Preservation Projects

Protect Historic Charlestown A new committee launched to focus on projects related to zoning, demolition and preserving the historic character of Charlestown

 

RECENT PRESERVATION PROJECTS

 Protect historic Charlestown 

ast fall the Charlestown Preservation Society (CPS) launched a new Task Force entitled Protect Historic Charlestown (PHC). The mission of the Task Force is to help protect the historic character and the architecture of Charlestown in partnership with the City of Boston.

The team’s key goals are initially to focus on modification of zoning laws and review processes to create a more supportive environment for preserving and protecting historic properties. These may include removing shortcuts that facilitate the demolition of historic properties, or the modification of parking requirements to exempt single family residences from automatically receiving street parking. The long-term goal is to develop a sustainable approach to protecting our historic buildings that is consistent with our legacy as the oldest neighborhood in Boston.

Our first project, entitled “Know our Town,” aims to improve the inventory and documentation of our historic streets and properties. We are launching our new initiative on Saturday, May 14, and we will continue the work on Saturday, May 21st. May is Preservation Month in Boston. There will be lots of activities around the city, but the most critical in Charlestown is developing a street–by-street inventory of our oldest homes. The first step in this process is to take photographs and complete short descriptions of the external features of the houses on assigned streets.

We asked residents, students, and business owners who are willing to spend a few hours supporting this important work. Volunteers met  at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 14th, at Memorial Hall at 14 Green Street.    After a brief training, pairs of volunteers will fan out on the streets of Charlestown to help complete the survey. All you need bring is a phone or digital camera to take pictures. We expect survey teams will spend two hours – or more, if they can.

While we know where some of the historic buildings in Charlestown are located, less than 10% of the homes in Charlestown are currently documented in the MACRIS database, the on-line database of the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC). This database provides historical information on building dates, current ownership, style, historic ownership, and other points of historical interest. We want it to include all the oldest houses in the neighborhood.

Why do we care? The smartest initial step in any building construction work or permit request is to review the proposed changes in the context of the neighborhood and the historic importance of the property. The Design Review Committee (“DRC”) within CPS is frequently struck with how little knowledge it can immediately access about our older homes.  This affects our ability to protect the properties and manage appeals before the Zoning Board.  When these homes become targets for demolition, the situation is even more imperiled and time-sensitive.

Update on the Training Field Landscape Project

The project was launched just before Halloween and is targeted for completion this Spring.  It’s going to make a huge contribution to the landscaping of one of our most cherished parks.  Go take a look as the new Park emerges.  Especially watch for the new fencing.

Big Changes to the Training Field

Big Changes to the Training Field

Cultural Landscape Plan, Charlestown Training Field

Issued in February 2014, the Cultural Landscape Plan studied the dismal soil and drainage, tree health, circulation, and universal access conditions as well as assessing needs for the granite and fencing elements.  The first archaeological dig done with many Charlestown volunteers revealed many artifacts and some areas of sensitivity.  The various consultants on the plan prepared a thorough document with recommended treatments including soil remediation, installation of an irrigation system, expanded drainage and curbing, and proper archaeological treatment  to have healthy laws and trees without soil runoff.  The FY 2014 Mayor’s Budget for FY 2014 called for $629,330 to accomplish the work.  City Council approved and allocated the funds in June 2014 to allow the actual design contracts for the scope of work with appropriate landscape architecture firm (estimated at $75,000) that must precede the actual construction work (balance of the budget) expected in the summer of 2015. March 10, 2015 was the first community meeting with the general work outlined;  following residents’ comments, the Parks Department expects to return in the spring with further development, especially of fencing design.

Background: In 2013 CPS received a $20,000 Beautify Boston grant from the City of Boston to accomplish the Cultural Resources Plan for the Charlestown Training Field, the town’s beloved “outdoor living room.”

CPS is working with the Friends of the Training Field, historic landscape consultants, soil specialists, consultants in handicap access and others to plan the work to reinvigorate the lawn and trees especially.

The plan’s findings will be included as a scope of work and budget in the city’s FY 2015 capital budget with construction expected in the summer of 2015.  NOTE:  the snowplow-downed granite pier will be repaired and replaced in this construction work.

 

Memorial Hall Renovation
CPS is working with Abraham Lincoln Post 11 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars as they develop capital plans for the renovation of the 1791 Samuel Dexter House on Green Street, now know as Memorial Hall.

 

Civil War Statue Conservation, Charlestown Training Field
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is the Training Field’s centerpiece.  But the massive granite statue had fallen into disrepair before a professional conservation effort sponsored by CPS in 2008.

Conservators cleaned and repaired the granite following the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for preservation.  They replaced disintegrating mortar and removed the small tree that had taken root on the statue base, along with weeds, moss and algae.

Many original details are again visible: you can see the veins in the soldiers’ hands and the stars on Victory’s robes.

The statue was created in 1871-72 by Victorian sculptor Martin Milmore.  Born in Ireland, educated at Boston Latin School and apprenticed in Charlestown, he’s best known for his Civil War commemorative sculpture.  You can see his work in the Boston Common and Forest Hills Cemetery.

To make sure quality maintenance will continue, CPS established a small endowment for the statue through the City of Boston’s Adopt-a-Statue Fund.

Many organizations helped fund the statue’s conservation, including the George B. Henderson Foundation, the Convention Center Authority Community Partnership Fund, the City of Boston Small Changes Program, and more than 70 generous Charlestown residents, organizations, and businesses.

 

Interpretive Panels, Charlestown Training Field
Three interpretive panels in the Training Field cover themes of war and commemoration, the changing Training Field landscape, and threats to the little park’s existence.

The panels are the result of two years of planning and design that began in 2009 with community meetings to gather information and plan themes and sub themes.  They were unveiled on Veterans’ Day 2010.

The panels trace the Training Field from its beginnings as a training ground for colonial militia in the 1640s. In 1775 it figured in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and in the early nineteenth century it housed a firehouse, munitions depot and schoolhouse before becoming the urban park we know today.

In the mid-twentieth century it was the focus of another kind of battle as Charlestown residents fought efforts to turn it into a highway off-ramp.
CPS managed the project which was funded by the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund of the City of Boston.  We received invaluable help from the Boston Parks Department, the Boston National Historical Park, the Friends of the Training Field, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and many other local organizations, veterans’ groups and residents who shared documents and memories of Charlestown’s beloved “outdoor living room.”

 


 


 

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