Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rats, filth and disease go unchecked at Conigliaro Industries - the ugly side of recycling

     (April 20, 2014) One afternoon as I was driving over the Fountain Street Bridge, I was curious what might be behind the secretive plastic screening. What I observed was disturbing. There is an enormous number of rats running around the mattress materials to be recycled. There is a total lack of control to manage the enormous piles of rubbish, old mattresses, foam and other materials at this recycling center. The materials are soaked with the bodily fluids of vermin. How can Conigliaro Industries be allowed to continue such a business near homes and areas adjacent to Cushing Park? The owners don't appear to be responsible neighbors. What has the town done to inspect the property over the years?
    The photos taken that day are illustrated further down this article. Conigliaro Industries is reported to be owned by the same families who owned the now bankrupt New England Compounding Center (see news information at end of article).

Conigliaro Industries, See Company website by clicking this caption.

     For enlarged video:

     How long are the mattress and foam materials stored outside before being shredded? Where do these mattresses, foam, soft materials go? Who accepts these materials for recycling? Do these materials end up as "new" mattresses and bedding materials? What companies purchase the materials from this recycler? Would you buy bedding products knowing materials came from this recycling business?

Along the State train lines are large concrete blocks stacked over 10' as wall to contain as much debris as possible. Are these walls permitted by the Town? Note spillage onto CSX property.

Examples of the rats scurrying through bedding material. Hundreds of rats hide among the debris and run out on sidewalk. Read Conigliaro Industries' pamphlet regarding processing mattresses for recycling by clicking on this caption.

Materials stockpiled by 10' + concrete blocks walls along the train line. Is this permitted? Why haven't authorities inspected this site?

Read Industry Newsletters about Conigliaro and recycling:
"Junk in, products out - Conigliaro Industries takes recycling to another level"
"Recycler diverts beds from Massachusetts sites"
"Conigliaro expands its mattress recycling program"

Would you want your children on a field trip to this recycling business?

New England Compounding Center: read about Conigliaro Industries' other business now closed permanently:
Boston Globe (January 22, 2013): Owners drew $16m from pharmacy tied to deaths
Boston Globe (December 21, 2013): $100 million agreement close in meningitis outbreak case
CBS Boston News: New England Compounding Center

Rats spotted outside fenced area and on sidewalk

Aerial view of Conigliaro Industries and New England Compounding Center

 Read Framingham Patch article dated January 12, 2015

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A bit of Southside History: Old South Cemetery

It may be no surprise if you have passed Winthrop Street and missed the Old South Cemetery. St. Tarcissius Cemetery is the one everyone in Southside seems to know. But the Old South Cemetery is just across the street. It was established in 1824.  It's a hidden, scruffy gem of tombstones of people who lived as far back as the mid 1700s.  Some noted names are Haven, Bowditch, Eames, Pratt,  ..... The personal names seem familiar as they now are remembered in street names and places.
     I welcome any information you can provide regarding this cemetery and those who are interred here.
     Please email me at - George Lewis

Photos of the Saint Tarcissius Cemetery (across the street from the Old South Cemetery) can be viewed here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A bit of Southside History: Most famous 19th-century woman inventor

     Margaret E. Knight (February 14, 1838 – October 12, 1914) was an American inventor. She lived at 287 Hollis Street at the corner of Charles Street in Southside. She has been called "the most famous 19th-century woman inventor" having been the first woman to be awarded a United States Patent. Margaret Knight held a total of eighty-seven U.S. Patents.

Curry Cottage (c. 1875), at corner of Hollis and Charles Streets, was home of Inventor Margaret E. Knight from 1889-1914
     She was born in York, Maine. Her father James Knight died when Margaret was very young. She went to school until she was twelve and worked in a cotton mill between ages of 12 through 56. In 1868, while living in Springfield, Massachusetts, Knight invented a machine that folded and glued paper to form the flat bottomed brown paper bags familiar to shoppers today.
     Knight built a wooden model of the device, but needed a working iron model to apply for a patent. Charles Annan (see footnote at end of article), who was in the machine shop where Knight's iron model was being built, stole her design and patented the device. Knight filed a successful patent interference lawsuit and was awarded the patent in 1871. With a Massachusetts business man, Knight established the Eastern Paper Bag Co. and received royalties.

For more information and diagrams of Patents please click on the image
Patent model of Margaret Knight's machine for making paper bags, 1879.
Collection of the Smithsonian Institute.
     Margaret Knight was awarded the Decoration of the Royal Legion of Honour by Queen Victoria in 1871. A plaque recognizing her as the "first woman awarded a U.S. patent" and holder of 87 U.S. patents hangs on the Curry Cottage at 287 Hollis St in Framingham
     But what about the story of the shopping bag, you ask?
     In the age of street vendors and sprawling town markets, shoppers carried purchases in their own baskets and bowls. It wasn’t until the early 1800s, writes Pamela Klaffke in Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping, that stores began to provide packaging themselves. The mass production of paper had cheapened the cost of wrapping, and stores would use string to create makeshift handles.
     Stores also carried out their own deliveries. At the turn of the nineteenth century, shops offered free delivery as part of a marketing tool. By the 1910s, gas-fueled cars and trucks began to replace horse-drawn buggies. Stores soon started to paint their trademark colors and logos on the trucks, writes Jan Whitaker in Service and Style, as a prototype to the mobile advertising of shopping bags. As people started to increasingly own their own cars, they needed carts and shopping bags.
     The shopping bag as we know it evolved piecemeal. In 1852, a schoolteacher named Francis Wolle invented the paper bag, which was originally envelope-shaped and ridiculously flimsy; nineteen years later, a cotton-mill worker named Margaret Knight invented a machine that could efficiently produce these bags.
     Margaret Knight never married.  She died at Framingham Hospital in October 12, 1914 and was buried in Newton, Mass.  It seems that she never saw great wealth from her inventions, but rather sold the rights to them to companies for immediate cash.  However, we will be beholden to Margaret E. Knight as long as the flat-bottomed paper bag remains in use.

Footnote: Charles Annan, a man who was visiting the factory, stole her idea and tried to get a patent on it. Instead of backing down, Margaret filed a patent interference suit against him. She spent $100 a day plus expenses for sixteen days of depositions from herself and other witnesses. Annan’s defense? He claimed that because Margaret was a woman she wasn’t capable of understanding such a complex machine. Margaret’s offense? Her detailed notes, diary entries, and trial and error samples validated her creative process. The court ruled in her favor. "I'm not surprised at what I've done. I'm only sorry I couldn't have had as good a chance as a boy, and have been put to my trade regularly."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A bit of Southside History: General Motors Assembly 1947-1983

      Framingham Assembly was a General Motors factory in Framingham, Massachusetts which opened in 1947. The plant was built on the location of Framingham Airport (1931-1945), and ground was broken in 1945. The plant cost $12 million and was one of three new plants that year. At one point, the Framingham Assembly plant was the largest automotive manufacturing plant in the state, employing over 1,500 workers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire

100,000th car to be built in the GM plant in Framingham. The picture is dated Feb.8, 1950
     The first vehicle, produced on 26 February 1948, was a Buick, with 23,388 more produced that first year. The factory was used by "BOP" (Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac) and produced 697,574 cars by 1959. In August of that year, it became part of Fisher Body, producing Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile cars.
     The factory was re-purposed again in May, 1968, changing from separate Fisher Body and Chevrolet Division operations to a combined operation under the new GM Assembly Division, to produce the Chevrolet Chevelle and Pontiac Le Mans. The Buick Skylark and Oldsmobile Cutlass were added in 1970, and the Pontiac GTO was added the next year. In 1981, the Chevrolet Celebrity and Pontiac 6000 were produced, with the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera added for the 1983 model year.

Buick Advertisement

     The Framingham location was the center of several contentious tug-of-wars between Governor Michael Dukakis and local politician Anthony M. Colonna. After the town refused to sell General Motors a 35-acre town owned piece of property GM desired for the construction of a new paint and plastics facility, Dukakis used the state's power of eminent domain to take the property from the town and sell it to GM so the company could construct the $224 million facility. Colonna, head of the town department public works and a powerful local politician, had desired a new, unified DPW facility to constructed on the site. After the taking, state officials and executives at GM claimed that Colonna used his political influence in the community to delay the company's expansion of the facility and drum up support against the company.
     When the facility was closed, GM stated that it was due primarily to a slowdown in the economy as well as the relatively small size of the facility. However, GM spoke person Mark Leddy stated that local officials in Framingham were also partially to blame, declaring "You look at your labor climate, your relationship with the community and the quality of product being built at the plant" when explaining why the company chose to shutter the unit.
     The plant was idled on October 4, 1982, with a single shift recalled on March 14, 1983. The second shift started again on December 12, 1983. The factory was closed permanently on August 1, 1989.

           A small landfill formerly used by General Motors at the site still exists and is part of the "Old GM", the left over portions of the company after the 2009 bankruptcy. Racer Trust, the administrative trust overseeing the former corporate assets has the property up for sale as of June 2012, but does not expect a buyer due to the (contaminated) nature of the facility. The facility is now the location of an ADESA automobile, truck, and boat warehouse and live auction site. The company claims that the facility is the largest indoor auction house in the world, capable of housing 10,000 autos and 4,000 people.

Map of South Framingham. Main roads are highlighted. Land owned by General Motors is at bottom center of map.