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About AllianceViews

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.

We want to hear from you — so start a conversation, share a thought or comment, and let us know what you think.

Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

GREG GALER
Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

2017 Preservation Achievement Award Winner: 101 Beacon Street

In conjunction with our 29th Annual Preservation Achievement Awards, we are profiling each of the 2017 winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.

June 28th, 2017  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

Until recently, when drivers exited Storrow Drive and approached the corner of Beacon and Arlington Streets, they were met by 101 Beacon Street’s 1959 remodeled façade, an entry point that failed to preview the grandeur of the Back Bay neighborhood. The new restoration represents a return to the elegance of the original 1862 home and a reversal of the insensitive previous renovation. Now 101 Beacon Street once again contributes to the character of the neighborhood and greets visitors with a welcome worthy of the Back Bay Architectural District.

Not long after the marshy Back Bay area had been filled and developed, 101 Beacon Street became an heirloom for a few fortunate families. The first residents of 101 Beacon Street were Rev. William and Elizabeth Mountford, who lived in the building for the first seventeen years of its life before they sold it to Percival Lowell Everett- a trade merchant, founder of the Third National Bank of Boston, widower, and father to three daughters. When his daughters were grown, Everett sold the home to Mary Edmondson Thorndike whose husband and son were an extremely successful attorney and doctor, respectively. Once Mary’s son married, he and his wife lived in 101 Beacon Street until 1898, when it was passed between a few owners before settling in the hands of Dr. Howard Augustus Lothrop. The home became the residence and offices of Dr. Lathrop, who would become a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and the surgeon-in-chief at Boston City Hospital. After Lathrop’s death, his son Oliver and his family kept possession of the home for another thirty years. In all, a lawyer, a banker, three young sisters, a grocery merchant, a clergyman, a widow, a tailor, a surgeon, and a pair of newlyweds are bound in history by their lives lived at 101 Beacon Street. The house then entered a new phase of its life and become home to a modern era of Bostonians.

In 1958, Benjamin Booker purchased the building from younger generations of the Lothrop family. Under his direction the following year, an extensive remodel converted the home into apartments, lowered the front entrance below street level, removed the elegant front staircase, painted the brownstone white, flattened the Mansard roof, and added a starkly incongruous floor to the top of the building. Its original elegance muffled, its details covered, the building was no longer in harmony with the historic character of the Back Bay.

AFTER-Entrance

BEFORE-Entrance

The project team tackled the challenges of reversing the damage of the previous renovation, honoring the original architecture where possible, and satisfying the expectations of modern luxury apartments. In many cases, the original craftsmanship was hidden beneath the 1959 additions, itching to be restored. The flat plaster of a new ceiling concealed elaborate ornamentation and moldings of the original ceilings. Like an archeological dig, the project team carefully uncovered the building’s history layer by layer, thoughtfully reassessing their plans whenever they found structural or ornamental elements beneath the layers.

The team was able to restore the ceiling details that remained and use molds to recreate the areas that had deteriorated. They also created a porch resonant of the original entrance using the original framing. Hidden by stark white paint, the framing also revealed the original brownstone of the façade, which the team used to expertly recreate the color. Despite the shift from a single family home to apartments, the elegant flow of the rounded entryway and staircase today mirror the procession of the original home. These resurrections restore the original grace of the building, but they do not attempt to reconstruct lost features. The sub-street level entrance remains below the liberated terrace and the top floor, with its new Mansard roof, echoes the earlier attic rather than the incompatible rectangle that occupied the space during the time between them.

The original ceiling ornamentation and molding was unveiled in the 2017 remodel.

There are examples throughout the city of insensitive renovations, speedy upgrades, and unfortunate demolitions. Too often, owners are not able to see the diamond in the rough resulting in partial or even complete loss of historic fabric. Thankfully, the devoted project team at 101 Beacon Street not only knew the treasure in their care, but they took the time to carefully polish this gem and restore its proud face as it welcomes us all to the iconic Back Bay.

101 Beacon, 1867

101 Beacon, 1959-2013

101 Beacon, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Details: 101 Beacon Street, Back Bay
Owner/Developer: One-O-One Beacon LLC. Andrew Constantine
Architect: The Office of Michael J. Scanlon; Choo & Company
Project Team: Zade Associates LLC; The Law Offices of Jeffrey R. Drago; The Law Offices of Russo & Scolnick; Katz, Rudnick & Sullivan PC; Brookline Bank; William Young, former director of Boston Landmarks Commission; Boston Ornament Company, Inc.; Mott Iron Works

1867 photo courtesy of Boston Athenaeum. 2013 and 2017 exterior and historic information of past residents courtesy of BackBayHouses.orgWritten and researched by Jessica Saunders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boston’s Belmont Square: A “Country in the City” Ideal

As we conclude Historic Preservation Month and anticipate summer, it seemed fitting to hear from you about something we all appreciate this time of year: Boston's green space. Thank you, Dan Bailey, for this guest post!

May 30th, 2017  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

First Stop: London 

Brophy Park is a three-quarter-acre rectangle of green space at the top of a hill in the Jeffries Point section of East Boston. I’ve lived near it for the past five years, and for most of that time I assumed the space was just a small, neighborhood park. It wasn’t until I started looking into my neighborhood’s history that I discovered that Brophy Park isn’t really a park at all. It’s something much older, a sort of proto-park called a garden square. When Brophy Park was originally laid out over 180 years ago, it was called Belmont Square, and it was created not as a public park, but as a private amenity for homeowners in the surrounding area, a secluded green space where residents could sit or take a leisurely stroll. At the same time, the square’s landscaping was meant to provide scenic views from the surrounding houses.

Brophy Park, East Boston.

Garden squares originated in 17th and 18th century London, where they provided a way to replicate the ambience of an English country estate in an increasingly dense, urban environment (a concept known by the Latin phrase rus in urbe, or ‘country in the city’). London garden squares from this period share the same basic features—row houses surrounding a fenced, central garden made up of a lawn and shade trees. The gardens were usually privately owned and were only accessible to the residents of the surrounding houses, making them secluded oases in an otherwise gritty, industrializing city. London real estate developers created garden squares as a strategy to attract wealthy residents to fashionable, new residential districts.

The residential development at Franklin Place, shown here in 1856, included Boston’s first garden square. Courtesy of Boston Public Library.

Boston architect Charles Bulfinch imported the idea to Boston in his design for Franklin Place, a residential development completed in 1798 with a small fenced garden at its center. Franklin Place was demolished just 60 years after it was built to make way for encroaching commercial development, but like so much of Bulfinch’s work, it had an outsize impact on later development in Boston—it was not only the city’s first garden square, but also included Boston’s first row houses.

Louisburg Square, located near the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill, was Boston’s second garden square. It was designed in 1822 and houses were built on the surrounding lots between 1834 and 1844. Like Franklin Place and the London squares that inspired it, Louisburg Square was designed as a private residential retreat. Today it remains a Boston landmark, a picturesque tourist destination, and one of the city’s most exclusive addresses, home to some of Boston’s wealthiest and most prominent residents, including former Secretary of State John Kerry.

East Boston: A Planned Neighborhood 

Unlike most of Boston’s earlier neighborhoods, which grew organically over time, East Boston was planned. Boston’s third garden square, Belmont Square, was central to East Boston’s original design. A group of investors acquired Noddle’s Island in Boston Harbor in 1833 and formed a real estate venture called the East Boston Company to develop the island into a new neighborhood. Almost immediately after it was founded, the East Boston Company set to work selling lots for development on the island. As William Sumner, the founder and first president of the East Boston Company, put it, “A primary object to be attained in this sale was to secure purchasers whose position in community would give character to the enterprise, and who would erect such buildings as would induce others to settle at East Boston.” In other words, the company wanted to attract wealthy people into the new neighborhood. To this end, the first lots that were sold in East Boston were located in what the East Boston Company considered to be the island’s most desirable area, a hill known as Belmont at the southeastern tip of the island overlooking the harbor and downtown Boston beyond. Although the area’s panoramic harbor views were the main attraction, the East Boston Company also set aside an acre of land at the top of the hill for Belmont Square as a further incentive to attract wealthy buyers. They hired S.P. Fuller, the same surveyor who had designed Louisburg Square a decade earlier, to lay out the new garden square.

Belmont Square, shown here on the original 1833 plan for East Boston, is part of the neighborhood’s original street design. Courtesy of the Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.

The East Boston Company had a lot riding on Belmont Square. It was the first area of East Boston that was opened to residential development, and its success or failure would set the tone for development across the rest of the neighborhood. When the lots surrounding Belmont Square went up for auction in the spring of 1833, nearly all of them sold, and many of the buyers were wealthy merchants and other members of Boston high society, just as the East Boston Company had hoped. But the new owners were reluctant to invest in building houses, since, at the time, East Boston was a brand new, almost completely uninhabited neighborhood. Despite encouragement from the East Boston Company to build, most of the Belmont owners instead decided to leave their lots vacant while they waited for the value of their land to appreciate.

Beginning in the 1840s, demand for housing in East Boston skyrocketed thanks to the neighborhood’s flourishing shipbuilding industry, and the Belmont owners began to build. They followed the precedent set by Franklin Place and Louisburg Square, building brick row houses along the perimeter of Belmont Square. In 1847, Benjamin Lamson, a wealthy cabinetmaker and early investor in the East Boston Company, built a row of nine bow-front row houses along Webster Street at the southwest edge of Belmont Square. Lamson spared no expense in building these Greek Revival style houses, adding carved brownstone trim to the facades, setting the row back 20 feet from the street to allow for large, front gardens surrounded by ornate cast iron and granite post fences, and laying out a rear service alley to provide access to stables behind each house, all features that were omitted from the more commonplace bow-fronts around Louisburg Square.

‘Still Awaiting Its Garden’ 

Despite this elegant new housing, the center of Belmont Square remained a vacant parcel of land. As landscape designer Phebe Goodman, whose research I’m drawing on heavily here, put it, “Belmont was a garden square still awaiting its garden.” In the case of Louisburg Square, the original owners of the surrounding houses immediately paid to furnish and landscape the garden at the center of the square, and to this day, the garden is privately funded and managed by the square’s residents. Belmont Square, on the other hand, never quite reached the same level of affluence as Louisburg Square. Most of the square’s early residents were middle class professionals who simply couldn’t afford to landscape their square. Landscaping the square apparently wasn’t a priority for the East Boston Company either—they instead relied on the square’s harbor views to attract residents to the area.

In 1853, the East Boston Company transferred ownership of Belmont Square to the city, and the Board of Aldermen agreed that Belmont was “to be laid out and accepted as a public square.” At the time, the city had just finished building several garden squares in Boston’s South End. Although the South End squares were developed with public funds, they had the same characteristic features of earlier private garden squares—grass, trees, and an iron fence. And like earlier squares, they were designed to attract wealthy residents to a new neighborhood. By opening the South End to development, the city hoped to entice wealthy Bostonians to stay in the city rather than move to the suburbs.

In the 1990s, when the city wanted to install a chain-link replacement fence around the square, residents lobbied for a replica of the turn-of-the-century iron fence, and ultimately got it.

Unlike the South End, the Belmont area was an established neighborhood in the 1850s, but the city took a similar approach to laying out the Belmont garden, planting a lawn and trees, and installing an ornate iron fence. (The fence, in particular, must have been especially impressive—the city spent $6,000 on it, which is something on the order of $150,000 in today’s dollars.)

The Fence Turns Into a Flashpoint  

The transfer of Belmont Square to city ownership marked the beginning of a gradual transition from a private garden square to a public park. Many of the square’s longtime residents, who no doubt remembered the square’s origins as a private amenity, seem to have actively opposed the city’s efforts to make the square more park-like.

The square’s fence, its defining feature and a symbol of its privacy and exclusivity, quickly became a flashpoint. In 1889, some of the square’s residents petitioned the city council to lock the gates to the square at 9 o’clock each night. The city council refused, with one councilor arguing that “the poor people should have an opportunity of going into the public parks and staying as long as they wish to after their hard day’s work,” while another councilor dismissed the square’s residents as “goody-goody people […] who object to the noise made by the children and by the boys and girls in the park.” And besides, he concluded, “the lovers should be indulged until 10 p.m.”

The city resolved the gate locking issue once and for all in 1891 by removing the square’s fence altogether. The city conceded that “some old residents” wanted to preserve the fence, but these objections were apparently overruled, and the fence, which the city described as a “clumsy […] relic of a past age,” came down. By removing the fence, arguably the defining feature of a garden square, the city seemed to have forgotten Belmont Square’s original identity.

Even as Belmont Square became more of a park than a square, the surrounding area remained one of East Boston’s most desirable places to live. P.J. Kennedy, President Kennedy’s grandfather, marked his business success and rising social position at the end of the 19th century by moving his family from a busy, commercial section of East Boston to a larger house just down the street from Belmont Square.

Photograph of Belmont Square ca. 1905-1915. Courtesy of Historic New England.

Residents Lobby to Save the Square 

In 1936, the square was renamed Brophy Memorial Park after local politician Michael Brophy, cementing its transition from a garden square to a public park. However by the later half of the twentieth century, the replacement iron fence was corroded and crumbling, the lawn was patchy, and all but three of the 56 original elm trees had been lost, likely casualties of Dutch Elm Disease. Rather than paying to refurbish the square, the city proposed paving the garden and turning it into a parking lot. Neighborhood residents organized to save the square, eventually convincing the city to partially repair the fence and restore the lawn. In the 1990s, when the city wanted to install a chain-link replacement fence around the square, residents lobbied for a replica of the turn-of-the-century iron fence, and ultimately got it.

Today, Brophy Park retains its essential nineteenth century character—the reproduction decorative iron fence, the original X-shaped path configuration, and the grassy lawn. Most of the square’s nineteenth century buildings are still standing as well. Only the formal arrangement of elm trees has been lost—a variety of tree species now dot the square at irregular intervals. Although the square’s uses and identity have shifted over its long history, it’s still the focal point of the surrounding neighborhood, and it continues to embody the “country in the city” ideal for those who live in the area. The square deserves to be recognized as a relatively rare American example of a privately developed, 19th century garden square, in the tradition of Gramercy Park in New York City and Louisburg Square in Beacon Hill.

To learn more about Boston’s garden squares, check out Phebe Goodman’s book, The Garden Squares of Boston.

Dan Bailey lives in Jeffries Point with his wife and cat. He blogs about neighborhood history and the trials and tribulations of living in a home built during the Polk Administration at Terrace Place.

 

The Historic Ladder Blocks District: Boston’s Endangered Hub

April 20th, 2017  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

Just last week, The Boston Globe published an article extoling the transformation of Downtown Crossing into Boston’s “hottest destination.” Bustling with activity as residents, visitors, shoppers, and workers parade down pedestrian-filled streets, Downtown Crossing is, no doubt, a vibrant part of town.  Yet its rich and diverse architectural character is vulnerable. The physical uniqueness of this area as a richly textured place of historic retail, commerce, and small shops is threatened by overexuberance for its newly rediscovered desirability.

Washington Street

Washington Street

In 2016 the Historic Ladder Blocks District was added to Preservation Massachusetts’ Most Endangered Historic Resources Program after the Alliance nominated this neighborhood. The Most Endangered Historic Resource (MER) listing designates resources as worthy of recognition due to their historic or architectural significance. While the list is not legally binding, it focuses statewide attention on the condition of these historic resources and their importance to communities. Economic success and increasing real estate values are wonderful, but they must be managed to not lose the very character-defining features that make them attractive. The Alliance saw several proposals for new construction in The Ladder Blocks with no holistic planning for the neighborhood in sight. We’ve raised a warning flag. Now let’s look at The Ladder Blocks and see why it’s a neighborhood we need to evolve with care.

Mapping the Ladder Blocks

Located at the intersection of Downtown Crossing and Theatre District neighborhoods, The Ladder Blocks consist of a series of blocks resembling a ladder when viewed on a map, giving the district its name.

Ladder Blocks in 1772 outlined in map along with the land infills and streets of 1880.

Ladder Blocks in 1772 outlined in map along with the land infills and streets of 1880.

Tremont and Washington Streets appear as the rails of the ladder with cross streets traversing from School Street to Boylston Street as the rungs. Many Bostonians walk through the Ladder Blocks without even knowing it. The area is easily accessible—public transportation pulses through all four corners (the Boylston, Chinatown, Park Street, and Downtown Crossing MBTA stops are all there)—resulting in heavy foot traffic that heightens its appeal as a commercial hub and historic district.

Architectural Significance

The Ladder Blocks is home to a number of architecturally beautiful and significant buildings, but its greatest strength comes from the diversity of all these structures combined. By having streets filled with historic buildings from a range of eras, The Ladder Blocks District is inviting to residents and visitors in a way that cannot be recreated and can easily be lost to large scale new construction.

The transition from what was a residential neighborhood until about 1872 to a commercial area resulted in buildings with both historically-typical and unique architectural features. The brick or stone side-hall Federal row houses that still stand at 13-15 West Street, for example, are some of Boston’s earliest forms of surviving architecture. Mid-nineteenth century granite commercial row buildings at 20-30 Bromfield Street were built during the height of Boston’s so called “Granite Era” and decorated with unique Egyptian motifs, and now stand as rare survivors of this once common form. Elegant theaters feature High Victorian Gothic (The Modern) and Art Deco (The Paramount) and now-restored (in part due to a major effort by the Alliance years ago) draw thousands of visitors each year. And hidden in the middle of the Ladder Blocks is the Orpheum Theatre too.

Density and Scale Reflect its Varied History

The Historic Ladder Blocks is one of those neighborhoods where diversity and scale demonstrates the richness of an organic neighborhood that has evolved over time. That lack of uniformity of style but overall pedestrian-friendly scale and welcoming nature of historic storefronts makes this neighborhood feel like the active center of an authentic city. It’s the kind of place that is inherently vibrant, but one with a vitality that can be squashed with the intrusion of too much modern, too much height, the loss of too much sky view by new, tall construction.

1600s

The Ladder Blocks was not always the fast-paced commercial hub it is today. When Boston was growing as a city, the small peninsula had little activity. In order to remain close to the water and main thoroughfare, settlers occupied the vicinity of Washington Street, then known as Marlborough Street. By 1634, Washington Street lined the public pasture that we now know as Boston Common. This street was once the only road connecting the Shawmut Peninsula to the mainland. Because of its vital location, Washington Street was Boston’s first thoroughfare and widely considered the city’s first Main Street.

1700s

As Boston’s population grew, the area’s role changed with colonists expanding the original town center and developing it into a fashionable residential area housing the city’s elite. By the 18th century this was an affluent residential area filled with townhomes, churches, and taverns. Notable historic establishments such as the Old Corner Bookstore (1712), Old South Meeting House (1729), and King’s Chapel (1754) materialized in this colonial period and continue to proudly stand in their original locations. With Downtown Boston as the Sons of Liberty and Ben Franklin’s stomping ground, nobody can deny this area’s history.

1800s

DT Map

View from corner of Washington and Bromfield Streets after the Great Boston Fire of 1872

The Great Boston Fire on 1872 obliterated this area with over 500 buildings burning to the ground. However, the development following the fire added to the variety of architectural styles we enjoy on those streets today. In an effort to bring new commercial energy to this area, new department stores replaced row houses and commercial businesses took up shop. Stores like Gilchrist, Filene’s, and Jordan Marsh dominated the Boston retail landscape before anybody heard of Newbury Street. 

1900s

Following World War II, the so-called Combat Zone rose in response to city dwellers exiting downtown Boston for the distant suburbs. Like in most American cities, shoppers went to malls in the suburbs and downtowns faltered. By the 1960’s the Theater District portion of the Ladder Blocks slipped into a seedy destination for adult entertainment. While, thankfully, retail never totally vacated this area, it dwindled to a pittance of its former self.

Thankfully retail hung on enough to see a more recent resurgence. Work by the Alliance and many others prevented the demolition of several of the historic theatres, which became catalysts for a new life for the Historic Ladder Blocks.

By 1989, Boston’s growing downtown economy and the development of Chinatown created an increased in demand for office, retail, and residential space where the two districts overlapped. With the Combat Zone facing increased scrutiny, the adult oriented businesses shut their doors making way for more desirable establishments. A second investment bump came from Suffolk University and Emerson College creating dorms and reviving the neglected Paramount and Modern theatres. This influx of young students and the institutions’ development attracted further businesses to follow suit and set up shop in the Ladder Blocks.

2000s-Present

Burnham Building

Burnham Building

Boston is booming. A welcome sign of vibrancy, this influx naturally raises the need for additional housing and work spaces. Preservation advocates have played an important role in the ongoing success of the Ladder Blocks and Downtown Crossing. The Boston Preservation Alliance and the Boston Landmarks Commission  were both heavily involved in the saving and restoration of the Landmark historic theatres, and the lights of their historic marquis are important anchors of the neighborhood. More recently the restoration of Daniel Burnham’s former Filenes (also a Boston Landmark) and the transformation of the Armory and Blake buildings into the highly successful Godfrey Hotel set the standard for how The Ladder Blocks can be…and should be enlivened even further. The area is becoming a twenty-four hour neighborhood again as the residential population grows and restaurants and coffee shops sprout up to meet that demand. The diversity of historic buildings in the neighborhood creates a wealth of opportunities for creative re-use: housing in under-utilized upper stories or the use of historic tax credits as were used in both the Burnham Building and the Godfrey Hotel, for example. In the next installment we’ll talk about specific interesting buildings in The Ladder Blocks and the opportunity they present and threats to them if foresight isn’t considered.

Preservation Achievement Award Winner: Flagship Hill Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

October 23rd, 2016  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

In anticipation of our 28th annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony on October 24, we are profiling each of the eleven winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.


We often focus on the many challenges to historic buildings in Boston, particularly in this period of rapid development where we see neighborhoods changing before our eyes. With that rapid evolution occurring so quickly it becomes harder to see the deterioration that occurs over longer periods of time: the wearing impact of weather, the buildup of corrosion, or the compounded impact of defacement and vandalism. It’s easy to forget that bronze sculptures weren’t intended to be green. With so many historic monuments in the city deciding how to focus limited fundsis not always straight forward. One would think a large, prominent memorial in one of the most popular spots in Boston would always be kept in pristine condition, but that hasn’t been the case. The Flagstaff Hill and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ had slowly fallen into disrepair withdamage so severe that some questioned how it could be restored.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

Located prominently on the highest point in Boston Common and dedicated in 1877 to commemorate American Civil War veterans., one would hope that keeping it in good condition would be a given, but the losses had become severe until this challenging project was undertaken.

The origins of the monument date back 150 years to the close of the Civil War. Mr. Willis Clement initiated the discussion of constructing of a monument to honor fallen Civil War soldiers and sailors on March 8th, 1866. Nationally prominent sculptor Martin Milmore was selected to design and construct the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. Born in Ireland, he immigrated to Boston at age seven became a well-known sculptor with seveal prominent works in the area as well as a bust of Senator Charles Sumner in the US Senate. (Sadly he died at 38 and more well-known-today sculptor Daniel Chester French created a memorial for him and his broher, sculptor Joseph Milmore.) This monument was dedicated on September 17th, 1877. It consistesof a Doric granite column surmounted by a bronze allegorical female figure (“Genius of America”) with four marble eagles at her feet along with four bronze figures (Army, Navy, Peace, and History) and four bas relief castings depicting Civil War events.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

The monument has graceful bronze figures along with massive stones that make it a quintessential tribute to fallen soldiers and sailors. However, what remained before this restoration began no longer honored the veterans as intended. Instead, the arms and heads of the bas-relief figures were lost, and the monument was marred with graffiti and the attempts of graffiti-removal. In 2004, vandals attempted to make off with the figure of Army only to drop it yards from the monument. At this point, the bronze figures were removed leaving the monument stripped of its celebrated sculptures.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

The preservation of Soldiers and Sailors prevented the bronze figures from living forever in a storage facility. Although the costs of a restoration surpassed the typical expenses for artwork in the Boston Common and Public Garden, additional sources of funds* thankfully allowed completion of the project. In addition to the return and restoration of the figures, a significant improvement to the landscaping surrounding the monument was fulfilled by providing universal access. Although the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument came dangerously close to perishing from neglect, the preservation efforts rescued this time-honored monument so that it can grace the Boston Commons for today and the future.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

*Funding provided by the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the city’s Browne Fund, and the Friends of the Public Garden.

 

Preservation Achievement Award Winner: The Godfrey Hotel

October 22nd, 2016  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

In anticipation of our 28th annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony on October 24, we are profiling each of the eleven winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.


Few would argue that neighborhoods and buildings within can reach a point where they need a re-boot. But how can that be accomplished without losing the funky, pedestrian-scale character that brings distinctiveness to the various parts of the city? The Godfrey Hotel demonstrates how historic buildings play a central role in revitalizing the modern downtown district while keeping their historic flair and pedestrian scale. By inserting a new use into historic buildings, such as the Amory and Blake buildings constructed in the beginning of the 20th century the Godfrey has transformed tired offices spaces into a desirable boutique hotel and restaurant.

The Godfrey Hotel.

The Godfrey Hotel.

The Godfrey Hotel comprises two historic buildings that are significant examples of early 20th century high style indicative of the evolution of city commercial construction. The average passerby or hotel visitor likely won’t know the terminology or architectural history but will know these buildings just feel right within Boston’s Historic Ladder Block District. The Amory, built in 1904, showcases classical style elements including a finely detailed dentil and bracketed cornice, pedimented windows, and broken architrave at the entrance. In comparison, the Blake building though built only four years later reflects a more experimental style shown through its wide expanses of glass made possible by the development of high-rise steel technologies.

The Godfrey Hotel.

The Godfrey Hotel.

Both the Amory and Blake buildings were designed by Arthur H. Bowditch, the notable Boston Architect who also designed Washington Street essentials such as the Paramount Theater, the Jeweler’s Building, and Old South Building. His impact on today’s Boston extends past Downtown Crossing with the Lenox Hotel in the Back Bay. The construction of these two historic buildings occurred during a period of increasing urban density. This restoration mirrors a similar trend occurring over a century later with more and more people enjoying the benefits of Boston’s downtown area. The Godfrey Hotel is part and parcel of that trend, both responding to the rejuvenation of the neighborhood and spawning greater vibrancy itself, all while reflecting Boston’s historic legacy.

The renovation project designed by Finegold Alexander joins the Amory and Blake buildings into one use while preserving their individual historic features. A building system challenge of the project involved integrating new MEP/FP for the two separate high-rise structures. Structural upgrades to protect the buildings from seismic and wind forces involve the insertion of two massive concrete shear walls that extend throughout all 11 floors. In addition to bringing structural upgrades, the project balanced modernization with retention of character through repair, preservation, and restoration solutions. Interior features designed in collaboration with the Gettys Group include a lobby featuring 16.-ft. ceilings, coffee tasting bar, and restaurant. Most notable interior restorations include the historic elevator lobby and marble stair.

The Godfrey Hotel.

The Godfrey Hotel.

As part of the Downtown Crossing district, the Godfrey Hotel brings additional new life to Washington Street by attracting both visitors and residents in the City of Boston. The 242 room boutique hotel serves a functional purpose while the decorative and historic elements of the buildings weave into the city’s historic visual fabric. This project demonstrates the ability for historic buildings in the downtown context to find new uses so that they can add to the neighborhood’s revitalization efforts.

Do you think the Godfrey Hotel is the best of the best? Then vote for it for this year’s Fan Favorite! Vote once per day until October 24. Join us that evening at the Paramount Theater to find out if your favorite won, and to celebrate the preservation of Boston’s vibrant built environment. Tickets on sale now!

Preservation Achievement Award Winner: The Carriage House at 31 Ocean Street

October 21st, 2016  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

In anticipation of our 28th annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony on October 24, we are profiling each of the eleven winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.


A relic of an automobile-free time long past, the carriage house (and like it other outbuildings like barns and early automobile garages) has posed a particular preservation challenge. Because these buildings’ original purpose is now obsolete, these structures are prone particularly to neglect, misuse, ill-guided repairs from well-meaning homeowners, or demolition through neglect.  We are losing these idiosyncratic, funky and viable resources at a rapid rate, many already gone. Such challenges to adaptive reuse make successful preservation of carriage houses, such as the one at 31 Ocean Street in Dorchester, all the more significant and exciting and a great example of creating much-needed housing without negatively impacting neighborhoods.

The Carriage House at 31 Ocean Street.

The Carriage House at 31 Ocean Street.

Constructed in 1894 as a carriage house for the property next door, the building at 31 Ocean Street suffered extensive damage from pests, including termites, and root growth into the original foundation, and crumbling wood and iron work. When Nancy Anderson purchased the property, she says her friends and family thought she was “crazy,” but she had a vision to turn this neglected property into a home.

The Carriage House before.

The Carriage House before.

 

The Carriage House before.

The Carriage House before.

31-ocean-street-interior-before-3

The Carriage House before.

Anderson quickly set to work with the team from Castlemaine Construction to create a single-family home from what was used in recent decades as a garage with minimal (and barely acceptable) modifications for living on the second floor . With the scent of horse urine still in the air, Anderson and her teams created an open floor plan that kept the original sliding barn door and “magnificent” beadboard intact. They created custom door openings in order to use the building’s original doors (fit for a horse). They replaced original, unsalvageable trim with meticulous reproductions. Upstairs they removed 1970s-era wood paneling to uncover the building’s original walls. When she had finished her work, Anderson had highlighted the unique character of this historic structure for a modern city lifestyle with a vision all her own.

The Carriage House after.

The Carriage House after.

With an open mind and imaginative vision, Anderson was able to adapt an outmoded structure into a chic living space. She worked collaboratively with teams from preservation and construction companies, as well as the Dorchester Historical Society, to realize this vision. With tenacity and diligent work, historic structures such as carriage houses may be re-imagined for the 21st century. The Carriage House at 31 Ocean Street is a testament to the fact that if there’s a will, there is a way to creatively preserve buildings and create housing in buildings currently underutilized and being lost.

The Carriage House after.

The Carriage House after.

Do you think the Carriage House at 31 Ocean Street is the best of the best? Then vote for it for this year’s Fan Favorite! Vote once per day until October 24. Join us that evening at the Paramount Theater to find out if your favorite won, and to celebrate the preservation of Boston’s vibrant built environment. Tickets on sale now!

Preservation Achievement Award Winner: Boston Light

October 19th, 2016  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

In anticipation of our 28th annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony on October 24, we are profiling each of the eleven winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.


It’s not particularly well known that Boston Harbor is the site of America’s first lighthouse, and Boston Light on Little Brewster Island celebrates its 300th birthday in 2016. The beacon of Boston Light has provided navigational guidance at the entrance to Boston Harbor and welcomed sailors and passengers to our city since before our country existed. In fact, its history is intimately associated with the Revolution. The original rubble stone, granite, and brick structure lit the way for the first time on September 14, 1716, and heralded the start of Boston’s success as a port city. However, the light we see today had a break in service during the Revolutionary War when the British had captured the island and American troops on two occasions in 1775 destroyed it to keep it from functioning to benefit the British. Construction of a new lighthouse, following closely to the original plans, began in 1783 on the original site, and this is the structure that still stands today.

Boston Light.

Boston Light.

One can imagine, though, the punishment that the lighthouse and its support structures face given the building’s island location exposed to the elements of the sea and weather. Imagine facing a Nor’Easter on Little Brewster Island at the far edge of the Harbor. Significant wear and deterioration had occurred over many years. A large team of Coast Guard staff and contractors contributed over several years to make this challenging project (imagine the difficulties of getting materials and equipment to the site) a success, from Coast Guard Sector Boston which oversees the operation of the Light, to the Coast Guard’s Civil Engineering Unit in Providence which managed the project.

Boston Light.

Boston Light.

The US Coast Guard looked to the future of this site from two angles. The first was the preservation of the historic structure through structural and cosmetic repairs, and the second was to make it more environmentally friendly for a sustainable future. The structure’s exterior wood trim rotted from years of exposure to sea spray was replaced to replicate the original; building roof was resurfaced with cedar shingles. Inside, the light itself underwent a complete resurfacing of the mortar to seal the granite bricks that comprise the lighthouse tower. Solar power is now used for the light’s emergency beacons, and the waste water treatment system was completely replaced in order to ensure that no pollutants enter the Harbor. Outside of the building, an old underground fuel take was removed to guarantee no fuel would enter the site’s soil.

A central illustration of Boston’s reputation as an international port, the Boston Light embodies the tradition of its commercial and maritime history alike. And Boston Light remains the only one in the nation still “manned,” in this case a woman, keeper Sally Snowman.

Sally Snowman with visitors.

Sally Snowman with visitors.

As the first of America’s lighthouses, it has guided many boats safely to shore in its 300-year history and will continue to do with this successful restoration and upgrade project. Open for tours seasonally, visitors can visit to learn about our country’s commercial and Colonial history. With its completion, Boston Light will continue to be an aid to navigation and a site teaching Boston and our nation’s maritime past for generations from a real place where history happened.

The view from Boston Light.

The view from Boston Light.

 

Do you think Boston Light is the best of the best? Then vote for it for this year’s Fan Favorite! Vote once per day until October 24. Join us that evening at the Paramount Theater to find out if your favorite won, and to celebrate the preservation of Boston’s vibrant built environment. Tickets on sale now!

Preservation Achievement Award Winner: The BU Law Tower

October 18th, 2016  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

In anticipation of our 28th annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony on October 24, we are profiling each of the eleven winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.


The tallest building on Boston University’s central campus, the school’s Law Tower, is an excellent example of mid-century modern “Brutalist” architecture. Built in 1962 and designed by Josep Lluis Sert, the building’s combination of a dominant concrete structure with glass, masonry, and modular elements are characteristic of the “Brutalist” architectural movement that was flourishing at the time. Along with the surrounding four modern buildings, the Law School Tower is indicative of the change being introduced to traditional campus planning throughout America in the 60s, Sert’s work at BU among the first for the Boston area. Yet it has also been indicative of the challenges to buildings of this era.

The BU Law Tower.

The BU Law Tower.

Despite being “cutting edge” design at the time of its construction, the BU Law Tower and its Brutalist peers quickly fell into disfavor. The lack of general appreciation for these buildings as well as their lack of flexibility for modification gave rise to decades without significant upgrades and maintenance with colleges and universities hesitant to invest in them but also not wanting to lose these significant parts of their modern campuses. With their worth and their ability to be rehabilitated in question their futures are uncertain.

BU Law Tower before.

BU Law Tower before.

This conundrum leaves us with a significant preservation challenge: How to preserve buildings that today may be unfavored in their neglected, outmoded form, and are therefore underappreciated and often misunderstood? (Given their typical need for major upgrades, some fifty years after construction, negative opinion is understandable.) What to do with buildings that aren’t much loved but are an important part of the story of architectural design? How do we preserve  buildings that demand significant changes to meet today’s program needs but given their inflexible                                                                                                         concrete construction do not take such change readily?
BU embraced this preservation challenge with the Law Tower and in the process broke new ground with methods applicable to other buildings of this ilk. Eager to create a progressive learning environment that invigorated a neglected space, they worked with Bruner/Cott and Associates to “imbue our twenty-first century values of community, functionality, and environmental sensitivity to ensure their longevity.”

BU Law Tower after.

BU Law Tower after.

A multipurpose fusion of community spaces and functional administrative areas has provided a reboot of the Law Tower. With harmonious new construction in the adjacent Sumner M. Redstone Building, the team transformed the interior and exterior concrete into a mellow and laid back atmosphere encouraging collaboration and communal space. With the preservation of the BU School of Law Tower, a new recognition for the “Brutalist” style buildings that surround us here in Boston has emerged. BU and its project team have demonstrated that a transformed mid-century building can become a more functional, shared space that can be a treasured addition to the atmosphere and environment on campus as well as a structure we can embrace to demonstrate that “Brutalist” architecture should be re-envisioned, not belittled.

BU Law Tower after.

BU Law Tower after.

We hope the success by BU as well as the many technical lessons learned here bodes well for the new perspective on Boston City Hall and other mid-century modern buildings in Boston.

Do you think The Burnham Building is the best of the best? Then vote for it for this year’s Fan Favorite! Vote once per day until October 24. Join us that evening at the Paramount Theater to find out if your favorite won, and to celebrate the preservation of Boston’s vibrant built environment. Tickets on sale now!

Preservation Achievement Award Winner: Burnham Building

October 17th, 2016  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

In anticipation of our 28th annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony on October 24, we are profiling each of the eleven winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.


Once upon a time, at the turn of the 20th century, the chicest-of-the-chic shopped in department stores, where they sampled the latest styles in clothes, hats, furniture, and more. Filene’s Department Store was one such shopping destination, with a flagship location at the corner of Washington Street in Downtown Boston. Opened by William Filene and Sons’ in 1912, this store eventually expanded to the whole block of Washington, Summer, Hawley, and Franklin Streets. In its early years Filene’s customers would have recognized the architectural significance as they approached the dramatic building, and the more sophisticated ones would have likely known that the store was housed within famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham’s last building (he passed away in 1912), and his only design in Boston, thus making Filene’s a truly unique emblem of Beaux-Arts architecture in the city.

The Burnham Building.

The Burnham Building.

Burnham was well known in his day for his central role in the planning of the World’s Columbian Exhibition in 1893, as an urban planner whose work set the tone for several cities, and his leading place in in the development of skyscrapers in Chicago.

Despite Filene’s centrality to Boston’s downtown shopping district, Burnham’s building faced the decline in central- city shopping seen by most American cities. As department stores lapsed into malls, thankfully Boston’s retraction wasn’t entire as it was in other urban cores. Yet, traffic significantly decreased and department stores closed and consolidated, exacerbate by the increase in online shopping in more recent times. Filene’s sold to Macy’s who elected to sell the building in 2008. The original, Burnham-designed building was placed on the National Historic Register in 1986 and protected from demolition when it was made a Boston Landmark in 2006. The property was purchased by Millennium Partners, who saw the potential to return the Burnham Building back to the lively, fashionable shopping destination it once was. And the restoration of the Burnham was essential to the success of the adjacent 60 story Millennium Tower, a great example of old and new successfully working together.

The Burnham Building before.

The Burnham Building before.

Stabilizing the structure, Millennium Partners collaborated with Handel Architects to return the building to its original glory. Fine, original Beaux-Arts terra cotta details were carefully washed, cleaned, and reglazed. Other exterior elements were recreated after examination of Burnham’s original designs, along with period photographs and drawings. Original construction methods were utilized on the façade, imbuing the restoration with historic ambiance and integrity. The result is a meticulously rehabilitated homage to not only Burnham’s work, but American life at the start of the 20th century, as well vanguard preservation techniques and methods. Its style that has inspired and reenergized the entire shopping district.

The Burnham Building after.

The Burnham Building after.

In the fall of 2015, Irish retail chain Primark opened its only location in the United States on the ground floor of the Burnham Building, transforming the old department store back into the cutting edge of technology, design and fashion. Now, once again a hub of Boston retail, thousands of shoppers stream in and out of the Burnham Building daily, enlivening Downtown Crossing with activity. With a grocery store replacing the famed “Filenes Basement” the Burnham Building is playing a central role in making Downtown Crossing a true neighborhood. The retail building’s restoration highlights the way in which existing commercial structures can be sensitively restored to meet today’s needs while and also provide invigorating, engaging, and profitable spaces for businesses and their customers.

The Burnham Building today.

The Burnham Building today.

 

Do you think The Burnham Building is the best of the best? Then vote for it for this year’s Fan Favorite! Vote once per day until October 24. Join us that evening at the Paramount Theater to find out if your favorite won, and to celebrate the preservation of Boston’s vibrant built environment. Tickets on sale now!

Boston Preservation Achievement Award Winner: Lovejoy Wharf

October 14th, 2016  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

In anticipation of our 28th annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony on October 24, we are profiling each of the eleven winning projects over the next several weeks. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.


When is a historic building too far gone that it’s not savable? Many looking at the Hoffman Building, and in particular its pier, probably thought it was a goner when the Related Beal purchased the property in 2012. Its pier had been rotting into the harbor for a generation. Built in 1906 as a confectioner’s warehouse, operated during the 1940s to manufacture submarine parts, and later used as office space, over 100 years of haphazard renovations and additions and lack of upkeep obscured the value of bringing this industrial structure back to life. And with the completion of the Zakim Bridge and the Big Dig there were more eyeballs on this building than ever before.

Lovejoy Wharf. Photo by Gustav Hoiland.

Lovejoy Wharf. Photo by Gustav Hoiland.

Seeing potential to rehabilitate an artifact of Boston’s industrial history, Related Beal, The Architecture Team and Copley Wolff Design Group collaborated to not only revitalize the building, but to reactivate the surrounding space. Part of Boston’s Harborwalk, the building’s wharf was transformed into a vibrant, dynamic public space for office workers and passersby alike to enjoy lunch, conversation, or Boston views.

Inside the Hoffman Building, crews set to work installing new structural steel to re-mediate 1925 additions. Carefully selected period industrial materials—from charred Western Red cedar and refurbished original columns to reclaimed wood from the original wharf to concrete flooring—provided a corporate setting sensitive to the building’s industrial origins. Exposing rich, original brick created an ambiance of both history and business.

Lovejoy Wharf Before. Courtesy of The Architecture Team.

Lovejoy Wharf Before. Courtesy of The Architecture Team.

Lovejoy Wharf's pier before. Courtesy of The Architecture Team.

Lovejoy Wharf’s pier before. Courtesy of The Architecture Team.

With the idea in place to rehabilitate both the building and wharf to benefit from its now highly visible location, Lovejoy now needed a tenant who wanted to capitalize on the visibility and accessibility of the site. Converse, a shoe brand many now associate with California counter-culture – skateboarders and surfers wearing they “Chuck Taylors” – actually was formed locally, and was the perfect match. The company desired a world headquarters that was accessible to both car and foot traffic, and that cultivated connectivity between employees and customers Using reclaimed wood from the site’s old wharf, The Architecture Team created a custom serpentine staircase to maximize transparency and collaboration between Converse teams.

Bringing new energy to an underutilized if not derelict buildings requires vision and partners who can see the opportunities and value embodied in our city’s unique historic structures. Lovejoy Wharf, completed in April of 2015, is testament to the power of such a vision and a team who has brought this building and its wharf and site back to the city of Boston and the employees not just of Converse but the entire neighborhood, bringing back this historic building to the thousands of commuters who see it daily at its gateway entrance from the north. Now they too can see that buildings that seem too far gone to save can in fact be pulled from the harbor and brought back to life.

Lovejoy Wharf After. Photo by Gustav Hoiland.

Lovejoy Wharf After. Photo by Gustav Hoiland.

Do you think Lovejoy Wharf is the best of the best? Then vote for it for this year’s Fan Favorite! Vote once per day until October 24. Join us that evening at the Paramount Theater to find out if your favorite won, and to celebrate the preservation of Boston’s vibrant built environment. Tickets on sale now!