The Old Kenmore Square
The current incarnation of Kenmore Square has many detractors who much prefer the preceding phase, the one where Rathskeller (The Rat) and Deli Haus were major institutions. The block now taken up by Hotel Commonwealth consisted of a brownstones that were home to apartments and a number of businesses, from chain restaurants like Au Bon Pain and Dunkin Donuts to rather sad dollar stores. There was also an old-fashion barber where patrons could flip through issues of Playboy before getting a value-priced hair cut, as well as a shoemaker and a liquor store. Cornwall's, which now resides in a posh and sprawling space on the north side of the square, was a rather dingy hole-in-ground type of place.
As a resident I found the most useful establishment to be the laundromat in one of the basement spaces. It had a succession of owners, the of who was a Vietnamese family that also owned a laundromat in South Boston. They were terrific and easily the people I missed the most after the building was knocked down.
More famously, there was a quite popular IHOP restaurant right at the corner of Kenmore Street and Comm. Ave. It was where late-night revelers congregated for a last bite and where they would frequently re-gather much closer to noon to nurse hangovers and gossip about the previous night's exploits and happenings. It was quite a spectacle on weekends nights when an armed detail cop would man a rope keep the line orderly. It looked more like the entrance to a night-club than a rather unimpressive chain restaurant. When I visited the restaurant one evening in 1999 the kitchen was in effect closed because the cook had chosen not to show up. Such was the job market back then.
The sidewalk on the south side of Comm. Ave. was more narrow back then and crowds standing in line to enter the T would spill into the streets, forcing people who wanted to walk past them to venture even farther out in the street.
While their is a considerable amount of nostalgia over the old Kenmore Square, not all of it misplaced, I think it's fair to say that while parts of the new Square overshoots area demographics, the old Square under-shot them. It should also be remembered that the old Kenmore square was really the remnant of the even older Kenmore Square of 1970's vintage which, according to a landlord who lived through that era was quite a bit grittier than the one that preceded today's Kenmore Square.
The Lost Mural on IHOP
In the late 1990's some kids painted a mural on the east side of the IHOP building of various members of the Kennedy clan involved in shenanigans. The mural was removed within 48 hours and my camera was at the end of a roll so all I have to show of it are the two pictures below: