Cargill Motors and the Lynway Diner before you drove by the former West Lynn Creamery site.

Some 1960s sights along the Lynnway would be familiar to today’s drivers. Harbor Auto Sales still anchors a slice of the roadway and the Lynn Gas & Electric works complex is now National Grid property.

The Lickin’ Chicken restaurant, Varley’s Diner and White Whale are gone but Dunkin’ Donuts is still going strong on Lynn’s main thoroughfare. The same can be said for the Lynn Yacht Club, although the former ski shop at the base of Sagamore Hill is gone along with the Surfside Pharmacy and the Redwood Lounge. Anybody remember Lynn Beach miniature golf?

Today’s amplified focus on the Lynnway includes a bold plan dividing the roadway into North, Central and South focus sites for potential development and intensifying attention on Garelick Farm’s next incarnation as a major tenant on the roadway.

To the casual commuter, the Lynnway remains the same as it’s ever been even though it saw significant changes in recent years with Kettle Cuisine’s occupancy and the conversion of the former boat landing at the end of Blossom Street extension into a dormant ferry terminal.

But if past is indeed prologue, then the Lynnway has an enduring track record of defying transformation and dreams and schemes. It remains an appendage of the 20th century — a place accessible by automobile that — by definition, may resist change for some time to come.

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Once again the Friendly Knights of St. Patrick have demonstrated their unlimited capacity to help people in need. Their annual dinner Thursday at Hibernian Hall provided an opportunity to honor the Knights’ choices for Irishman of the Year and Solimine Community Service and spotlight the Knights’ success in helping local student Shaneil Nelson.

The Knights stepped up last year to help the former Lynn Vocational and Technical Institute student who described her struggles with homelessness and the challenge of commuting to school from a shelter.

Friendly Knights Chairman William McDonald said Nelson earned A’s and got into Boston College. The Knights helped ensure her success by raising $20,000 to provide their biggest scholarship to date on behalf of Nelson.

The Knights’ dedication epitomizes the true spirit of Lynn and the fact that people who love this city and have succeeded in it appreciate and support the struggle of others.

 

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