One of the disappointing realities of historical signage campaigns is the signs themselves just don’t have all that much impact unless you know what you’re looking for. We expect them as part of any normal historical preservation effort, but a discreet metal plaque on a wall with some dates – it’s sort of anti-climactic.The backstory’s usually better told in detail, told aloud.
At the same time, it’s a surprise to learn that the Sylvia Plath’s first residence doesn’t have a marker. No ‘Sylvia Plath lived, slept here.’ Nothing. The author of The Bell Jar and the book of poems, Ariel was born in a Boston hospital on October 27 of 1932.
Plath biographer Peter Steinberg commented below: “Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, at a building at the corner of Harrison Ave and Stoughton St (02118) at what is now the Boston Medical Center. The building where she was born was still standing a few years ago and presumably still is. Sylvia Plath was not born in JP, she just lived there. Plath’s brother Warren, however, was born at the Faulkner in JP.”
This blog is a not turning into a historic buildings blog in a here’s your obscure, picturesque Victorian of the day sense. Don’t worry.
But for now, more on that house: It’s on JP’s Prince Street. The home’s a fairly non-descript suburban stand-alone with a porch, near the Arnold Arboretum. A convenient walk for Plath’s father, a Boston University botanist who studied bees.
Plath’s family moved to Winthrop when Plath was four. As an article in the Jamaica Plain Gazette muses (this is the real fodder for your imagination):
Had she lived there longer perhaps her nautical poem “Point Shirley,” which poignantly details the coastal terrain of Winthrop, where the family moved, would instead be about the Arboretum or the historic Unitarian Church in JP center, where the family worshipped. Perhaps the seacoast iconography would have been replaced by images of the spartan Jamaica Plain Monument or the undulating terrain of Forest Hills Cemetery. [link added]
That would be different. See photos of all Plath’s homes throughout her life collected at Steinberg’s website sylviaplath.info. Thanks to him for the correction.