Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Remembering the Spanish American War in Roxbury. Do You?

As we earlier blogged, Historic Boston is not the first group to reuse a Boston fire house. In fact, we aren’t even the first group to reuse THIS fire house at Eustis Street. During the first few decades of the 20th century, the Eustis Street Fire House was occupied by a different group of public servants: Spanish American War Veterans.

As firefighting technology advanced quickly in the last decades of the 19th century, fire houses built to house handheld equipment were modified with stables to accommodate horse-pulled trucks. However, as bigger and more automated equipment came into use, the tiny fire houses of an earlier era could not house the new machines. New, larger fire stations were built and the smaller fire houses were left vacant or reused. In 1916, Ladder 4 in Roxbury moved to the new station on Dudley Street. It was at this time that the City leased the Eustis Street Fire House to a Spanish American War Veteran post.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Q&A with Susan O’Connor of the Timothy Smith Network

Editor’s Note: Historic Boston is thrilled that the Timothy Smith Network will be joining us at the Eustis Street Fire House as our first floor tenants. This week, we took the opportunity to get to know the organization a bit better by speaking with their Executive Director, Susan O’Connor.

Historic Boston: Who was Timothy Smith, and how was the Network formed?

Timothy Smith Network: It is fitting that the Timothy Smith Network is moving into Dudley Square because Timothy Smith, who was a wealthy Roxbury merchant, made his fortune in Dudley Square in the late 19th century. He resided in Roxbury for most of his adult life, was a life trustee of Roxbury Latin School, a member of the Boston Athenaeum, and a deacon at Eliot Congregational Church. When he and his wife, Mary Ellen, both died in 1918 their last will and testament specified that the proceeds of their bequest be utilized to benefit the highest number of residents of the “old” City of Roxbury which at the beginning of the twentieth century included parts of Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and the South End, along with the present day Roxbury. Although the Smiths could not have imagined technology centers named in Mr. Smith’s honor, their foresight set the stage for a quiet revolution that would occur in Roxbury eighty-seven years later.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Moving forward through the past

Editor’s note: The following post was contributed by Brian Willet, principal at History Improved, a construction company specializing in renovation, revitalization and preservation of historic structures. History Improved has recently conducted selective demolition to help HBI and the North Bennet Street School identify structural issues and learn more about the way 65 Pleasant Street has changed over time.

Stories of old houses often talk about hidden treasures; whether it’s gold buried in the backyard or money hidden in the stairs during the Great Depression. Most “treasures” found in old houses are not nearly so glamorous. Many times a prior owner has simply lost an item. When she was eight, my wife found a gold and amethyst broach while walking through a plowed field at her family’s farm; a lost piece of family history, perhaps? Sometimes it’s everyday objects that have no value, but now connect us to the past, such as finding someone’s family photo that was slipped into a wall. Discovering these objects seem to erase time, connecting us with the past. Finding everyday objects of former residents extends their life to the present and allows us to imagine living in the past.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Update on the Eustis Street Fire House

After a terrific groundbreaking ceremony at the historic Eustis Street Fire House in May, you may wonder: where’s the construction? Historic Boston Incorporated is ready to go, but some land access issues related to our abutter, Harrison Supply Company, have prevented the closing on our loans and financing. HBI is working with the owners of Harrison Supply’s site and the City of Boston to secure an easement for access over 300 square feet of land along the side of the fire house that will allow us a secondary egress from the rear of the fire house once preserved. We also need temporary construction period easements for the period of construction. These are all being resolved with representatives of Harrison Supply and their bank.

Sadly, it’s a little more complicated than we’d like, but with the active participation of the BRA and DND, we’re getting closer and would like to assure everyone that it is only a matter of time before we get beyond these legal matters and underway on site. Our goal is to start in September. Anyone should feel free to call Lisa Lewis here at HBI (617 227 4679) with questions or concerns. Thank you, as always, for your ongoing support.