In the 1960s, a whopping 60% of Charlestown’s homes–many dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries–were proposed for demolition as part of urban renewal. Residents stood up and prevented this from happening. But now in 2012 a slate of recent demolitions of historic homes in Charlestown has many residents worrying again about the fate of the neighborhood.
Boston does have laws that can delay proposed demolition of historic properties for 90 days. Sometimes that’s enough time for community residents to persuade developers to explore alternatives to demolition or to take other actions to prevent it. But in the majority of cases after the 90 day period is up demolition proceeds as planned. Such was the case recently with a house at 44 Sullivan Street, a small working man’s cottage from the early 19th century–the community’s latest loss.
Unlike neighborhoods such as the South End and Beacon Hill, Charlestown does not have a local historic district in place. The vast majority of its small-scale, historic homes are not protected in any way. We’re strategizing with our friends at the Charlestown Preservation Society to see what we can do to keep more historic houses in Charlestown standing because the character of Boston’s oldest neighborhood is just too valuable to throw away.