Friday, February 27, 2015

Boston Landmarks Commission’s 40th Anniversary Celebration Kicks Off on March 12th

Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently unveiled a series of free events scheduled throughout 2015 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Boston Landmarks Commission. TitledBLC XL, this anniversary series, features four seasonal programs celebrating Boston’s historic places and the progress made during the past four decades toward protecting and enhancing the city’s unique identity.

“For forty years the Boston Landmarks Commission has worked to safeguard the character of our beloved City, from its iconic downtown buildings to its many vibrant neighborhoods,” said Mayor Walsh. “I encourage residents and visitors to take advantage of the BLC’s free programming and join us throughout this anniversary year as we mark these truly landmark achievements.”

The BLC XL series begins on March 12, 2015, with a winter program in partnership with the Friends of the Public Garden. “A Spin in the Park,” invites the public is to enjoy a free guided tour of the Boston Common. On this early-evening ramble, the Friends will present the colorful history of the Common, a designated Boston Landmark since 1977, and their ongoing efforts to restore and maintain it. BLC staff will reveal how the Common’s significant fences, statuary and fountains help define one of the city’s foundational places. The “spin” through the park will then take to the ice with skating at the Frog Pond, where rental skates will be free to registered attendees along with a complimentary hot chocolate. Online registration is available here: 

Historic Boston’s Proposal Among Two Finalists for Upham’s Corner Comfort Station

There’s no finer place in which to make a presentation than Dorchester’s Strand Theater, and that’s where HBI, The American City Coalition (TACC) and bicycle entrepreneur Noah Hicks presented their partnership proposal for rehabilitation of the 1922 Uphams Corner Comfort Station to an audience of about fifty area residents on February 24th.

One of two active proposals for designation to development the historic building submitted to the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, the HBI/TACC/Hicks proposal for Bike-Kitchen, a combined bicycle repair shop and café, was warmly received by meeting participants. To see the Powerpoint presentation, click here. The other proponent for the property, educator Abram Auguste, has proposed the building as a licensed early education center by day that would double as a tutoring center for adults in the evenings.

Neighbors’ comments and feedback supported uses that would enhance the community’s access to the historic building and enliven the southeast side of Upham’s Corner’s Columbia Road with a community oriented use. The Comfort Station is surrounded by the 1630 Dorchester North Burying Ground and meeting attendees universally endorsed interpreting the history of the burying ground and Uphams Corner inside the Comfort Station.

The Ongoing Search for Early Images of Fowler Clark Farm

This mural in the living room of the Fowler Clark Farm depicts
an artists interpretation of the farm in earlier days 
Those who regularly read HBI’s blog have probably seen historic photos of all of our projects. Finding historic images can be a bit of a treasure hunt, but we’ve always been able to find some photo from the past – even for those buildings that are not especially architecturally distinctive or a Boston Landmark. Sometimes it takes a lot of digging and the image of the building is not always as clear as we’d like, but we find something. But after months of searching, we have not yet found a historic image of the Fowler Clark Farm in Mattapan.

The Fowler Clark Farm was designated a City of Boston Landmark in 2006, but no historic photos (more than 50 years old) appears in the Boston Landmark Commission’s study report, which was a pretty good indicator that old images of the farm were not readily available. We checked our most reliable sources (Historic New England, The Bostonian Society, Boston Public Library, Dorchester Historical Society, The Boston Athenaeum and The Dorchester AthenaeumMassachusetts State Archives, and more), but so far nothing has surfaced. It seems hard to believe that in the first 200 years of its existence on its original site, relatively untouched and on a major thoroughfare, no one took a photo of the farm or considered it “ancient” enough to photograph it as was common by the late 19th century. The house is a modest, vernacular farmhouse, and admittedly not particularly unique architecturally. But it stands out from everything around it because it still looks like a farm in an otherwise urban neighborhood. The Landmarks report declares it “a rare remaining, highly intact agricultural setting that typified the vernacular landscape of pre-Civil war Boston.” There must be a photo somewhere, but apparently not in the public realm.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Gibson House Museum: A Back Bay Treasure… and It Needs Your Help

Preserving significant historic homes and the stories they can tell is important work in the field of historic preservation. House museums, however, are one of the great challenges of the field because they introduce funding challenges not experienced when a home is in continued private use or repurposed for contemporary needs. And rarely are historic house museums of the level of significance that will attract all their necessary funding through visitor revenue in order to be self-supporting.

HBI staff recently received a behind the scenes look at the Gibson House Museum, and participated in a discussion with some of its board members on the challenges of last year with representatives of the this historic treasure in Boston’s Back Bay.

Built in 1860, the Gibson House was designed by noted Boston architect Edward Clarke Cabot in the Italian Renaissance style with an exterior of brownstone and red brick. Three generations of the Gibson Family lived in the house before it was turned into a museum in 1957. The widowed Catherine Hammond Gibson commissioned the house and soon after passed it on to her son, Charles Hammond Gibson who in 1871 married Rosamond Warren and brought her to live there. Rosamond was from a very distinguished Boston family and after Catherine's death in 1888 redecorated the house with Japanese wallpapers.

The Gibson family home was then passed to Charles and Catherine’s son, Charles Hammond Gibson, Jr. who, as early as 1936 decided to preserve the home as a museum. He was known to have roped off many areas of the home to prevent guests from sitting on the furniture. He even resisted any temptation to modernize the kitchen choosing to eat his meals outside of the house. The interior is filled with an abundance of the Gibson Family original furnishings including elegant wallpapers, furniture with original fabric, imported carpets, paintings, sculpture, photographs, silver, porcelain, curios, and other nineteenth-century family heirlooms.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hyde Jackson Square Main Street Chosen for National Preservation Program to Improve Energy Performance of Commercial District Buildings

This blog post was contributed by Gerald Robbins, Executive Director of Hyde Jackson Square Main Streets in Jamaica Plain.

Hyde Jackson Square Main Street (HJSMS) is one of the first pilot communities in the United States to participate in America Saves!, a national effort to improve the energy performance of historic buildings in Main Street communities while also encouraging investments and upgrades for greater efficiency and cost savings to local businesses.

Selected by The Preservation Green Lab of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Main Street Center, and funded by a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, HJSMS’ project—Centre Street Saves—is designed to support the commercial business district’s collective success by improving building performance and energy efficiency.

Friday, February 6, 2015

New Photos of Mayor James Michael Curley and a Look Inside His House

The Jamaica Plain Historical Society announced last week that it has purchased a cache of 900 photographs of the public life of legendary Boston Mayor James Michael Curley. See some of them here and visit the web site of the Society here 

In some of those photographs you’ll see bits of the interior of the James Michael Curley mansion in Jamaica Plain. A Boston Landmark, the Curley mansion is now owned by the George Robert White Fund and operated by the City of Boston. As we searched for more information about the house, we found this extraordinary video of the exterior and interior of the house made using laser scanning technology by students at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mayor Walsh names Rosanne Foley Director of Boston Landmarks Commission

Rosanne Foley of Dorchester was recently named Executive Director of the Boston Landmarks Commission. A long time neighborhood activist in Dorchester and a friend to history and historic preservation, Rosanne was most recently executive director of Fields Corner Main Street, advancing the revitalization and management of that neighborhood commercial district. 

Read more about Rosanne’s appointment here:

HBI looks forward to working with Rosanne and welcomes her to her new role!