Monday, March 11, 2013

The Nawn Factory: a Redevelopment Opportunity Whose Time Has Come

Located adjacent to the Eustis Street Burying Ground in Roxbury, the Owen Nawn Factory is a reminder of Roxbury’s commercial industrial past. Built in 1880, it is a modest two-story vernacular factory building exhibiting no particular style. It was named for its owner, Owen Nawn, an Irish immigrant and Roxbury contractor who was responsible for building much of the Metropolitan Railway and some of the elevated transit line and related structures at Dudley Station in 1901. Along with Eustis Street Burying Ground and the Eustis Street Fire House, the Owen Nawn Factory is located in the Eustis Street Architectural Conservation District established by the Boston Landmarks Commission in 1981.

 Other than its original use as a contractor’s office, the Owen Nawn Factory has been home to a locksmith shop, a blacksmith, a cabinet maker, cigar manufacturers at various times over the years, a horse shodder, carpenters, and was used as a stable and for the storage of flour, straw, hay, and grain. However, the factory has been vacant for nearly 40 years and though it has suffered considerable deterioration from several fires and exposure to the elements it is in good condition and has already undergone preliminary stabilization by the Commonweath of Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. The building was constructed in various phases of multi-wythe brick load-bearing perimeter walls with a cast-in-place concrete slab at the first floor and clear spanning heavy timber wood framing at the second floor. The original heavy timber roof framing was replaced in the 1990s as part of an important stabilization program. The back two-thirds of the original building have been demolished though the foundation walls remain in place and the existing first floor concrete slab has been capped to protect it from the elements thus allowing for the rebuilding of a new structure. Many of the existing historic windows, while boarded up, remain in place.

Located at an important neighborhood gateway from the South End and Lower Roxbury to Dudley Square, developing and repurposing the Owen Nawn factory is an opportunity to feature important historical moments of Roxbury and generate more pedestrian activity in Dudley Square. Previous studies have contemplated its use as an orientation center. The relationship of the Nawn Factory to the recently renovated Eustis Street Fire House, together bookending  the Eustis Street Burying Ground,  presents a unique urban spatial opportunity. As Dudley Square continues on the path of neighborhood revitalization, regenerating the Owen Nawn Factory preserves  an important urban feature of Roxbury. 

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