The Last House on Third Street was Harry German’s Home

April 14, 2011
By

The photograph above freezes in time forever what I have described as The Last House on Third Street.

Where this three family home once stood was the heart of immigrant melting pot Chelsea in the former Ward 2 District.

It was taken by Chelsea photographer Arnold Jarmak about 1980, when the city was coming back to life after a precipitous decline that had begun during the Great Depression and which intensified following the disastrous October, 1973 fire.

That home was built in 1908, a few months after the Great Chelsea Fire, which destroyed a vast part of the city 113 years ago this week on April 12, 1908.

This was the German home and in it resided the Germans – Harry, Sidney, Betty and their parents, Sam and Etta.

Harry, who was a well known man in this city from the time of his youth, and who served on the Chelsea Redevelopment Commission, died on April 6 following a lengthy illness.

He was in his 80’s. The last years of his life were spent confined but at ease inside the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home on Lafayette Avenue.

In his own way, Harry was a free spirit – a guy who did only what he wanted to do for much of his adult life.

He was a Chelsea High School graduate who later trained at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy as a pharmacist but didn’t bother with that for very long.

He was always moving fast – walking fast, talking fast, thinking fast, off to the next place before you had a chance to digest what he was talking about.

For many, many years he loved taking long rise in his automobile.

“I drove to Montreal last week. I drove to Canada. I drove to Maine. I drove to New Hampshire. I drove down to New York City,” he’d tell me after each trip he had taken.

He always drove alone because above all, Harry German was a loner.

He was alone in his own thoughts. Alone in his own ways. Alone in every respect.

He never married. He never had children. I don’t believe he ever had a long romance.

His love was his life and his parents and sister and brother until they died.

He enjoyed his friends and the wide number of places Harry could be found in Chelsea during the course of a day.

He’d stop in to city hall, to the old Chelsea Record office on Fourth Street, to Pressman’s Delicatessen when it was on Everett Avenue, to the Broadway National Bank when Mr. Tierney, Sr. was presiding and in the various dying synagogues that remained in the city of this era.

He was eccentric in every way – and a bit political.

After receivership ended, he ran for public office, winning a spot on the newly formed city council.

When the time arrived to be sworn in, he refused and resigned the seat.

One of his great passions as he grew older was the Jewish Cemeteries in Woburn, which he made every effort to care for.

When his automobile died sometime during the 1980’s, he stopped driving.

As much as he loved moving through time and space in his automobile, he gave it up.

He went into his walking phase.

He could be seen in the Chelsea of this era long past walking furiously wherever he was heading.

He was a slight man, trim and fit, very much alive and awake, aware and intelligent with brilliant blue eyes and red rosy cheeks and a fair complexion. He was always dressed in a brimmed hat, sports coat, shirt and tie, dress pants and leather shoes and a raincoat – even if it wasn’t raining.

He talked fast.

Words came out of his mouth a bit like a machine gun spits bullets out of its barrel – prodigiously fast and furious.

Harry was not a poor man. In fact, he had substantial bank accounts and was fully capable of banking his money and protecting it.

With Harry’s death last week, the Germans are all gone, like the era they grew up in Chelsea is all gone, like the home they grew up in which has been gone for almost 30 years.

It is all gone, gone, gone.

Harry lived in The Last House on Third Street and was still living in it when Jarmak took the photograph of it.

That house stood right where the TJ Maxx stands today in the Marketbasket Mall.

Today, not even a curbstone remains to remind viewers of what came before in this city.

This entire neighborhood, once Chelsea’s teaming, immigrant melting pot, with dozens of cobblestone streets, small markets, storefronts and three decker homes for as far as the eye could see, bears not an ounce of resemblance to what it used to be.

Neighborhoods and eras come and go but usually something remains to remind us of what came before.

With Harry German gone – the last train has pulled out of the station.

No trains are to follow.

Such is life.


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