A solid stack of sacks of potatoes, made of cast stone, looks as though it’s been wedged within a small, random slice of sidewalk off the side of a Boston Highway. A nearby plaque, featuring the words “potato” and “potatoes” in various sizes scattered across its top half, explains why.
The monument memorializes the potato sheds that once stood along the river. From the mid-19th century up until they were burnt to a crisp in the 1960s, the storage sheds lining the railway lines in the Millers River Basin were stuffed full of potatoes. Over the span of their lifetimes, the sheds were temporary homes for millions of the tasty tubers.
The massive potato sheds rooted throughout the area were beloved fixtures of the Charlestown neighborhood. Locals took weekly trips to stock up on the surplus of starchy spuds stored inside. Sadly, after the sheds burned down in 1962, they were never rebuilt; the plans for their reconstruction never even fully hashed out. Supposedly, the scent of smoky baked potatoes lingered in the air for weeks.
Millers River, a small estuary which feeds into the Charles River and now runs beneath the I-93 overpass, used to be an important transportation center. Railway lines traced its shores and boats once cruised its waters.
The majority of Millers River has been clogged with a mash of landfill, the once-thriving waterway now largely converted into land. A public art project, a revamped pedestrian walkway called the Millers River Littoral Way, celebrates the area’s historic past. The potato memorial is part of the project and marks where the storage sheds were once located.