Hot Property – Peter Tufts House

Wicked Local published a statement from John Anderson, the President of the Medford Historical Society & Museum on the sale of the Peter Tufts House by the Medford Historical Society & Museum.

Although it doesn’t come until late in the piece, he assures everyone that

The Peter Tufts House is NOT THREATENED in any way by this decision. When MHSM purchased the property, the deed included a permanent preservation restriction administered by Historic New England. The property cannot be subdivided or demolished. The entire exterior and many of the interior features are protected by the deed restrictions. HNE requires work to be approved in advance and they inspect the house annually for compliance.

The realtor’s listing is here.  The Medford Historical Society & Museum and the Medford Historical Commission are two separate entities; the former is private and funded by membership and donation, the latter is public and part of Medford’s city government.

But we are all involved in the work of sharing, preserving and protecting Medford’s history as best we can.

Hidden Treasures & Historic Hot Spots

The Medford Historical Commission has been asked to participate in a survey for the Freedom’s Way/National Heritage Area to identify local sites that have the potential to become National Historic Landmark or National Register of Historic Places listings.
We would like to hear which sites you would like to see potentially nominated:
1. Candidates for “buildings, structures, or natural features that represent or stand out in Medford’s history”.
2. Suggestions for Medford’s “Hidden Treasures” that could be celebrated in the future.
Contact us with your suggestions. And please feel free to share with interested parties!

We did it!

We have strengthened Medford’s Demo Delay! Thanks to everyone who shared their passionate commitment – to historic preservation, neighborhood character, and community-driven development – with the City Council Tuesday night (4/18).
The Council voted to amend the current bylaw: to extend the Medford Historical Commission’s demo delay to 18 months, and to require review on demo applications for all buildings built more than 75 years ago. Please stay tuned as we clarify the language, take the bylaw before the Committee of the Whole, and make sure the changes go into effect. And please, reach out to the City Council members and let them know you support this change!

Demo Delay is on the Agenda!

This coming Tuesday, April 18, the Medford Historical Commission will be going before City Council to request they amend the existing demolition delay bylaw, Chapter 48 of the City Ordinances. The resolution, offered by Councilor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, is to move forward with extending the delay from six months to eighteen or twenty four. We need your help and support. The Commission is the official municipal board charged with protecting our community’s history. One way we do that is by reviewing existing buildings which are slated for demolition. The existing bylaw we operate under however, is ineffective so we have been advocating for change. We view this extension as long overdue and entirely necessary to protect the irreplaceable historic assets which are being demolished on a monthly basis. We need you to voice your support for this amendment at the next Council meeting. Please join us in Alden Council Chambers at 7PM at City Hall and spread the word in the mean time. The Council agenda is attached.
If you plan to attend, here is what you should know:
History: Early in 2016, the Historical Commission began reviewing the existing bylaw to propose a series of amendments to make the ordinance a more effective preservation tool. We crafted a draft bylaw whose most important edits include: a change of reviewable buildings from 1900 to fifty years old and the length of time for a demolition delay from six months to twenty-four. In September, we were invited to meet with the Council’s subcommittee on demolition delay. We sent the enclosed letter with the proposed attachments for their review. We also generated the enclosed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list which help further clarify our intent.
Necessity: Demolitions are increasing every month. The number of applications has tripled since 2014 and is still increasing. Last year, we had 15 reviewable cases. All of those are summarized in our 2016 annual report, enclosed. Another dozen buildings were not reviewable. This year, we have already had six applications and we expect more to follow. Based on our estimates, Medford has approximately 3,500 buildings built before 1900 out of a total of 18,000 housing units. If current trends continue, swaths of our rarest housing stock could be wiped out and lost. We must not let that happen.
Changes: What this new bylaw will do is provide the Commission with a series of much needed tools which were not available when the bylaw was originally written. We have updated definitions to clarify what is reviewable under the new bylaw. It will include any building over fifty years old, partial and total demolitions. Like before, a building will need to be determined significant and preferably preserved. If a demolition delay is imposed, we provide a clear set of requirements the applicant must fulfil in order for the Commission to review a request to lift the delay early. If the applicant does nothing, they should be prepared to wait out the full delay.
Outcome: We believe this is an opportunity to push for better projects. We are not anti-development. In most cases, we support carefully crafted projects that match the built landscape. Dozens of rehabilitation projects happen every year and they demonstrate that Medford, and its historic homes, businesses and former industrial blocks are worth saving and re-use. Our goal is to ensure that every building is given equal consideration and review over the very final act of demolition and removal. Once a building is gone, so too is any record or tangible connection with the past.
I ask that you come and support this change for a better Medford. If you have any questions regarding this proposal, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I will have access to my email all weekend and will make it a priority to respond to any questions.
Thank you and see you Tuesday.

Seeking a Representative to the Brooks Estate Board of Directors

Brooks Estate Manor House

Shepherd Brooks Estate in 1880. Image from the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

The Medford Historical Commission seeks letters of interest from qualified individuals within the City of Medford to be appointed to the Medford Brooks Estate Land Trust (M-BELT) Board of Directors, serving as the representative of the Medford Historic Commission.

Owned by the City of Medford since 1942, and managed by the Medford Brooks Estate Land Trust (M-BELT) following permanent protection in 1998, the Brooks Estate is an important local landmark. M-BELT was created as a public-private partnership, with a composite board drawn from M-BELT membership, and representative from the Medford Historical Commission, the Medford Historical Society the Medford City Council and Mayor.

Dating back to 1660, this parcel is the last of extensive landholdings belonging to the Brooks Family of West Medford. From 1880, the grounds were the summer residence of Peter Chardon Brooks III and his brother, Shepherd Brooks. The later hired noted architects Peabody and Stearns to design the elaborate brick Queen Anne manor and carriage house. Following its use by the City as World War II veterans housing a nursing home, and later a group home, the manor building has been undergoing a restoration effort to breathe new life into this important complex.

We seek an energetic candidate that has an interest in the ongoing work of M-BELT and to assist with the collaboration with the Medford Historical Commission. You will be required to attend M-BELT board meetings and report quarterly to the Commission. Applicants should have an interest, knowledge, or experience in the fields related to historic preservation, landscape architecture, architecture, architectural history, and/or Medford history. With over fifty acres of conservation land, two historic buildings and a multitude of tasks at hand, we encourage you to contact the Commission if you have any questions or need further information. The Master Plan for the Brooks Estate can be found on M-BELT’s website at

When sending information, please include your name, contact and supporting materials (such as CV and cover letters). Candidates will be contacted by the Commission for an interview. We will then appoint the nominee. Those selected to serve generally serve for three year terms.

Please submit letters & materials to:

Ryan D. Hayward
Commission Chairman

Email (preferred):

Regular Mail:
Medford Historical Commission
Ryan D. Hayward, Chairman
c/o Office of Planning and Community Development
Medford City Hall
85 George P. Hassett Drive
Medford, MA 02155

Medford Historical Commission Seeks New Members!

Are you wondering how you can make a difference in Medford?
Want to get involved with the Historical Commission?
The Medford Historical Commission is accepting applications from interested citizens on a continual basis until vacancies are filled.

Medford Historical Commission Call for Letters of Interest

The Medford Historical Commission seeks letters of interest from qualified individuals within the Medford community to serve on our board.

The Medford Historical Commission and the Medford Historic District Commission share the common goals of preserving and protecting the City’s historic character and heritage.

The Medford Historical Commission was established under Section 8d of Chapter 40 of the Massachusetts General Laws and Chapter 48 of the Medford Municipal Ordinances. The Commission is the official City body charged with the identification of properties and sites in the City of historical significance and is the principal adviser to the City on matters relating to historic preservation. The Commission is further charged with reviewing all requests for demolition of buildings constructed before 1900 or are listed on the National and/or Massachusetts Registers of Historic Places, in accordance with the City’s demolition delay ordinance.

Applicants should have interest, knowledge, and experience in fields related to historic preservation and Medford history.  Interested applicants may contact the Commission for further information. Please include your name and contact information, as well as any supporting material.  Candidates may be contacted by the Commission for an interview. The Commission shall then present a list of nominees to the Mayor for final selection and appointment. Those selected to serve on the board generally serve three years.

Please submit letters & materials to:

Ryan D. Hayward
Vice Chair
Medford Historical Commission

Email (preferred):

Regular Mail:
Medford Historical Commission
c/o Office of Planning and Community Development
Medford City Hall
85 George P. Hassett Drive
Medford, MA 02155

Historical Commission Fall Update

This fall the Historical Commission participated in Medford Community Day at Andrews School. Visitors to our table looked at maps of Medford from  1875, 1900, and 1936 to get a general idea of when their house may have been built, which was then visually represented by different color pins in a map of modern Medford.
Thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat, tell us about their houses, and explore Medford’s architectural history and development!

This fall we also bid a fond farewell to long-time commissioner, Claire Dempsey. We thank her for her years of service to the commission – her knowledge of city history and architecture will be missed!

Medford Hillside Walking Tour – Saturday, July 18

SATURDAY: Medford Hillside Walking Tour
10 a.m., meet at Wesley United Methodist Church, 100 Winthrop Street

Each summer, Medford author and local historian Dee Morris presents a free walking tour featuring a particular Medford neighborhood. This year, Dee will be presenting the tour “Some Exceedingly Capable People of Medford Hillside.” Dee’s tour description:

“Do you want a home of your own?” was the rallying cry of Leavitt & Woodworth, two premier real estate agents from Medford Hillside in the early 1900s.

Living in the Chester or Greenleaf Avenue area offered the commuter about 48 streetcars or trains to and from Boston. The comfortable homes built on the fine dry soil provided a healthy environment in which to raise a family.

Near to Tufts College, this socially-minded neighborhood loved entertaining by presenting amateur theatricals put on by the “None-Such Comedy Club.” Yet in 1903 the peace was shattered when one of the local girls was shot while walking up her front stairs.

There are many untold stories in this ideal community.

Dee will repeat her walk at 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 8, and Saturday, September 12.

Presented by the Friends of the Medford Public Library.