REST IN PEACE
The situation in our neighborhood is urgent, evidenced by the number of beautiful houses already lost and the increasing displacement of our residents. The built landscape is surprisingly fragile and can disappear quite easily without vigilance, displacing people along with it.
56 CEDAR STREET. This house was torn down, and nobody can remember when or why. It is hard to believe you could forget where a whole house went, but that is pretty much what has happened. An ACD will preserve our beautiful assets. The picture on the left, incidentally, is by Walker Evans, a famous American photographer, and it is preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. We hope that future great photographers will continue to find this neighborhood's surviving architecture a source of inspiration. [ *** See note below for how the 'ghost' of this house recently popped up.]
20 HAWTHORNE STREET. CAD Builders LLC tore down this 1850s Greek Revival cottage in 2016 after they were denied a variance to build condos on the site. After a period as a weedy, overgrown lot full of demolition debris, a large condo building got squeezed into the site anyway. An ACD will prevent ruthless developers from taking such actions.
15 KENILWORTH STREET. Developer Ari Goldschneider converted the brick building at the right from 4 bedrooms (in 3 apartments) to 11 bedrooms (in 3 apartments). It was originally built as a single family house. An ACD could prevent developers from altering a building by requiring design review and approval before a building permit is approved by the Inspectional Services Department. The church in the background was lost to a fire in the 1950s. The replacement is an interesting building by a Harvard-educated architect. An ACD will help protect our unique institutions, including churches that give the neighborhood place-markers.
145-147 CEDAR STREET. Developer Joe LaRosa tore down this house in 2015 and built this dense 6-unit building that fills the lot. There were allegations the project violated zoning codes, but Boston Inspectional Services did not require a zoning hearing despite neighborhood requests for one. The architect is the son of the Inspectional Services commissioner. Having an ACD would require all new construction in the neighborhood to be approved by a commission that includes representatives from the Highland Park neighborhood itself.
*** The Ghost of 56 Cedar (read more on this tale):
Lately this vanished house assumed invisible importance, as it was a key part of the operations of a church next door recently saved from demolition in a landmarking campaign led by the neighborhood. Even though the 56 Cedar regrettably wasn't here to be saved along with the African Orthodox Church at 50 Cedar, the memory of the institution that had occupied them both established the importance of what was worth preserving here in the remainder (read story here).
It turned out 56 Cedar has importance for immigrant communities from the early twentieth century, who used it as a settlement home to assist immigrants from their homeland to set up their new lives here and be part of the congregation for worship next door in the church at 50 Cedar. This set of associations gained another depth once another congregation took over and made important contributions to the cause of Civil Rights right from here in Highland Park (see report here). If the church as the remaining piece of that legacy had been destroyed as a developer wanted, we would be left with a gap in two important under-represented groups' histories and in its place a non-descript, over-scaled box filled with apartments.
The neighborhood's campaign prevailed because of unusually massive public support in an urgent situation that had a clear importance in history and culture, but we should not have to address such things as last-stand battles, and not every structure carries such strong associations to the past that could save it. Having an ACD would have provided a venue for deliberation and consideration ahead of time rather than last-minute crisis, which is too frequently the norm and too frequently a losing battle. We were lucky in saving the African Orthodox Church, but luck shouldn't be part of a civic process whose benefit for everyone will be to open these matters to democratic process. [back to top]