Friday, October 31, 2014

Historic Substation Powers Roslindale's Future

Writer Matthew J. Kiefer is President of HBI and a partner at law firm of Goulston and Storrs. 

You sometimes find treasure in unlikely places.  An electric substation is not the first place you’d ordinarily look to help redefine a neighborhood, but the Roslindale Substation is special.  From the first time our board and staff walked through its monumental bronze doors into the industrial cathedral within, we couldn’t stop thinking about how to re-purpose this remarkable piece of orphaned infrastructure.

Electric trolleys transformed Roslindale from a rural village into a streetcar suburb after it was incorporated into the City of Boston in 1873.  Just as streetcars made Roslindale possible, electricity made streetcars possible.  The Roslindale Substation was one of several built by an MBTA ancestor to house equipment that converted alternating current into direct current to run the trains.

Designed by a prominent architect, Robert Peabody of Peabody and Stearns, and built in 1911, the Substation reflected the pride Bostonians took in the new machines and technology—sewer pump stations and waterworks are other examples—that helped turn a cluster of country towns into a manufacturing metropolis.

Transforming Dorchester North Burying Ground

It is All Hallow’s Eve this week and in honor of the true meaning of the occasion, guest blogger Kelly Thomas, Director of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department’s Historic Burying Grounds Initiative, updates us on the extraordinary preservation projects her program has been undertaking to restore and maintain Dorchester’s oldest burying place, in Upham’s Corner. 

The Dorchester North Burying Ground is Dorchester’s earliest remaining landmark. It is the burial place of some of Dorchester’s most prominent founding citizens. It is also one of seven seventeenth-century burying grounds in Boston. First laid out in 1633, it is the final resting place of two colonial governors William Stoughton, who was also Chief Justice during the Salem witch trials of 1692; and William Tailer. It also contains the graves of John Foster; the first printer in Boston; minister Richard Mather; 40 unknown Revolutionary War soldiers; and three African-American slaves.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mayor Thomas M. Menino, 1942-2014

HBI honors the life of our Advisor, Mayor Thomas Menino, and extends heartfelt condolences to his family.

We are grieving, but deeply grateful for his unwavering support and service to our city.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Explore the Rich History of First Church Roxbury on November 16th

Clear your calendar and join the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry for a special afternoon at the historic First Church of Roxbury in John Eliot Square (10 Putnam Street). The program presents planning underway for an extensive rehabilitation to preserve the 1804 structure, Boston's oldest frame church and transform it into an active center of civic and cultural life in Roxbury.

Special guest speaker is Rev. F. Washington Jarvis, Roxbury Latin School Headmaster Emeritus, who will speak on the rich history of the congregation that first gathered there in 1632, helped establish Harvard College in 1636, and founded Roxbury Latin School in 1645.

Preservation expert and former HBI board member Andrea Gilmore of Building Conservation Associates, will discuss the larger historical context and the social and cultural importance of Meetinghouse structures in New England town life. 

Architect Don Mills of Mills Whitaker Architects, will discuss some of the results of his recent assessment of the building and the preservation opportunities presented by this elegant and well-preserved structure.
A festive reception will follow in Putnam Chapel, immediately adjacent to the Meetinghouse. Everyone is welcome. For more information about the event, please contact Annie Stubbs at or 617.318.6010 x205, or visit

Textizen at the Vertullo Building

Guest blogger Brian Goodman is Innovation and Systems Manager with the City of Boston’s Office of Business Development. 

The old joke says that a true local will define a space by what was once there, rather than what exists there now.  You've probably heard it before: "You know - the bakery, in the old Woolworth's building?"

Neighborhoods change.  The right use for a particular space changes; it's as dynamic as the community the space serves. But the retail mix in our neighborhoods can both shape and be shaped by its residents.

As it completes the rehabilitation of the historic Vertullo Building at 74-84 Fairmount Avenue, Historic Boston Incorported (HBI) and the City of Boston’s Office of Business Development are deploying Textizen, a web platform that collects SMS data from local residents to inform decision-making, to see what happens when shoppers in the Hyde Park Main Streets district have a voice in filling the available retail storefronts at Vertullo.

HBI has hung posters in the windows of the empty storefronts that direct shopper to text their preference for the type of retail uses they'd like to see fill one of three available spots. Voting is a simple as texting in your preference to a number shown on the poster.

This may benefit the retail leasing process in several ways:  residents can communicate their preference to the property owner (HBI); HBI can better target its outreach to potential tenants; HBI can support demand potential in talks with prospective lessees; and a new tenant will have an early lead list generated from the voters.

If the initial trials are successful, the City will be looking for ways to expand the model and use polling to create more visibility for other available commercial spaces in Boston’s neighborhood business districts.

If you live in Hyde Park, be sure to swing by the Vertullo Building and cast your vote, or view the poster below and cast your vote remotely.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bringing the Brackets Back at Vertullo


Friday, October 10, 2014

New Information on the Life of Alvah Kittredge

Since HBI’s dedication of the Alvah Kittredge House in August, we’ve been regularly asked “Who was Alvah Kittredge?”  

Fort Hill resident and Roxbury Historic Society member Jason Turgeon recently sent us links to several on-line books published by Eliot Congregational Church’s prolific 19th century pastor-writer A.C. Thompson.  Among these are sermons preached at the funerals of Kittredge and his wife Mehitable.  But the third, Eliot Memorial Sketches Historical and Biographical of the Eliot Church and Society in Boston had a very nice summary of Deacon Kittredge’s life in Roxbury and is filled with many other interesting profiles of Roxberians of that era. 

Click here to see the book and read more.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Upham’s Corner Comfort Station – The Time has come for a Resurrection

The City of Boston has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the redevelopment of the 611 Columbia Road Comfort Station in Upham’s Corner. Located adjacent to the Dorchester North Burying Ground which is a Designated Boston Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property is being offered through the Commercial Disposition Program administered by the Department of Neighborhood Development (DND).

The Comfort Station (a polite term for restrooms) is a one story stucco and tile Mission Style building that has been unused since 1977. Built in 1912, it was designed by architect William Besarick, who designed the Roger Clap School on Harvest Street and the municipal building at the corner of Columbia Road and Bird Street as well as many triple-deckers throughout the area. Besarick also designed the George Milliken House, at 44 Virginia Street, which is a Boston Landmark.