Alliance Archives

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

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

A new chapter for the Collins Mansion

November 4th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

928 E. Broadway, South Boston

In 2013, the Alliance became extensively involved in lobbying for the fate of the James Collins Mansion in South Boston’s City Point area, after the developer who had recently purchased the property announced plans to demolish the home. The proposed demolition outraged the surrounding community and initiated efforts to Landmark the building.

The imposing Second Empire mansion with a mansard roof was constructed in 1867, at a time when even the wealthiest of Irishmen were barred from living in Brookline or Newton. Not only is the home an architectural gem, it’s a physical manifestation of the struggles of the upwardly mobile working class of the city at that time.


Details from the interior.

We worked extensively with the South Boston community in opposing demolition of the house and ensuring that the home received Landmark protection. At the same time, we met frequently with the home’s owner to develop a more viable solution that would ultimately preserve the Collins Mansion. We collaborated with the Boston Landmarks Commission on getting the house and proposed project through the design review process. Though we came very close to losing the building entirely, the mansion’s Landmark status was approved in 2014.

Now, under the ownership of a new developer, three-story additions will be added to each side of the mansion, and the interior of the mansion will be renovated to include nine condos. While not the most traditional instance of historic preservation, the project is a great example of a positive compromise born of passionate community engagement and thoughtful design review.

We understand that times change, but we want the change to be historically and architecturally appropriate. More frequently we see developers purchasing homes on large parcels of land with plans to tear down the house and replace it with condos whose design is insensitive to the neighborhood. In this case, that was avoided. The Collins Mansion was saved. At the Alliance, we’re proud to have been a part of it.

Infrastructure improvements & vibrant greenspace at Longwood Medical

Brigham Patient Parking Garage and Thea & James M. Stoneman Centennial Park

October 23rd, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part nine 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 completed Brigham and Women's Medical Center, Brigham Green. Photo courtesy of Anton Grassl.

The recently completed Brigham and Women’s Medical Center, Brigham Green. Photo courtesy of Anton Grassl.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital was founded forty years ago through a merger of three existing hospitals, the oldest of which was the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, established in 1913. As the hospital expanded, the open lawn space in front of the Peter Bent Brigham Building was paved over with asphalt to accommodate the increased need for parking. Large areas of pavement supported increased access for vehicles, at the cost of the pedestrian experience. As a result, the impressive, classical entry and its approach had been forgotten behind a sea of cars, lost for decades.

The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital as it originally stood. Photo courtesy of BWH.

The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital as it originally stood. Photo courtesy of BWH.

That area has been completely transformed, now boasting an expansive lawn on top of a parking garage with room for 400 cars and 95 bicycles. This project has ambitiously resolved parking problems, restored the façades of three historic buildings, and revitalized the open space to invite the public onto the hospital’s front yard. The grand historic façade of the Peter Bent Brigham Building has a presence once again.

What’s particularly striking about the project is that it simultaneously addressed infrastructure needs and delivered much-needed open space to hospital patients, staff and the surrounding neighborhoods. “There is a neighborhood with single-family houses across the street, so this has been a real win-win, because it’s a nice open space for the neighbors and for visitors to Brigham Circle, with an iconic front door for the hospital and more parking,” noted Cynthia Smith, a principal and designer for landscape architecture at Halvorson Design Partnership.

View of the Peter Bent Brigham Building, prior to the project's

View of the Peter Bent Brigham Building, prior to the project’s ground breaking in 2012. Photo courtesy of BWH.

The project team also tackled the challenge of creating an accessible entrance that was harmonious with the Peter Bent Brigham Building. “The building was 8-10 feet above the grade of the sidewalk,” Smith explained, “and it’s a very prominent building with classical columns. We really wanted to give it a base, but also to provide maximum accessibility.” The result is quite elegant – accessibility has been achieved, while maintaining an excellent view of the building and its façade.

Upon completion, the Brigham Patient Parking Garage and Thea and James M. Stoneman Centennial Park now boast inviting, vibrant green space that strengthens the relationship between the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the surrounding community.

For additional information about the Brigham Patient Parking Garage and Thea and James M. Stoneman Centennial Park, click here.
For additional information about the Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

Freshly restored, the lion and the unicorn are back – with a new time capsule, of course.

Restoration of Lion and Unicorn Statues, Old State House

October 20th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part eight 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.

Want to know more about the history of the Old State House in downtown Boston? No problem – just click on one of the many online resources available from the site’s caretakers, The Bostonian Society. The Bostonian Society has also overseen numerous preservation efforts of the historic landmark, including the restoration of the lion and unicorn statues that watch over State and Devonshire Streets.

Before, Bostonian Society, Lion 2

After, Bostonian Society, Lion

Third time’s a charm

Did you know that the statues you see today are actually the Old State House’s third set? The first ones were installed at the time of the building’s construction in 1713, but torn down and burned in 1776 – as the lion and unicorn are symbols of the British crown – and weren’t returned the building until the first restoration in 1882. However, within a half a dozen years they began to decay. The current statues were constructed out of copper over a steel armature, with gilding on the lion and palladium on the unicorn.

The Bostonian Society partnered with Skylight Studios to complete the restoration. “The gilded surface of the statues weathers just like paint does,” noted Bob Shure, sculptor and president of Skylight Studios. Shure and his team redid the statues’ surfaces with gold leaf for the lion and palladium for the unicorn, which is more durable than silver. “You have to make sure the surface is 100% clean, and it’s necessary to strip previous coatings. The process is called oil gilding – we brush a special varnish on certain parts at one time. The metal leaf comes in very thin sheets, which is kind of like aluminum foil, but thinner and more delicate,” Shure explained. The entire process took about three months.

About that time capsule…


The recently restored lion and unicorn statues have been returned to their place atop the Old State House.

During the restoration of the statues, Bostonians were captivated by the time capsule that was found in the lion’s crown. You may remember that that the time capsule was an unexpected find. The Bostonian Society received a letter form the descendants of some of the original workmen, who wanted to know if there was any truth to the story they’d grown up hearing. “It caught us a bit off guard,” Bostonian Society Director Brian LeMay told us. “We did some research, and found a 1903 article about the installation of the time capsule.” They decided to follow the lead. Skylight Studios also played a role in retrieving the capsule, melting the solder in the seam that fits the lion’s crown to its head and executing the capsule’s removal.

The rousing enthusiasm across Boston (and the world!) demonstrated that people do feel a deep connection to the past, and that includes the buildings around them. In speaking about the restoration of the statues and the Old State House, LeMay expressed hope that passersby would continue to actively appreciate and enjoy the building. “It’s become so familiar that it’s faded into the background of people’s minds – people assume that the buildings like [the Old State House] will always be there.” We share this sentiment in that historic preservation doesn’t happen “on its own.” Rather, it’s an active process. Without planning, passion and care, it’s impossible to achieve.

For additional information about the Lion and the Unicorn restoration, click here.
For additional information about the Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

A collaborative renaissance on Columbus Avenue

Childe Hassam Park, The South End

October 18th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part seven 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.

After East


Ask anyone – space in Boston these days is limited and therefore precious! One group that understands this especially well is the Friends of the Childe Hassam Park, the neighborhood group behind the transformation of a corner lot on Columbus Avenue in the South End. Once home to a gas station during the 1960s, then a playground, the site was eventually underused and locked up. So it stayed until about fifteen years ago, when a number of nearby residents decided that it was time to put the lot to better use. In 2000, the group that would later become known as the Friends of the Childe Hassam Park was born.

According to Michael Scanlon, who serves on the Friends’ Board of Directors, the group considered a number of different themes and ultimately decided on the arts that had taken place in the neighborhood. “As it happens, during the time that impressionist painter Childe Hassam was in Boston, he lived in the Albemarle Hotel and his famous painting, Rainy Day, Columbus Avenue, is of one of those triangle parks,” Scanlon explained.

The Friends group collaborated with the City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department to arrive at a design that captured the artistic spirit of the work of Childe Hassam, while including plant life that could be feasibly maintained over the long term and features that would complement the tiny park rather than overwhelm it. Using the ornamental fencing found throughout the South End as inspiration, the project team developed custom-detailed cast iron fencing and gate, which features the letters “C” and “H” at the entryway.

IMG_7142We’ve noted before that the treatment of open lots that once housed buildings – so called “missing teeth” – requires sensitivity to adjacent structures and community needs, as well as a keen design sensibility. Through a collaborative effort, the creation of Childe Hassam Park has done just that – contributing to the vibrancy of the surrounding area. Leslie Fanger, a landscape architect at BSC Group, who worked extensively on the project, expressed a similar sentiment: “For the South End, it’s filled a cavity,” she said. “If you head down Columbus Ave, each park has its own flavor. It’s a really great walk

If you walk for a mile, you’ll come across four parks. The South End does a great job of taking things that are derelict and turning them into something useful, and that’s very evident along Columbus Avenue.”

Scanlon added that the completion of this park was a cooperative effort. “What stands out to me is that we’ve been able to bring a lot of different constituencies together to do this, and that’s important. We’ve had board members from the businesses along Columbus Avenue, those who were gardeners, from communities in the South End. It’s been a pretty diverse group of people and I think it’s great to see people working together.”

For additional information about the Childe Hassam Park, click here.
For additional information about the Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

Past Forward: A Beloved Library Gets a New Life for Future Generations

Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Mattapan Teen Center

October 15th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part six 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.

Mattapan Teen Center - B&G Club_7

Before the Mattapan Teen Center was acquired by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB), the building served as a library for more than 75 years and played a major role in the surrounding community. After a new library was constructed in 2009, the building remained vacant. Rather than cast aside the historic building, the City of Boston chose a more environmentally, socially and economical sensitive approach – and sold the building to BGCB for one dollar.

From the outset, the project was different than BGCB’s other converted facilities, which are generally designed to serve children and teens within the same space. The Mattapan Teen Center was designed to serve teens only, which allowed for a more tailored approach when it came time to plan the building’s conversion. “It afforded the project team greater ability to speak to a more mature audience architecturally and allowed for a more open floor plan,” explained Mark Rosenshein of The Architectural Team, the project’s architects. “The goal was to get teens into the door, let them see what the Center had to offer, and let the building be a large part of the introduction to the club.”

BGCB Before

BGCB After

The blending of modern and historic is evident throughout the building, where soaring ceilings, arched windows and ornate columns mix with modern elements including a computer lab, a community theater and a recording studio. That the historic columns, molding and window panes are a gleaming white against a backdrop of brightly colored walls is no coincidence: “We wanted to let the historic components speak for themselves, while acknowledge that we’ve injected contemporary elements into the space. Part of the project was trying to express the building’s distinctive characteristics to a mature audience and to showcase what is and what is not historic,” Mark noted.

Mattapan Teen Center - B&G Club (24)

Like the Parish of All Saints, the Mattapan Teen Center conversion demonstrates how the positive impacts of historic preservation are amplified when combined with neighborhood engagement. During the planning phases of the project, BGCB and its project team had entered into dialogue with the nearby residents and explored options around how historic materials and elements could be maintained, and to what extent the completed Teen Center would resemble the historic library. Neighbors expressed how important the library was to their past, citing specific childhood memories of their time in that building. Further indicating the scope of community involvement was 85% utilization of local and minority-owned businesses reported by BGCB.

Currently, the Mattapan Teen Center has 170 members. BGCB’s Nicholas President and CEO, Josh Kraft, noted the benefit of reusing a historic property to serve future generations. “The transformation of the abandoned property into a dynamic, state-of-the-art space for youth has benefited the surrounding neighborhood by bringing it back to life to serve the community for generations to come,” she said. Here’s to a conversion project that shows how the reuse of historic buildings benefits the environment and those who use the building, while simultaneously preserving the existing character of the community.

For additional information about the Mattapan Teen Center, click here.
For additional information about the Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

Restoring the Face of a Historic Boston Streetscape, Piece by Piece

Hong Lok House, Chinatown

September 30th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The Hong Lok Project consists of a series of historic storefronts within the Liberty Tree National Register District.

The Hong Lok House offers affordable housing to residents in the heart of Boston – but that’s not all that differentiates the residence from the neighborhood’s surrounding buildings. A blending of new construction and restored historic components, the recently completed housing project boasts a series of historic storefronts, maintained for their historic significance as some of the earliest commercial buildings within what is now the Liberty Tree National Register District.

It is hard to not be supportive of affordable housing, particularly here on the edge of Chinatown where development pressure continues to squeeze traditional residents. Yet the loss of particularly significant storefronts that are character-defining to this neighborhood was not an acceptable solution. The result is new affordable housing and the maintenance of the historic streetscape.

Successful restoration of the three façades was no easy feat. The project began in 2003, but halted in 2006 when a previous developer abandoned the project. Throughout this process, Building Conservation Associates (BCA) served as the project’s architectural conservators, focusing on the façades, all of which were severely deteriorated. Because the history and physical state of each building varied, the restoration of each façade required a different strategy. The three façades was surveyed individually, enabling BCA to develop a custom strategy for each.

11-13 restoration

11-13 Essex

The oldest wooden commercial building in the City of Boston, 11-13 Essex Street is estimated to have been constructed in 1871. After serving as a headquarters of Waterman’s & Co. Kitchen Supply between 1871 and 1905, the building housed a series of restaurants. The three-story, Italianate-style building that was originally painted with a brown sand paint to replicate brownstone.

For this project, the wood façade of the building was disassembled, restored and reinstalled. The restoration of the façade included the removal of its deteriorated exterior paint, carpentry repairs to replace missing and deteriorated elements, and repainting with its historic paint color. The building’s missing storefront was recreated to match the storefront depicted in a historic photo of the building.

15-17 Essex Street, circa 1900

15-17 Essex Street, circa 1900

15-17 Essex Street support by steel frame, while the new building is constructed behind.

15-17 Essex Street support by steel frame, while the new building is constructed behind.

15-17 Essex

15-17 Essex Street is an ornate, four-story masonry building constructed with brownstone, buff-colored sandstone and granite. For this project, the stone façade was preserved, as a modern building was constructed behind it. The stone was cleaned and repointed, and the missing and deteriorated stone elements patched or replaced. The wood windows, which had survived on the second, third and fourth floors, were restored. The missing storefront was recreated from limited surviving building fabric and photographic documentation.

Stone facade, disassembled and in the midst of conservation.

Stone facade, disassembled and in the midst of conservation.

25-31 Essex

Known as the Hong Lok Building, 25-31 Essex Street is a four-story, Second Empire Building. BCA noted that it had been significantly altered over time. For this project it was disassembled and the stone

façade rebuilt. The sandstone façade had ornamentally carved window hoods and belt courses that were salvaged and reinstalled on the building. The flat stone elements were replaced with new sandstone. In addition, the historic wooden cornice was restored and returned to its original paint color.

A renewed International Style focal point for thousands at Boston University

The Alan and Sherry Leventhal Center, Boston University

September 24th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

South Facade Elevation

The late architectural historian Candace Jenkins referred to what is now the Alan and Sherry Leventhal Center as “a handsome and uncommon example of the International Style in downtown Boston, in particular, and the Boston metropolitan region in general.” Built in 1953, the building served as Boston University’s Hillel House until Hillel’s relocation in 2007, after which it sat challenged for a viable new use. Like many buildings of this era, flexibility and accommodation to new programmatic demands are far from simple.

Today, the building has a new life as a focal point for campus visitors. The Leventhal Center is home to Boston University Admissions Center, where it brings thousands in direct contact with this modern architectural gem adapted to a new use. It blends its unique, site-specific, historic International Style, with new, original design motifs which incorporate its sleek rounded facade, open interior spaces, subtly applied ornamentation, and a textured limestone band. We spoke with Arjun Mande and Todd Symonds of Goody Clancy, the project’s architecture and design firm, to learn more about their role on the renewal of the Leventhal Center.

The Leventhal Center's north facade, as seen from Storrow Drive.

The Leventhal Center’s north facade, as seen from Storrow Drive.

Boston Preservation Alliance: Tell us a bit about the genesis of this project. How did Goody Clancy come to be involved in the Leventhal Center?

Arjun Mande: Boston University (BU) approached Goody Clancy about the project, which essentially involved relocating the admissions center. When we went and saw the building, we fell in love with it. One of the options presented to us was to repurpose the building. The functions that BU wanted for their admissions center worked well for the current building. They were intrigued, and we were excited to find such a fantastic home for Admissions on campus.

Todd Symonds: The location worked well, too. Commonwealth Ave is the face of BU, and Bay State Road is essentially the secondary street at the north edge of the campus. It was already a very pedestrian friendly and heavily-trafficked site, with rare and spectacular views of both the Charles River and the BU campus.

Was this one of the first International-style buildings that Goody Clancy had worked on? Were there any particular considerations or challenges that this presented?

 TS: This was the first International Style building that we’d worked with. It was wonderful to see the quintessential components of this style, and our challenge was to determine how to balance those with our contemporary design interventions. When the building was the Hillel House, it had been a very introverted and inward-looking building. In order to capitalize on the potential views of the river and campus, we placed a glass horizontal band of windows below the limestone band [on the Bay State Road façade]. The massing and composition of the International Style makes this transformation feel true to the original building.


 Are there any components that differentiate working on the Leventhal Center from other projects that you’ve worked on?

AM: The International Style is quite minimalistic, and the majority of buildings that we encounter in our historic preservation work are very ornate. So in that sense, this was different. Working within that boundary, complimenting it in style – but, at the same time, contrasting with it so that the addition stands out – remained a priority. For example, near the new projecting red canopy on the building’s southern façade, you can see both the original vertical slit window and the horizontal line of the new band of windows, allowing you to see how the historic and new elements contribute to the overall design in very distinct ways.

What stands out to you most about this project – either the process through which it was completed, or the completed Center itself?

TS: We had the opportunity to transform the building from an introvert into an extrovert, to meet the needs of the University’s program for Admissions. One of the wonderful outcomes for us was how well the core style of the building could be transformed, but at the same time, anyone who had ever seen the building before would immediately recognize it. As we were researching the history of the building, for example, we noticed that in old photographs the limestone band looked as if it had a missing piece. So we decided to restore the strength of that form to its original grandeur. In addition, the building had been covered by ivy. When we pulled it off, we found that the limestone is a series of squares but there is a striated pattern that rotates from one panel to the next. It’s an amazing subtle addition of texture, and we are very pleased to have been able to uncover it and give it a new life.

What are your thoughts on how the restored Center has positively impacted the University and surrounding area?

TS: The transformation wasn’t limited to the building, but extended to the entire site. One of the key things we were able to do was to move the street edge away, providing for more sidewalk space in front of the building, so that there is now a gracious pathway from which people enter. We were also able to create an outdoor room that provides natural starting and ending points for tours, and serve as a year-round amenity to the campus.

AM: We also worked with the admissions group to choreograph tours. BU provides tours to about 1,400 people a day on peak days in and out of the building.

Anything else you’d like us to know about the project?

TS: The Leventhal Center respects its historic fabric, provides flexibility for future needs, and delivers a beautifully executed design. It was a great collaboration between Goody Clancy, Boston University, and the City of Boston, and we are grateful for the invaluable input and teamwork we received from the BRA and the Bay State Road/Back Bay West Architectural District Commission.

To learn more about the Leventhal Center, click here.
o learn more about the 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

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.

Community Stewardship through Preservation

The Parish of All Saints, Ashmont

September 11th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The following is part two 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 restored All Saints tower, winter 2015.

The restored All Saints tower, winter 2015.

Before Ralph Adams Cram designed West Point, and the John W. McCormack U.S. Post Office & Courthouse, there was the Parish of All Saints in Ashmont. As one of the first works of the renowned architect, All Saints’ is considered one of Cram’s most important designs and a landmark in American architectural history. After designing the church in 1892, Cram partnered with numerous artisans and craftspeople that embellished the Gothic Revival structure with additions, furnishings and art over the course of 40 years. Under his guidance, All Saints’ became home to an impressive collection of art including paintings, sculptures, stained glass, and metalwork.

By 2009, many of the building’s original elements – some nearly 120 years old – were in need of major repairs. The Parish received support from an anonymous foundation and undertook a major capital campaign to raise funds for a comprehensive restoration project. In the summer of 2013, the Parish launched an extensive campaign to fully return the entire complex – including the church, tower, chapels, cloister and parish house – to their original state.

“It’s rare that a congregation is able to undertake such a comprehensive rehabilitation project,” said Jeffrey Gonyeau, a parishioner and preservation consultant. And comprehensive it was. In addition to major building systems updates and improved accessibility, the Parish and the project team were committed to restorations that reflected Cram’s original vision for the church. All stained glass, leaded glass and other windows in the buildings were restored, with many windows completely rebuilt to original specifications.

The slate and copper roofs, flashing and gutters of the entire complex were renewed. The light fixtures  Cram designed for the church were restored to their original appearance, based on a drawing of them found in a 1923 advertisement for the company that had created them for Cram & Ferguson. The list goes on. The restoration of All Saints boasts numerous examples of creative, ingenious preservation solutions that each contributed to an outstanding finished product.

Interior of nave before restoration.

Interior of nave before restoration.

Interior of nave,as restored.

Interior of nave, as restored.

Another visually striking component of the restoration included returning the church to its original warm interior color palette. To do this, the stone arches inside the church and the Lady Chapel were carefully stripped of the layers of paint that had been obscuring the beautiful red sandstone, revealing Cram’s original design intent and interesting choice in materials.

At some point in the church’s life, the sandstone had been painted a light gray, and the plaster and the building had been painted white. “We don’t know why that was,” said the Reverend Michael J. Godderz, who noted that the paint may have been applied to conceal grime and soot. “The paint on the sand stone was starting to trap water, so we knew that we needed to remove it as part of the restoration. The architects let us know from the beginning that leaving the paint would make the stone spall.”

The project’s architects also took samples from the painted plaster walls for analysis, and were able to determine the color of the walls at the point when the final chapel was added, and the church assumed its current form. This warm tan color was reinstated in the church, to a very attractive effect.

Restoration of the tower in the works.

Restoration of the tower in the works.

Throughout the extensive restoration, the congregation was able to meet in the church each Sunday – Father Godderz even became accustomed to celebrating the mass with scaffolding a mere 8 inches from the altar for a year and a half.

A preservation project can be a community affair, and this was certainly true in the case of the All Saints’ restoration. The project contributed to increased community engagement, as well.

“Many community-based organizations use this facility, and the Parish goes out of its way to accommodate additional uses beyond the Masses during the week. That’s a strong part of the Parish’s mission, and we had this in mind when we were planning this project,” said Gonyeau.

The project team and All Saints’ staff engaged with the Dorchester community, providing information about the building and frequent updates about the restoration. They hosted dozens of tours, participated in the Boston Landmarks Commission Preservation Month, and co-sponsored events with the Dorchester Historical Society and St. Mark’s Area Main Streets. “We wanted to make sure that there was a really strong educational component to the project. Peabody Square is the heart of the neighborhood, so we opened our doors and brought hundreds of people through the project as it was going on,” Gonyeau explained. “This was a great way to engage the neighborhood and to demonstrate the value of high-quality preservation work to the community.”

Father Godderz noted a similar experience. “I’ve had a number of people stop me on the street and talk about how excited they were. It’s been an opportunity for people to come into the church for the first time,” he explained. “We’ve had a lot of support from the neighborhood, which we’re grateful for.”

For additional information about the Parish of All Saints restoration, click here.
For additional information about the 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

Preservation in Unexpected Places: A Shining Example in the Back Bay

The MIT Alpha Theta Chapter of Sigma Chi Gets an Updated Home

September 8th, 2015  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The newly restored façade of 532 Beacon Street.

The newly restored façade of 532 Beacon Street.

Since 1919, members of the MIT Alpha Theta Chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity have called 532 Beacon Street home. Karl Büttner, part of the Alpha Theta Sigma Chi Building Committee, appreciates that the house has always been an integral part of the students’ living experience. “What’s special about this house is that it really is a home,” he explains. “That’s something that generations of MIT students have experienced – they all lived in this home when they were undergraduates. And it’s the historic elements of the house that make it feel like a home.”

The fraternity’s desire to carefully preserve the building’s historic elements is evident when viewing the building’s restored façade, grand central staircase and common rooms. The Back Bay Architectural District Commission required replacement of the curved sash windows in kind. Tony Salem of Sea-Dar Construction, the project’s general contractor noted, for example, that “This isn’t typically done – a lot of clients and developers will do regular windows. [In this case], they decided to restore the façade fully back to the original character.”

At the same time, the project team was presented with the challenge of incorporating modern building systems while preserving the historic integrity of the building’s original elements. New systems were entirely integrated into the existing architecture. “There was a lot of focus on how to introduce a full overhaul of the building systems in a way so that it was concealed, and so that the character of the interior was not disturbed,” said Peter Makrauer, of LDa Architects. “We wanted to make it a ‘new building,’ but have it feel exactly the same.”

The historic stair detailing was recreated and extended to the fifth floor addition.

Another view of beautiful staircase

Notably, the home’s grand central staircase was restored and extended beyond its original length to service a new fifth floor addition. The extension blends seamlessly with the original stair – all details such as nosing profiles, balusters and newels were matched. As a result, the staircase remains a focal point of the house, which Bütter called, “a central part of the building’s architectural beauty.” Additionally, a new elevator was added that provides wheelchair access to most of the building.

Common room before.

Common room before, just prior to the start of restoration.

Common room after.

Common room after.

Did we mention that this fantastic project was completed in under a year? Though the vision for this restoration was 15 years in the making, time was of the essence once the project began in order to minimize disruption to students. Each person that we spoke to about the restoration was quick to note that the team’s cohesiveness contributed to the project’s success.

When you think stellar historic preservation projects, a fraternity house might not be what immediately comes to mind – but that’s the point. The restoration of 532 Beacon Street demonstrates the positive impact of thoughtful preservation in unexpected places. The results are not only beautiful, but built to last. As Salem noted, “When you renovate a property, you expand its lifespan for the next fifty to one hundred years. So being able to go in and restore the façade and the interior, while bringing in new technology – that’s a new lifespan for that building.”


In the common areas, including the library (pictured above), wood paneling was repaired and refinished; all new paneling and woodwork was matched to the original profiles.

To learn more about 532 Beacon Street, click here.
To learn more about the 2015 Preservation Achievement Awards, click here.

All photos courtesy of LDa Architecture and Interiors.