Friday, April 26, 2013

See the Newest Images of the Hayden Building!

If you have not yet seen the interior of the newly redesigned Hayden Building, now is your chance to see the newest images of these hip new apartments. All photos courtesy of John Horner Photography. Furniture courtesy of Design Within Reach, and paintings courtesy of L’Attitude Gallery.
For More information on the Hayden Building, and to find out how you could live in one of these apartments, visit

Visit the Hayden Building during Downtown Crossing’s Self-Guided Home Tour May 11th

On Saturday, May 11th, from 11 am-4 pm, discover why 8,000 people call Downtown Crossing home during our inaugural "Downtown: Home Where The Heart Is" home tour. Residents at ten different homes will open their doors to showcase the best of living downtown. Stops along the self-guided tour, designed to highlight the amenity-laden construction that is transforming Downtown Crossinginto one of Boston's premier residential neighborhoods,include:

To purchase tickets for the tour, please click here.

(A portion of the proceeds will go to the One Fund Boston, established to aid victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.)

BID Logo Lo Res

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Easements 101: What is a Preservation Restriction?

Guest Blogger Brian Pfeiffer of Preservation Advisory Services, consultant to HBI on easement management, begins a series of four blog posts on preservation restrictions and their importance to historic preservation and their value to donors.   HBI holds seven easements, mostly on properties where the organization has made significant investments before selling to a private owner.    
The Austin Block, one of HBI's Easement Properties

What is a preservation restriction?

At first glance, the idea of Preservation Restrictions may seem confusing.  The question arises, “How can one give away a portion of property rights?”  The idea, however, is quite simple.  We are accustomed to the arrangement by which portions or property rights are routinely granted for various purposes.  Landlords grant a portion of property rights - the right to occupy and use a defined space - to tenants for finite periods of time in exchange for payment of rent.  Similarly, many property owners are familiar with easements by which a neighbor may own the deeded right to use and maintain a driveway to provide access to his or her property which would otherwise be inaccessible.  Utility companies acquire rights to extend power lines across private properties in order to serve the larger good of the surrounding neighborhoods.  In the case of such easements, a power company may own the right to place poles and enter a property to maintain lines, while the property owner may surrender the right to build on that portion of the property but retain the right to maintain a lawn and use the space for recreation.  Such arrangements are common to provide practical, tangible benefits to communities. 

A Tale of Two Churches / Foot Warmers & Blankets

HBI hired Mills Whittaker Architects to complete comprehensive assessments of conditions and systems at two important frame churches in Boston -- First Church in Roxbury and Second Church in Dorchester.  As that work draws to a close, Don Mills continues the Tale of Two Churches with a focus on staying warm efficiently in these two large meetinghouses.

First Church in Roxbury
A Tale of Two Churches / Foot Warmers & Blankets
Don Mills, Mills Whitaker Architects LLC

Gone are the days of foot warmers and heavy blankets in church, but thedraft-reducing box pews and challenges of temperature control are still present in two of Boston’s oldest wood-framed historic meetinghouses.  Condition assessments for First Church in Roxbury (1804) and Second Church in Dorchester (1805) have included reviews of heating system improvements since both churches struggle with this same issue that has confronted New England congregations since the early days of voluminous worship spaces.  Funded by Historic Boston Incorporated, the assessment of these two significant religious facilities has been performed by Mills Whitaker Architects.

In the case of First Church, a pair of undersized oil-fired furnaces located in the uninsulated cellar heats the existing sanctuary.   Earlier coal-fired furnaces, though deteriorated, are still present.  Delivering hot air via uninsulated ductwork to randomly spaced floor registers dating from multiple time periods, the space comfort from the existing furnaces is far from ideal.  However, since the facility does not host a congregation at the present time, the sanctuary is only used for special events and the heat is normally turned off.  The church proper is one of three interconnected buildings, including the 1876 Putnam Chapel and 2004 Urban Ministry Center, both of which are heated and in constant use.  There is now a keen interest in resurrecting the usability of the church for meetings of all kinds, and key to that success is the provision of a viable heating system that is appropriate and affordable.  Working within the constraints of limited resources and the historic facility, replacement of the furnaces with gas-fired units, insulated ductwork and other improvements are recommended, along with keeping the space above freezing when not in use in order to adequately protect interior finishes that need to be restored.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Armory for Sale

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bronson Pinchot in Roxbury: Why I Love the Greek Revival Park I

Actor Bronson Pinchot has an irrepressible enthusiasm for Greek Revival houses.  His passion is evident in his DIY Network show The Bronson Pinchot Project, which documents the revitalization of his 1840 Greek Revival home using architectural salvage.  Bronson recently learned of Historic Boston’s plans to rehabilitate the 1836 Greek Revival Alvah Kittredge House in Roxbury from Restoration Resources owner Bill Raymer, and decided to come to Boston to see the house for himself.  Bronson, Bill Raymer, and carpenter Joe Pohida toured the Alvah Kittredge House last week with HBI project manager Lisa Lewis, searching for potential salvage that HBI won’t be able to reuse in our renovation. We asked Bronson to write a guest blog post explaining why he loves Greek Revivals.  He happily obliged, but because he has more to say than we can fit into one blog post, promised to return with future guest posts.  Here is part 1.

There are two ways to cut a dashing figure. One is to go out and buy nice clothes. The other is to haunt the gym and build up your body ‘til it excites comment whether you are wearing a tuxedo, or a t-shirt and jeans, or nothing at all. 

Greek Revival is the only style in all of American architecture that takes the second course of action.

The rest is all pearl necklaces on boxy bodies.

I have seen remnants of 16th century domestic architecture in Florida. These are endearingly blocky boxes. I have seen pilgrim century survivals in Massachussetts--pointy asymmetrical saltboxes; Colonial townhouses in Portsmouth--weather-boarded boxes with elegant broken arch overdoors; Federal piles in Maryland and Virginia, which are semi-transparent boxes with calligraphic mullion tracery and reticent classical details in shallow relief.  American domiciles of the 16th through very early 19th centuries are always touching, often poetic, sometimes ethereal, and always boxy.

Around 1825 American architecture puts aside the tiara and the satin sash, plunks itself down on the bench press and pumps up its chest and shoulders. Out juts the portico supported by splendid columns and capital capitals--the sober Doric, the iconic Ionic, the flowering Corinthian and the palm-leaf-and-acanthus Tower of the Winds. It is a statement as audacious, as commanding and as thrilling as the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. 

In the 1850’s corbels and gable-edge rick-rack creep in. By the end of the decade columns disappear and we are back to boxy cakes with Italianate icing. But between1825-1850 Greek Revival reigned supreme. That is why in its day it was known simply as “The National Style.” Mark Twain described early 19th century America as a landscape of “molasses-candy colored Parthenons.” Which is why in the next installment I shall discuss the utter wrongheadedness of painting these structures in pale colors--like my own blindingly white Greek Revival home. 

--To be Continued.

May is Preservation Month- Mark Your Calendar for This Keynote Event: Better with Age: Old Houses, New Energy

May 2-Preservation Month Keynote Event
THU | 6 PM8 PM      TALK

Old Houses, New Energy
Please join Mayor Thomas M. Menino to launch Boston’s city-wide celebration of National Historic Preservation Month. Boston's neighborhoods of older homes are distinctive among American cities. Find out how to save money by making your old house energy efficient while preserving its historic character and value. Presentations will address where to start and what items to prioritize. Information will include energy auditing through blower door tests and thermal imaging and how to tune-up old windows to outlast replacement windows and provide energy savings. Case studies will cover solar voltaic and solar hot water installations. Speakers will share best practices and additional resources.

May is Preservation Month! Mark Your Calendar for This Keynote Event: Better with Age: Greening Historic Commercial Buildings

MAY 23 Preservation Month Keynote Event

Better with Age: Greening Historic Commercial Buildings          
Historic preservation is crucial to Boston’s continuing commercial redevelopment. Revitalizing historic buildings ensures that Boston remains unique among American cities, with blocks of historic downtown commercial buildings. Three presentations will showcase recent adaptive-reuse projects that meld historic preservation and sustainable design treatments. These projects are LEED-certified and they utilized historic tax credits. While the three historic buildings are very different, the techniques employed to increase their sustainability are replicable and will be explored in this presentation by members of the projects’ design and development teams:

May is Preservation Month!

May is Preservation Month, and all of the neighborhoods of Boston will be a part of the celebration. Once again, the Boston Landmarks Commission has organized a fantastic calendar of events. Check it out, and make sure to take part in as many of the festivities as you can.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Boardwalk Appeal Round 4: The Developer’s Argument

While the initial tax court disagreed with the IRS’s position in Boardwalk, the appeals court sided with the IRS, agreeing that the corporate member of the HBH project partnership assumed virtually no risk in joining the project.  Instead, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that the corporate member’s lack of a guaranteed return contingent upon the success of the project combined with its automatic allocation of tax credits was tantamount to a guaranteed repayment of its capital contribution to the partnership.  The corollary then, according to the Third Circuit, was that the corporate member was not a true partner in the project for federal income tax purposes. 

In its petition, HBH forcefully refutes the notion that the corporate partner was not at risk and argues that the Third Circuit’s findings contradict both the tax code and previous case law.  In fact, it points out, the Supreme Court previously held that a legitimate partnership exists so long as the parties merely intended to conduct business together and share in the profits and losses of that business.  And while the corporate member of the partnership may have lacked a guaranteed return hinging on the success of the project, it was entitled to a preferred return based on the cash flow of the partnership.  In other words, the petition insists that the corporate member sufficiently bound itself to the fate of the project to qualify as a legitimate partner.

Hayden Building Turnaround Killed the Boston Phoenix

This note was found afixed to a door in the Hayden Building,
and has been kept by HBI as a souvenir of its Combat Zone days
A little overly dramatic, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but this isn’t really an April Fools Day post. 

Curbed Boston this week cited the Hayden Building’s restoration as the last gasp of the edgy Combat Zone on Lower Washington Street – now the fast-growing “Midtown” – and the end of the edgy advertising that, Curbed says, kept the Phoenix afloat.  It won’t be the first time we’ve been accused of gentrification; but we know that – no joke -- had HBI not intervened on the Hayden Building 20 years ago, it just wouldn’t be there right now.  Change is a fact of life, even for historic buildings.