By Bill Shields

BOSTON (CBS) – From the 1950s to the mid-1980s, Boston’s West End was the home to the original Boston sports dynasty and the old Boston Garden was the centerpiece of that neighborhood.

Former Celtic Cedric Maxwell remembers what the area looked like when a cab dropped him off at the Garden for the first time back in 1977.

“Drives up to this thing that looks like a barn and I said, ‘What [is this]?’” he recalled.

The old Boston Garden. (WBZ-TV)

Originally built as a boxing venue in the 1920s, by the time Maxwell got there, it was already well worn.

“Probably the biggest thing about the Garden was the smell,” he recalled.  “In those days smoking was still allowed, but that wasn’t the worst of it. “It (basketball season) was always after the circus. You would get this stench that was unbelievable.”

The stench of the Garden inside was matched by the darkness of Causeway Street outside.

“What you had was the train line that ran over,” he said.  That elevated MBTA line essentially created a roof over the street. Maxwell remembers dirty water dripping down onto pedestrians below. “This place was not a pretty sight.”

Cedric Maxwell recalls his times playing at Boston Garden. (WBZ-TV)

In the West End of that era, the Garden was tucked between the Central Artery (Boston’s other Green Monster) and the Madison Hotel, which came down in a few seconds in an implosion demolition back in May 1983.

Another piece of Boston history missed by many late-night snackers: Buzzy’s Roast Beef. For years it served up sandwiches near the Charles Street Red Line stop. It closed without warning back in 2002.

“I remember as a kid coming down here 2, 3 in the morning,” one man recalled the day Buzzy’s closed.

A look at some of the history in Boston’s West End. (WBZ-TV)

The small building came down during the development of the Liberty Hotel. The land was actually purchased by Massachusetts General Hospital and is now a small park.

“When you think of it, nobody lived here,” Maxwell recalled of the neighborhood surrounding the Garden.

But that’s changing. Today you’ll see people walking their dogs and returning home to one of the many new residential buildings on Canal and Friend Streets. And the new development, Hub on Causeway, has more residential buildings, a movie theater and a grocery store.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this to happen,” explained Pete Colton, owner of the Fours restaurant, a favorite hang-out for some of the Celtics and Bruins players back in the day.

The newly renovated TD Garden. (WBZ-TV)

According to Colton, change is good.

“Tourists love it. They love coming here, there’s a couple from Scotland over there,” he said pointing across the bar.

Maxwell, who is now a broadcaster for 98.5 The Sports Hub, covering the Celtics, says he loves the new vibe of this neighborhood, but admits part of him misses the way things used to be.

“I do miss Red (Auerbach), and all my friends. Nostalgia is one thing. I understand that things are going to grow and move on but this is really a completely different view right now,” he said.

Bill Shields

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