Friday, May 27, 2011

A Golden Building Celebration in Fields Corner

On the first sunny afternoon in a long time, a crowd of nearly 100 well-wishers gathered in Fields Corner for the ceremonial ribbon cutting at the newly-renovated Golden Building.  Co-hosted by Historic Boston and Fields Corner Main Street, Mayor Thomas Menino served as the keynote speaker and presented Stephen Golden’s family and the tenants of the building with giant checks reflecting the City’s $75,000 grant funding that the project received.

HBI’s Executive Director Kathy Kottaridis, the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development’s chief Evelyn Friedman and Fields Corner Main Street, Inc.’s Evelyn Darling addressed the crowd, thanking the many people and organizations who played a key role in the project. 
In particular, project architects David Amory and TJ Hrabota of Amory Architects as well as contractor Kevin Piccinin of K&B Contracting were applauded for their outstanding design and construction services. HBI’s Senior Program Manager Jeff Gonyeau was recognized for his careful and hands-on oversight of both the predevelopment planning and construction phases of the project.

The theme of the day was how this project positively touched many people in the community.

Fields Corner Ribbon Cutting -

Fields Corner's Golden Building celebrates face-lift - Dorchester - Your Town -

Golden Building Face Lift --

Historic Boston Inc. and Mayor Thomas M. Menino just celebrated the major rehabilitation and restoration of the Golden Building in Dorchester, Historic Boston said.
The $320,000 project, which included giving the 116-year-old building a new facade, is designed to spur economic investment in the Fields Corner section of Dorchester, said Historic Boston, a nonprofit organization that works with local partners to identify and invest in the redevelopment of historically significant buildings and cultural resources in order to catalyze neighborhood renewal.

Second Historic Neighborhood Centers Project Begins in Fields Corner: The Lenox Building

Just as work is being wrapped up at the Golden Building at 1510-1514 Dorchester Avenue in Fields Corner, we are very happy to report that another Historic Neighborhood Centers facilitated project is now well underway a block away at the Lenox Building.
The lively, art deco style brick and cast stone façade of this 1920 building is a commanding presence on the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Faulkner Street, and this building represents one of the best examples of other masonry buildings of this era and style in the district.

Although improving this building was identified from the start as a neighborhood priority in the 2008 Historic Neighborhood Centers district work plan, HBI’s deep involvement here began early in 2010, when Linda and Jerry Quin—members of the Cappelletti Family Trust, which owns the building—began talking with HBI and Fields Corner Main Street (FCMS) about making significant improvements to the property.

HBI’s Jeff Gonyeau assessed the condition of the structure and prepared a preservation and rehabilitation planning document that identified important architectural features that should be restored and preserved. The plan also advocated the reversal of some unsympathetic changes to the exterior (such as removal of the over-scaled tenant signage that obscures the original sign band, removal of roll down solid security grates, replacement of the mismatched storefront systems at the corner, etc.) and identified various critical repairs that should be made, focusing especially on the brick and cast stone masonry.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Old Theory; New Theory: Student Research Sheds New Light on the 17th Century Roots of the Clapp House

The Clapp House in its modern configuration, fully built out with rear ells

This past semester, I was somewhat of a history detective for HBI. There has long been speculation that 65 Pleasant Street was built on top of the foundation of an earlier house that burned down. This is based on information from the Clapp family histories, written in the late 19th century. But when studying the history of buildings, isn’t it more valuable to look at what the building says, as opposed to what someone wrote about it over a hundred years ago? All too often, the age of buildings is determined solely by looking at records. As part an assignment for the Building Archaeology course in the Preservation Studies Master’s program at Boston University, I disregarded all of these written sources and relied on the building itself to tell me how it has evolved over the past 200 years. I worked with Robin Osten, a fellow grad student, on this project to not only fulfill the course requirement but to also provide HBI with a better understanding of 65 Pleasant Street’s significance.

Early maps are often a great resource for research, this one dates from the 1850s,
but doesn't tell us much about the way the house looked or how it was used
My theories about the evolution of the house are simply that: just theories. Without further investigation such as paint analysis, dendrochronology, and archaeology, we cannot definitively say whether or not these theories are true. But after several site visits, hundreds of photographs, and countless hours spent staring at the building plans, I think I have a pretty good idea of how the house came to look the way it does today. For the sake of this blog post (and your attention span), I’ll only discuss the myth about the early foundation. I believe that the Clapp family histories are indeed true: the house was built on top of the foundation of a 17th or 18th century house. Whether this was the 1636 Thomas Jones house, I cannot be sure. But there is evidence showing that there was once a hall-and-parlor plan house with a center chimney on this site. This early house faced the south, a typical configuration at the time, to capture as much heat from the sun as possible during the day. It was likely built as a one story house with a second story added at later time.

This plan shows the theoretical orignal house outlined in orange,
with the early version of the second house underlaid in black

This plan shows the full modern build-out of the Clapp House with all of its additions and ells
with the theoretical orignal house overlaid in orange
While working on the Clapp House, students of the North Bennet Street School discovered a small ramp in the basement, which they speculated was used for food storage. This ramp is directly below a room that once had a large fireplace with a bake oven, as evidenced by the framing of the chimney in the basement. Therefore, this room would have been the hall, which was an all-purpose room used largely for food preparation. The other room would have been the parlor, which was used for entertaining guests. If there were upper rooms, they would have been chambers where the family members slept at night.

The original Clapp house burned down in at the turn of the 19th century and a large portion of the house that now exists was built on top of the earlier foundation. The newer 1804 house we see today was built to face Pleasant Street, initially featuring an L-shaped plan with a symmetrical front façade and a rear ell. Eventually another rear ell was added in the middle of 19th century, followed by the filling in of these two ells and two more additions off the back of the house, bringing the house to its current configuration.

A post found in a closet helped Kate understand the configuration of the orignal house 
 By looking at the framing of the rooms and the location of posts, I was able to see how the rear of the house is composed of multiple additions that are framed independently from one another. By looking at the decorative trim on the interior, I was able to see where changes were made during early renovations. But the most interesting part of this process was trying to explain all the “quirks,” like the door behind the sink on the 1st floor, or the posts inside of closets in several different rooms, or the clapboards found on the interior wall in the second floor bathroom.

Watch for the full report to be posted on our website in the near future. It will take a substantial amount of analysis and expertise to fully understand how the house came to look the way it does today. But within the confines of a semester, I was able to solve quite a few mysteries about 65 Pleasant Street. I look forward to hearing other people’s theories and speculations- please let us know what you think in the comments below!

The author of this post, Kate Gehlke, is finishing up a graduate degree in Preservation Studies at Boston University. Kate is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and is enjoying living in Boston and has become a rabid Red Sox fan. She is particularly interested in preserving historic multi-family housing in greater Boston.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tour and Charrette Kickstart Dialogue about the Charles River Speedway Headquarters

In June, HBI will kick off its redevelopment feasibility study for the Charles River Speedway in order to assist the Mass.  Department of Conservation with site disposition and stewardship planning.  HBI participated in the Charrette hosted by the Boston Preservation Alliance and the Brighton Allston Historical Society last Saturday to learn more about the community’s ideas for future development.  The following post was written by Haley Wilcox of the Boston Preservation Alliance. All photographs below are credited to Jennifer Barrington.
The charrette crowd first gathered for a tour of the complex in the courtyard
The Charles River Speedway Headquarters, nestled in a busy intersection at Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Road in Brighton, has seen better days: the shingle siding is rotting, portions of the foundation are crumbling, and the windows are boarded up. But its condition didn’t stop a large crowd of Bostonians from gathering in the courtyard to take a peek inside the historic complex on Saturday, April 30. Fifty people, armed with flashlights and maps, snaked through the six interconnected buildings to get a glimpse of what was inside, use their imaginations, and begin to envision a new life for the ailing complex.

Participants toured the interior, including the old MDC jail cells
Built largely in 1899, the Shingle and Colonial Revival Style structure was part of the popular Charles River Speedway, a recreational long harness horse racing track established by the Metropolitan Parks Commission, an agency designated with the task of establishing park space in urban areas. The Speedway and surrounding parkland was well-loved by Boston residents, who used the space for casual strolls, bicycling, exercising horses, and even costumed chariot races. The track is long gone, but the Headquarters still stands as a unique reminder of its once thriving past.

After the morning tour, an enthusiastic group of neighborhood residents, architects, students, business owners, and others met at the Honan-Allston Branch Library to discuss the complex and brainstorm about possible uses. The charrette was hosted by the Boston Preservation Alliance and Brighton-Allston Historical Society, with participation from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC), and Historic Boston Incorporated (HBI). Information from the day will be considered by DCR and HBI as they work to put together a feasibility study for the complex over the next two months.

Charrette participants orient themselves with area maps
From the beginning of the discussion, one thing was clear: the complex is a well-loved place worthy of preservation. Its unique architecture and proximity to the river give it amazing appeal, and it has been an icon of the neighborhood that residents have hoped would be revitalized for decades. All the ideas for site improvements embraced the complex’s architectural charm: landscape design, structural repair, improving the central courtyard, improved pedestrian accessibility …the list goes on and on. With a promising discussion of possibilities for its future, renewed enthusiasm for its reuse, and increasing public awareness, the Speedway Complex surely has a bright future.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May is Preservation Month: This Place Matters!

HBI's Jeffrey Gonyeau and Michael Tilford hang a banner on the Old Corner Bookstore in downtown Boston
Historic Boston, Inc. is celebrating Preservation Month 2011 by taking part in a campaign to show the world a few of the places that matter the most to our organization. To publicize Preservation Month and to draw attention to Boston’s significant historic resources, Historic Boston is adorning buildings in downtown Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Roslindale and Hyde Park with our banners.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation created Preservation Week in 1971 to spotlight grassroots preservation efforts in America. The event became so popular that it has grown into a month-long annual celebration observed nationwide.

To kick off our quick tour of HBI's projects last Friday, we first hung the banner at our own building in downtown Boston, the Old Corner Bookstore (pictured above). 

Next, we traveled down Washington Street towards Chinatown to hang the banner from the stunning arched windows on the Hayden Building.  For more information on HBI's current project at the Hayden Building, see this recent blog post.

This next photograph was taken of the This Place Matters banner affixed to the bracing outside of the Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury's Fort Hill/Highland Park neighborhood.  Pictured are Kate and Peter, HBI interns, alongside a few neighbors of the Kittredge House. To learn more about HBI's involvement with the Kittredge House, see this recent blog post.

Our group then headed to Dorchester, where we adorned the ever-transforming facade of the Anna Clapp Harris Smith house with a banner. 

We then traveled down the road to Fields Corner, also in Dorchester, where another banner was seen first at the nearly completed Golden Building.  The kids upstairs at Dorchester Youth Colloborative (DYC) are excited about the building's new look, and were nice enough to pose in a few pictures with Senior Project Manager Jeffrey Gonyeau and DYC director Emmet Folgert.

 Next we traveled up Dorchester Avenue to the Lenox Building, where Jeff has been working with the owners to start a project similar to the work completed at Golden Building through HBI's Historic Neighborhood Centers program. Work on the Lenox Building is scheduled to begin this week.

Meanwhile, across town, we had some help from our partners at Lee Kennedy at the Eustis Street Fire House (above) and from the Boston Redevelopment Authority (and their bucket truck), who put up the banner on the Roslindale Substation (below).

As you can see, it was an eventful day, and we are excited to have our banners up on buildings across the city. The campaign encourages everyone to think about the places in Boston that matter to you, too. So tell us, what historic buildings or places matter the most to YOU in Boston? Let us know in the comments below and join Historic Boston in proclaiming “This Place Matters!" about the historic buildings and places in Boston that matter the most to you.