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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

Finding a Future for a Little Farmhouse

March 21st, 2012  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance


Lewis Farmhouse ca. 1900/Photo credit: Arnold Arboretum archives

Lewis-Dawson Farmhouse sits at the edge of the Arnold Arboretum┬áin Jamaica Plain. Visible from Centre Street, it was originally built for the caretaker of the Arboretum and is still owned by Harvard University. It is a rare surviving house from its era (early 1800s), and is in relatively good shape. (It always reminds me of the children’s book, “The Little House,” with the big city growing up around it!)

Back in 2005, Harvard released plans indicating that it wanted to tear down the house to make way for…a maintenance shed. For obvious reasons, the Alliance and many neighbors objected. Following years of outcry, Harvard relented and called off the bulldozers. Community residents, led by the Jamaica Hills Association, petitioned the building for Boston Landmark status, and succeeded in seeing the building designated in 2007 thereby protecting it in perpetuity. (Hooray!)

But landmarking does not a development project make, and here we are in 2012 with a little building that remains vacant. While it has been “buttoned up” pretty well, an empty building is always in danger of vandalism, fire, animal infestation, and various other problems. The good news is we’ve recently been chatting with the Arboretum’s new director, and he seems quite fond of the place. We’re just starting some conversations, brainstorming, and beginning to bring the right people to the table to envision a new future for this great little building that so clearly just wants to be loved.

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One Response

  1. Shelby Larsson says:

    I am so glad to hear that the new director is interested in finding a good use for this building! I have always loved it, and think that with a bit of creative thinking and good planning, it will be a great asset to the arboretum and to Harvard. Thanks for keeping us up to date on this important landmark.

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