Arkham, the Legend-Haunted City
Arkham - Geography
The ground in this part of town slopes more or less steadily from the river until cresting along Derby street.
Derby and Curwen street, particularly near the intersection of Brown and Jenkin, boast a number of large Georgian, Classical and Victorian mansions. Most have large yards, often enclosed by stone walls and iron gates; estates along the north side of Derby may have extensive grounds.
South of Curwen street begins a commercial and financial area containing many professional offices. Landmarks include the seven-story Tower Professional Building, the Boston & Maine rail station, and Arkham’s two newspapers, the Gazette and the Advertizer.
Along High lane, stretching north of town, is a small industrial strip home to a few small factories, but in part abandoned.
Downtown is hillier than the Northside. Although the ground rises steadily north from the river, there are dips and ridges as it climbs. The town square is the most level part of downtown.
North of Curwen street this thickly-built neighborhood is mostly residential, and mostly lower class. The houses bordering the Common (the town square) on the north and east sides are stately mansions, but the homes behind them, topped with gables and gambrel roofs and built around 1820, are commoner and more crowded together. Arkham sanatorium was originally a huge Georgian double home built by the Pickering brothers, Paul and Thomas jr., in 1822.
Most of Arkham’s civic service are located on the west and south sides of the common (Independence Square as it’s formally known). They include town hall, the courthouse, the police station, aand the fire ahll. Most of these buildings were constructed in the mid-18th century in a classical style with large pillars and pediments; some have wings added later. Town hall is a four-story building of late Georgian/Federalist Revival design. Professionals, particularly lawyers and bailbondsmen, are found here, as are Arkham’s two major banks.
The Common is surrounded on its other sides by large an impressive Federalist homes built in the early 19th Century. Many have been divided into appartments or boarding houses.
A small area along Garrison street features good restaurants and a variety of family entertainment. This area may be busy on weekend evenings, unusual in Arkham.
Peabody Avenue, Fish Street, and Federal Street are lined with small shops and industries, constituting one of Arkham’s dirtier, smellier areas. A few local markets and diners also appear here.
The northern part of Easttown, above Whately Street, contains many fine old homes of pure Georgian design. These homes were built by Derbys, Ornes, Pickmans, and Pickerings – the sea merchants who made up Arkham’s first aristocraty. Most of these homes, unfortunately have fallen into neglect; as a whole, Easttown is seedy and decaying, some of it beyond repair. Of the few old Arkham families still residing here, most teeter on the brink of ruin.
Streets are of brick, 40 feet wide, and in some need of repair. Tree roots have so buckled and raised the brick sidewalks that walking in the streets are more comfortable.
South of Whately Street, the ground slopes sharply to the river. The homes are modest and tightly spaced, and the streets are more narrow. Those few negroes (as in the 1920s many prefer to be called) in Arkham live here, clustered together as every group in Arkham is except the old line Wasp majority. Some make a good living, and some are popular, well respected citizens who can trace their Arkham ancestry to before 1788, when the Commonwealth outlawed the slave trade. As a group, though, theu are poor and feel looked at and looked down upon.
A number of small businesses exist along Armitage and River Streets. Freight trains pass through day and night. Arkham’s last operating textile mill, steam-powered, can be found here.
This narrow two block-stretch lies on low, level ground near the river. Perhaps 75% of Arkham’s shops and stores can be found her: Church Street is the most important artery, and Main is of secondary importance. People ordinarily call such an area downtown; here they say instead “Goin’ to Merchant” since Downtown is a part of town north of the river.
The odd east church and West church are found here, and several rows of early 18th century Georgian-style warehouses line the river. These latter mostly stand unused.
The heart of the district is the long block bordered by Main, Garrison, Church and West Streets, where stand two- to four-story early-19th- century brick row buildings.
Church Street, from Main to West, is cobblestoned, originally laid down in 1773. Occasional alleys, barely wide enough for skilled truck drivers to get in and out of, give access to the service courts in the rear of the shops. These dingy courts are more often than not cluttered with crates, packing materials, and machines that don’t work but are too good to haul away.
River Street was once heavily trafficked by stevedores moving goods between docks and warehouses, but the stretch between Garrison and West Street is now abandoned to decades of litter, requiring skill for a driver to negotiate.
The two shopping blocks east of Garrison and south of Main are composed of shops housed in buildings older and less impressive than those along Church Street. Many are tightly-crowded converted residences. The tall Georgian steeple of Christ Church dominate the skyline.
The neighborhood’s western edge is of older residences, growing very old near boundary street. Boundary north of Church Street is unlit, north of Main the street is sparsely populated.
This section of town lies partially on the north face of French Hill, which slopes steeply toward the Miskatonic River before flattening at River street.
Inhabitants south of River Street tend to be French-Canadians or East European, the population becoming more and more Irish as the hill descends.
This is the old trade district of Arkham. Long-time outlets such as the Arkham General Store remain here. many of Arkham’s skilled tradesmen, native and immigrant, here combine homes and shops. The houses are modest, old, and built tightly along the streets. Most are sited with their ends to the street, the front doors opening onto small courts or lanes that lead to the street.
The campus area is an Arkham showplace. Landscaped and kept immaculately clean, the University grounds are a cool and shady place for a summer walk. Almost all of the University buildings are found here, including the hospital and the field house.
Like the Merchant district, the Campus is on low ground with noticeably climbs only south of College Street.
North of Crane Street and west of West Street is a block of substantial residence homes, designed in the Georgian/Federalist style. many of these large homes are no longer residences, but are maintained as offices by the University or other organizations. This block is as well-groomed as any other part of the campus.
College Street contains, beside Campus buildings, many old family homes, that have been converted to apartments and boarding houses, where live most of the Junior and Senior men who do not belong to fraternities.
West of Boundary Street are blocks of older, more modest residencies. Hill Street is an unlit dirt road underlain by a foundation of ancient rotting timbers, poking up through the road in places. Residents here lack sewers, and draw water from one of the three public wells along the street. This very rustic section of town contains many 17th century homes, and the families of the inhabitants have lived in them for ten generations and more, datable to the first settlement of Arkham.
French Hill, surmounted by the dark spire of Bayfriar’s Church, includes some of Arkham’s oldest homes. Still populated predominantly by Irish, brick row houses, gambrel roofs, and occasional decayed Georgian houses of impressive proportions line the hill. Some houses perch here precariously, tilting crazily over the narrow streets. many of the lanes and alleys are no more than flights of stairs that twist upward to end at dark doorways.
The more prosperous Irish live on the east side of the hill and down across East Street in newer, more expensive homes with small front and back yards. The north slope of the hill is populated by the poorest Irish, a few Poles, and many of Arkham’s French-Canadians. The western slope is mostly poor Irish and a few Poles.
The Polish district, an area of clustered gambrel-and-gable-roofed houses, is roughly the six blocks within College, Peabody, High, and Garrison, on the southwest foot of the hill.
Most of this neighborhood is well-off, but Salonstall and High Streets deserve the most attention. Perched terrace-like atop South Hill, overlooking campus and the river, these two brick streets are a full 60 feet wide and lined with fine shade trees. Mansions of Georgian/Federalist design, once mill-owner homes. line both sides of the streets from Boundary to Garrison. The houses are placed side by side, uniformly 12 feet back from the brick sidewalk. A small ‘green easement’ four feet wide is between the sidewalk and the street.
There is little space between the houses, although a few sport small gardens on the side. Descendants of the original families still own a own a few homes; University folk now own many of the houses. A few more have been purchased by organizations. Some are boarding houses or apartments. No commercial buildings stand in this area.
Police patrol here are frequent; loitering, particularly after dark, is not permitted.
Houses along narrower Pickman Street are of an earlier, more modest vintage. Here are numerous two-and three-story gambrel-roofed houses, mostly of wood, and many have been divided into apartments. Some are hidden behind other houses, reachable only by narrow alleys. Several older Georgian mansions stand out. Residents here include poorer faculty and older University students. These buildings are generally well maintained.
A few Georgian homes occur on Miskatonic- and Washington Streets but much of this area was built up in the later 19th century, and consist of larger Victorians owned by middle-class property-owners and professionals. Some old Arkham families live here.
Hill Street is unlit and little lived-on. Houses here are ancient, tottering affairs, sagging under moss-grown gambrel and gable roofs. Some stand vacant; most are without electricity, gas, or town water. The dirt street is underlain by timbers laid down lifetimes ago.
Old, disused farm buildings can be seen, half-fallen and overgrown; hidden along luxurious trees and high-standing grasses are long-abandoned gardens and the remains of old family plots. This area has yet to be incorporated. Residents get water from wells scattered along the street.
Here are narrow, twisting lanes an crowded tenements. Some Irish and Poles live here, but from High Street south the area is mostly Italian.
The Southside is located on low marshy ground in a pocket between French Hill and South Hill. The air is muggy in the summer, cold and damp in the winter. Most of the wood buildings show sign of decay. A few single homes still exist. On Powder Mill Street, south of Saltonstall, stand several good examples of 18th century wooden row houses.
Badly lit, always the subject of calls for reform but never changing, the neighborhood is overcrowded, noisy, and inhabited by some of Arkham’s poorest citizens. Tiny shops, markets, and restaurants can be found here, often unmarked and known only to neighbors, pressed in between tenements and apartments.