Features historical, recreational, artistic, and certified Atlas Obscura sites
(Somerville Wire) – As warmer weather arrives, a Somerville resident has compiled a map that highlights hundreds of attractions across the City.
“I hope it gets people walking and exploring,” Eric Haines said, a decade-long Somerville resident and maker of Somerville Sights.
The map, which features historical, recreational, artistic, and certified Atlas Obscura sites, (along with nearly 150 miscellaneous entries of varying notoriety), offers something for the adventurer, tourist, and odd-history buff alike.
Haines began building Somerville Sights in early March of 2023. It remains a work in progress, he said, noting West and East Somerville are underrepresented at the moment. “I appreciate corrections and additions, for sure. I’ve been enjoying hearing from people about the things I’ve noticed but don’t know about,” he said.
One site’s origin story that Haines noted is the Free Range Sculpture Garden, a collection of political, surreal, and comical oddities that line a portion of the Community Path. Local artists, Bob Smith and Nick Wyneken started the Garden in 2007 with the installation of its first sculpture, ‘Michelle the Woolly Mammoth.’ Smith reached out to Haines earlier this month by email to share a bit about the Garden’s start.
“[The sculpture] often got vandalized then finally burned to a heap of ashes,” Smith told Haines. “So we put another, and another, hoping other people would join in. They did.” Smith said. “Our goal was and is to inspire additional people to show their art, keep it free, alive, and fresh.” Smith noted he has no idea who some of the other contributing artists are.
A brief description from the Somerville Sights map sidebar reveals Haines is an “obsessive” explorer. In an interview with the Wire, he said he discovered many of the attractions while on walks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It became a habit. I’d take photos of eye-catching things. I added an entry to Atlas Obscura then added one to the old SAC art map. Seeing these other collections, I decided to put them all together into one idiosyncratic map,” he said.
Haines’ first foray into community mapping was tracking micro-pantries and community fridges throughout the city as food insecurity spiked during the pandemic. “This got me interested in what else I could map that people would find useful,” Haines said.
Now he runs a repository of community maps that chart attractions such as farmers markets, tiny libraries, and art studios in and around Somerville. The site also offers instructions on how to build your own map—a subtle call to action.
From the Somerville Sights map, Haines recommends visiting Martha Friend’s Sapphire City House, Kirk Tegelaar’s ‘DYANNA’ sculpture, and the koi pond on Howard Street, for “some unexpected calm.”
If you have questions, comments, or additions for the map, reach out to Eric Haines at email@example.com.
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Ryan DiLello is the staff reporter for the Somerville Wire