Dorchester Historical Society
2009 Dorchester?s Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties List, May 17, 2009
1. Lower Mills East Historic District ? highlights include the Captain Bussey House
2. Lower Mills West Historic District ? highlights include the Tileston and Haynes Houses
3. Willow Court/Boston Street area ? highlights include the 18th c. feel of Willow Court?s streets, located on the edge of the South Bay Mall, and the DHS Clapp properties
4. Norfolk Street ? highlights include the Clark Farm and the John Tolman House
5. Centre Street ? highlights include the Girl?s Industrial School (1859) at 232 Centre Street
6. Four Corners ? highlights include the Harvard Street Firehouse
7. Port Norfolk ? highlights include the Putnam Nail/Lawley Shipyard industrial complex
8. Neponset area ? highlights include the old ca. 1850 Holbrook Tavern, possibly slated for demolition, and the lovely Minot and Chickatawbut Streets
9. Meetinghouse Hill ? highlights include the First Parish Church, St. Peter?s Church, and old houses along Winter Street and High Street
10. Jones Hill ? highlights include the Clapp descendant Anna Harris Smith?s House at 65 Pleasant Street
Dorchester Historical Society (DHS) was founded in 1891 by those who felt it was important to preserve the history of Boston?s oldest and largest neighborhood. (The town of Dorchester, founded in May 1630, was annexed to Boston in 1870.) The DHS has been in the business of creative preservation since 1895, when it saved the Blake House (1661) the oldest house in Boston from demolition by moving it a few hundred yards. After recently completing a successful and award-winning exterior restoration of the 1661 Blake House, the DHS is now engaged in restoring the historic Clapp family farm buildings on its Boston Street headquarters property. The DHS strives to lead by example as it preserves its own properties, serves as a preservation resource for owners of older houses, and celebrates Dorchester?s history through Dorchester Image of the Day emails.
The DHS Architectural Preservation (AP) Committee, through an annual list of endangered properties, has tried to raise awareness of the architectural treasures still standing in Dorchester. The AP Committee?s mission is to work with property owners to encourage a short-term goal of saving specific threatened properties and the long-range goal of encouraging preservation of Dorchester?s unique character and sense of place. From 2004-2008 the annual list was comprised of the top ten properties nominated by the public as Dorchester's Ten Most Endangered Historic Properties. This list is meant to serve as a way to increase awareness of and appreciation for historic buildings and the quality of life they enhance in the Dorchester and Mattapan communities, with the hope that well-built old structures will be refurbished and reused, not demolished or altered beyond recognition.
The AP Committee also encourages the reuse and the recycling of old buildings as a ?green? or environmental friendly approach to local development, consistent with the city of Boston?s efforts to become more sustainable across all its neighborhoods.
Most nineteenth-century buildings were constructed with high quality materials and, with proper maintenance, will outlast cheaply built replacement housing. According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, rehabbing a well-built old building is sustainable because, even though new buildings may use less operating energy going forward, historic buildings contain ?embodied energy? or the energy originally used to extract, process, manufacture, transport and install building materials.
When embodied energy is worked into the equation, a new, energy-efficient building doesn?t actually start saving energy for about 40 years. And if it replaces an older building that was knocked down and hauled away, the break-even period stretches to some 65 years, since demolition and disposal consume significant amounts of energy. Preservation advocates also warn that tearing down one 20,000-square-foot brick building wipes out the energy savings from recycling 1.3 million aluminum cans. And one-third of all waste going into landfills in the U. S. is construction debris.
The Top Ten Endangered Properties list has always been announced in May at the DHS Annual Meeting. May is National Preservation Month, a time to raise awareness about historic properties at risk of demolition due to deterioration (vandalism, lack of maintenance), or development not appropriate for the site. The Dorchester?s Top Ten Endangered lists for 2004-2008 can be found at www.dorchesteratheneum.org, the properties are also mapped on google at http://tinyurl.com/dx5dwx.
In 2009 the AP Committee has once again compiled a list, in response to folks who feel this is a good tactic to educate the community about Dorchester?s historical architecture and sense of place that deserves the community?s attention and support. However, this year we are spotlighting the historic districts (and their hidden gems) in Dorchester that seem to be most in need of attention due to development pressure. We believe a balanced approach to preserving and enhancing Dorchester?s unique character through thoughtful development can be achieved
- by bringing heretofore overlooked historic resources to light,
- by utilizing the city?s existing Neighborhood Design Overlay District oversight process,
- through above-board communication and discussion between property owners, developers, community members and the DHS as early in the process as possible,
- and through exploring possible historic district designation.
The AP Committee encourages the public to research and become familiar with the above-mentioned as well as other equally important Dorchester landmarks and locales ? the dorchesterathenuem.org website contains all of the Boston Landmarks Commission Dorchester historic district survey documents. New ideas and members are welcome, to help explore more effective methods to achieve success. To get involved in preserving Dorchester?s historic built environment, contact the DHS Architectural Preservation Committee, DorchesterEnviro@gmail.com or call 617-474-1478. To get involved in the Dorchester Historical Society?s activities, including a new initiative to ?green? its properties by partnering with Earthworks Boston on urban orchard planting activities, please email Earl Taylor, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Created: May 16, 2009 Modified: May 16, 2009