Thursday, September 30, 2010

Commercial Casebook Selections from St. Marks Area Main Street District

Last week, we introduced St. Mark’s Main Street district on the blog, where HBI has been working to compile information for our growing Commercial Casebook. Today we share some of the buildings that are included in the St. Mark’s Main Street district chapter.

Through HBI’s work in St. Mark’s, we discovered that the district’s historic buildings reflect three broad categories of building types. There’s an impressive assembly of late 19th and early 20th century three story mixed-use buildings that emulate the Boston three-decker, housing retail businesses on the first floor and residences above. There are many one-story early 20th century cast stone commercial/industrial blocks that house retail operations. And there are several prominentinstitutional and religious buildings concentrated mostly near Peabody Square that developed to support the late 19th and early 20th century development of the St. Mark’s area. While there are several very significant and well known historic structures in St. Mark’s, HBI chose to look at buildings that are threatened, underutilized or whose rehabilitation might prove a catalyst for broader economic revitalization.

Here at Historic Boston, we often look towards the contextual buildings that make up our city’s architectural fabric. Some may question the significance of these buildings and many are surprised that an organization that focuses on historic preservation would ever take a second look at some of the buildings found in the Commercial Casebook. However, HBI feels that a rehabilitation that focuses on uncovering some of the lost or altered architectural features, paired with a strong, thoughtful plan for the building, can produce district- changing results.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Commercial Casebook: Profile of St. Mark's Area Main Street

As the project manager for Neighborhood Field Services, Shelby Graham is compiling what we refer to as the "Commercial Casebook", which identifies pivotal historic resources in Boston's neighborhood commercial districts whose preservation will contribute to their neighborhood's character and future economic growth. Shelby also seeks to build relationships with neighborhood representatives and property owners, giving them a link to HBI should they wish to pursue a redevelopment project or need technical support. After a year of this work, HBI has created a valuable compendium of historic commercial buildings in Boston's neighborhood commercial centers, which we hope will be useful to policy makers, property owners, local organizations and city-wide preservation leaders going forward.

Over the summer, Shelby worked with St. Mark’s Area Main Streets in south Dorchester to pull together information about the district for Commercial Casebook and found a very interesting neighborhood with a range of different building types from distinct periods.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Building a Foundation at 65 Pleasant Street

Editor's Note: This week's blog post comes to us from Ward Hamilton, of Olde Mohawk Masonry and Historic Restoration. Mr. Hamilton is the principal of the firm and has performed many masonry preservation projects throughout New England.  Olde Mohawk has been working on stabilizing the foundation of 65 Pleasant Street over the past few weeks. Below, he shares a bit of his experience with the project.

The photos below show the work being done on the foundation wall- including a "before picture" of the foundation dangerously bulging in the basement, and the "after" picture of the repaired foundation.

When it comes to rebuilding a section of collapsed foundation wall, post and beam structures pose challenges that modern, stick-framed structures do not. With stick-framed houses, floor joists span the tops of the foundation walls and the walls of the building sit on those joists; support the joist, support the house above. Pretty straight forward, right?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Keeping Track of Boston's Historic Buildings: the Roslindale Substation

Historic Boston keeps track of at-risk historic buildings in Boston, even if the time isn’t right for their preservation. In 1980, HBI published the first Preservation Revolving Fund Casebook to identify a group of buildings that were both historically significant and threatened by demolition, neglect, or development. While some of those buildings have succumbed to development pressures, happily, many of the buildings that we have identified over the years have been rehabilitated or are in the process of being redeveloped (including the Eustis Street Fire House, which was included in the 1985 Casebook). Regardless of their fate, Historic Boston has been closely watching certain historic buildings for decades, and often gets involved when there is a need.