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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

5 Fast Facts about the Kittredge House Rehabilitation

The Alvah Kittredge House, Roxbury

September 17th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part three of a series of posts that provides a behind-the-scenes look into each of the ten projects that will be honored at the Boston Preservation Alliance’s 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards.

The Alvah Kittredge House has gotten major media love in the months since its completion – and it’s easy to see why. The now-rehabilitateded, three-story Greek revival building is gorgeous, boasting a prominent porch with six ionic columns, floor to ceiling windows on both floors and a gleaming façade.

What adds to the finished project’s appeal even more is how far it has come – the formerly grand home was a dilapidated eyesore for decades before Historic Boston Inc. (HBI) took on the rehabilitation after tracking the building for roughly 25 years. Though the building has been restored to its previous status as a residence, today’s layout features five apartment units – the purpose of the building has evolved to reflect the needs of Roxbury today.

There’s a chance you’ve already read about the Kittredge House’s rehabilitation (for additional history and background on the building, click here). To learn more about the details that make this project unique, we caught up with a few of project’s team members. Here’s what we learned.

1. The paint is more than meets the eye…

Because the building hadn’t been painted for so many years, finding the appropriate paint color initially proved difficult. “Finding a fragment of paint was challenging,” confirmed Andrea Gilmore of Building Conservation Associates, who also serves on HBI’s Advisory Board.

“But the overhanging porch provided us with some protected evidence [of the paint color].” At first glance, the building may appear to be white, but Gilmore pointed out that that’s not the case: “The color that’s on there isn’t really the stark white that you see, it’s a more historically appropriate cream color.”

2. …same goes for the porch’s columns.

By the time HBI took possession of the Kittredge House, most of the columns in the front weren’t salvageable. Lisa Lewis, senior project manager at HBI, noted that while three or four of the columns were standing at the start of the project, only two could be saved. All of the columns’ capitals also needed to be replaced; replicating the originals was also a challenge, because they’d been hand carved. Luckily, the team was able to salvage one of the originals to make a mold. “The National Park Service [which had oversight through a tax credit program] allowed us to make the new ones in resin – they look like wood, but they won’t deteriorate   the way that wood does,” Lewis explained.

EB Front entrance and glass ceiling - after

3. An ingenious solution was employed to conserve the stained glass entryway.

Sometimes simple really is the way to go. During restoration, the team discovered a marble painted  glass ceiling in the house’s entryway that featured distinctive patterns on the back side of the glass. “None of us had ever seen this type of glass use,” noted Gilmore. In order to conserve stained glass while staying within budget, the team devised a unique solution – by mounting a piece of colored acid-free paper behind the area of loss, Gilmore was able to match the background color. “It was a relatively simple, low-tech solution, where you don’t actually intervene with the original building fabric,” she explained.

4. The house used to face an entirely different direction

Today the house is a proud fixture on Linwood Street; in fact, the entire building originally faced east toward Highland Street and included a large plaza in front. At one point previous owners had sold off the property and additional wings were removed from the house. Years ago, the house was then raised, rotated and placed back down to face Linwood Street. While Highland Street was flat, Linwood Street is sloped. This new topography meant that when the architects began this project, they were presented with the opportunity to creatively incorporate a gracious transition to the porch, as space for steps was extremely limited. Architect David Amory of Amory Architects explained, “The bluestone plinth – the piece that makes the transition from the high end [of the portico] – became a nice feature and enabled us to not have railings on the porch, which would have cluttered up the building, while achieving code-compliance.”

5. The Kittredge House is so much more than a lovely façade.

Successful historic preservation projects bring more value to towns and cities than simply improving the area’s aesthetics. There’s ample evidence to demonstrate that successful historic preservation projects contribute to the economic and social vitality of the surrounding area, and the Kittredge House is no exception. Gilmore put it well. “I think it’s been part of the whole revitalization of that part of Roxbury. All of that area is being reenergized by these pivotal architectural projects that are anchoring the neighborhood. And Kittredge is one of those buildings,” Gilmore said. We couldn’t agree more.

Rear - before

EB Rear - after

For additional information about the Alvah Kittredge House, click here.
For additional information about the Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

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