Kissing Cousins

Based on some recent conversations, there appear to be a few popular misconceptions regarding MedHC and its role. Here, we’ll try to address the (very) common confusion between the Medford Historical Commission and the Medford Historical Society and Museum.

(1) The Medford Historical Society and Museum is a private archive and museum supported by member donations. They describe their mission as “to collect and preserve the history of this historic city, to correct the myths that had grown up over the years, to build a historical library, to collect the artifacts of local history, and to celebrate historical anniversaries. In 2013, [they] added “Museum” to [their] name to mark [their] organization as a keeper of the city’s material and historical archives and artifacts.”

(2) As for, us, the Medford Historical Commission, we are a board of 7 Medford residents, each appointed by the Mayor and, together, we are one of Medford’s many Boards & Commissions. We are “the official city body charged with the identification of properties and sites in the city of historical significance, and the principal advisor to the city on matters relating to historic preservation. The Commission is further charged with reviewing all requests for demolition of buildings constructed more than 75 years ago or that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or the Massachusetts Register of Historic Places.” The Historical Commission was established under Section 8d of Chapter 40 of the Massachusetts General Laws and Chapter 48 of the Medford Municipal Ordinances.

Most of our neighboring towns and cities have a Historical Commission, or similar board, for demolition review and related oversight.

But wait, there’s more!! (3) The city of Medford also has a Historic District Commission. Like the Historical Commission, the District Commission is an official City Board.

The Medford Historic District Commission was established in 1985 under Section 4 of Chapter 40C of the Massachusetts General Laws and Chapter 48 of the Medford Municipal Ordinances. This commission is the official city body charged with administration of the city-designated Historic Districts. This Commission’s role is to ensure that any visible changes to properties within the Historic Districts enhances, rather than detracts from, the area’s historic character. The Commission can issue certificates of appropriateness, certificates of non-applicability, and certificates of hardship with respect to construction or alteration of buildings and structures within the historic districts. By preserving the historic character of the Historic Districts and Medford in general, the goal of the Commission is to sustain and improve the significance of Medford’s place in American history and to increase the cultural and monetary wealth of Medford residents. Carefully managing the appearance of historic neighborhoods has benefits for all property owners.” (As explained by the Historical Society and Museum (!!) in their effort to clarify our differences, now posted on their News page.)

Still confused? Fair enough – we are all involved in the work of sharing, preserving and protecting Medford’s history as best we can.

This is the second post in a series of Clarifications & Corrections. The first post in the series was “Pro-Active Preservation,” about our ongoing survey and inventory research; in that post we wanted to address the misconception that the HC *only* identifies historic properties when they are about to demolished.

Pro-Active Preservation

The same press release from City Hall that announced the city’s new permit database, also announced the introduction of BidNet, an online system for accepting applications for city jobs put to bid. This includes the Historical Commission’s survey of historical properties, a proactive measure to identify and research historical properties in Medford’s neighborhoods. This year, our applicants for the job – which is a survey of the Medford side of the Winter Hill neighborhood – will submit via BidNet.

Our ongoing survey project has been funded annually by a state grant, with matching funds from the city, and employs independent architectural historians to research and document the history of city’s houses, buildings and neighborhoods. These findings are then recorded in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS), where the public can access them.

One of the only buildings in Medford’s Winter Hill that has already been researched is the Medford Street Fire Station at 52 Medford Street. Research done in 1974 suggested that the fire station “is of sufficient quality to merit consideration for reuse should it no longer serve as a fire station in the future.” In fact, it has been preserved as a residential building, and retains the “decorative moulded brickwork, modillioned cornice” and “well-executed granite retaining walls” the earlier researchers noticed. All of these beautiful exterior details are still visible on a quick stroll or drive by the fire station at 52 Medford Street. And, looking forward, we trust that our upcoming survey will identify and help preserve other early buildings from Medford’s Winter Hill past.

Medford Street Fire Station, built 1895. Renaissance Revival with 3-storey square bell tower. Image from the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS).

Based on some recent conversations, there appear to be a few popular misconceptions regarding MedHC and its role. Hopefully, this post can help address the misconception that the HC *only* identifies historic properties when they are about to demolished. Consider it the first in a series of Clarifications & Corrections.

July Agenda

There will be no new business discussed at our July meeting. But if you’d like to drop in to ask questions or share news, Zoom info is included in the agenda document.

If you’re looking for something more lively, be sure to check out the upcoming ONLINE program hosted by the West Medford Community Center this Sunday.

Meeting Dates for 2020

We’ve set our 2020 Meeting Dates – the Commission will continue to meet on the second Monday of every month (except October, when we meet on the third Monday) at 7 PM in Room 201 of City Hall.

January 13
February 10
March 9
April 13
May 11
June 8
July 13
August 10
September 14
October 19*
November 9
December 14

Change of Venue!

Because of considerable public interest in Medford’s Forest Street, our Monday, Aug 12th meeting will now be in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 7 PM. This meeting will determine whether or not the house at 109 Forest Street is preferably preserved and subject to a delay in demolition.

move

The full Public Hearing Notice is as follows:

Notice of Public Hearing
Monday, August 12, 2019
On Intent to Demolish a Significant Building
As Determined by the Medford Historical Commission

Notice is hereby given to the Public that a Notice of Intent to Demolish a Building has been submitted to the Medford Historical Commission for the dwelling house located at 109 Forest Street. The Commission has determined that the building meets the criteria of a significant building as defined in Section 48-77 of the Medford City Ordinances. In accordance with Section 48-78, the Commission is holding a public hearing on Monday, August 12, 2019 at 7:00pm in the Howard F. Alden Memorial Auditorium at Medford City Hall to determine if the demolition of the building at 109 Forest Street would be detrimental to the historical, cultural, or architectural heritage or resources of the City of Medford. For information regarding this hearing, please visit http://www.medfordhistoricalcommission.org. Comments may be submitted prior to the meeting in writing to HistoricalCommission@Medford-MA.gov.

Medford’s Community Read 2018

Medford’s community read this year  – Caleb’s Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks – is “inspired by a true story” from colonial New England history.  Medford Public Library is hosting a discussion of the novel, and its “history, themes, relationships and impact” on Wednesday, Aug 15 at 7 PM. The discussion will be lead by Library Director Barbara Kerr, more info here.

The novel is “set in Massachusetts in the 1660s” and “tells the tale of Bethia Mayfield, a restless and curious young woman growing up amid a small band of English Puritans. At age twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other…”

There’s still lots of 2018 left, so even if you haven’t read the novel yet, you can stop by and learn more.

Hyper-local Histories at the MPL

This summer, our local historian, Dee Morris will offer a walking tour to introduce you to Medford’s famous Hallowell family; brothers Norwood and Edward Hallowell were Civil War officers and their families enjoyed the good life, 19th century style, on lower Mystic Street. The first of these walking tours is Saturday, June 16, at 10 AM. More info here.

And, if you’d like to learn how to research your own family history, the Medford Public Library is hosting a weekly series of workshops, starting this Thursday, June 7, at 7 PM. More details via the library’s Events page, or on this flyer.