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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

A Teardown Trend in Charlestown?

April 28th, 2012  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

44 Sullivan Street Before Demolition / Photo credit: Charlestown Preservation Society

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.

44 Sullivan Street During Demolition / Photo credit: Charlestown Preservation Society

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.


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5 Responses

  1. Sfephen Spinetto says:

    My wife and I live in the small Federal house on the left. The developer claimed the the house was beyound repair, which was just not true. The houses being torn down are being replaced by horrible buildings usually with the ground floor being garage doors. We are very quickly losing one of the most unique neighborhoods in this country.

    • Sarah Kelly says:

      We’re doing what we can to stop this trend, but it’s tough because we have limited regulatory tools at our disposal. But we’ll keep at it, and we’re gathering momentum with support from people like you who live in the neighborhood and care deeply about it. Thanks. Sarah

  2. Mary Walsh says:

    My family has lived in the houses that abut this property in the rear since 1923. I watched with sadness the demolition of a house and elements of a lovely garden that could have been saved, be sacrificed with complete disregard to any sense of history or proportion. From my perspective sitting on my yoga deck, once the roof decks go on, it is 4 1/2 stories tall. I helped fight the demolition of the neighborhood when SHOC (Self Help Organization of Charlestown) was active in the ’60s. Too bad the worship of “bigger is better” is once again rampant to the detriment of the physical character of the neighborhood and the lifestyle of the inhabitants. This building has completely overtaken what was until now a quiet oasis. It will take some doing for this structure to blend in, if ever. Very unfortunate.

    • Sarah Kelly says:

      Mary, Boston was so lucky to have people like you fighting the good fight in the 60s! We’re working hard with some folks in the neighborhood to make sure it wasn’t all for nothing. Charlestown’s beautiful, historic charm is loved by so many and we’ll do what we can to see that it isn’t lost. Sarah

  3. Nancy Liberman says:

    It’s not just the teardowns, there’s an overall disregard for any sort of historical zoning to maintain the look and feel of our very charming town. The Warren Street high rise discussion, the Sullivan Street project and the numerous other examples are attempting to remove all of the appeal and legacy of the area.

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