“Gut Rehab” Concerns

If you’ve noticed an older property in your neighborhood that’s been *almost entirely* demolished in the renovation process and you’re wondering what’s up, you are not alone. Your Historical Commission has also been concerned about this trend in Medford development.

Below, see the full text of our recent letter to the Mayor on this issue –

A recent example on West Street, in the Hillside neighborhood.

Long story short, we’re worried that “the Building Department has rubber-stamped applications for building permits in a manner which has permitted property owners and developers to circumvent mandatory demolition review by the Historical Commission.”

If you have concerns as well, or examples from your neighborhood, please be in touch with us, or contact the mayor to support our letter!

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.

Preferably Preserved: 43 Pleasant Street

The Historical Commission held its third Zoom public meeting last night. The primary business was a decision regarding 43 Pleasant Street, a house built before 1850 and located in area now known as “Old Ship Street” on the National Register of Historic Places.

The commission found the house “preferably preserved.”

When a building is found to be “preferably preserved” an 18 month delay of demolition is imposed, to give the applicant time to consider sale, renovation, reuse, relocation and other alternatives to demolition. The applicant is invited to return to the Commission’s upcoming public meetings to present plans and alternatives, and to discuss the preservation concerns that their neighbors and the commission have. If a plan is developed that addresses the concerns of the public and the commission, a demolition delay may be lifted before the 18 month period.

Thanks to the Medford residents who wrote in, or attended in person, to voice their opinions for and against the preservation of this building.

43 Pleasant Street

At our June meeting on Monday the Historical Commission will determine whether the house at 43 Pleasant Street is preferably preserved, and in need of a delay of demolition.

At our May meeting, an application for demo permission was submitted by the owners of 43 Pleasant St in East Medford. This property falls within the boundaries of the Old Ship Street – our shipbuilding district – which is on the register of National Historic Places. However, this designation (unlike the Local Historic District designation) does not protect buildings in the area from demolition.

It does mean that the building has already been determined to be “historically significant.” Thus, our June meeting will proceed to the second step of the process, and we will determine whether or not the building is preferably preserved.

A copy of our surveyors’ Form B with a history of the building and its inhabitants is here.

The meeting will be Mon June 9 and full Zoom instructions are below –

The meeting will be held remotely via Zoom and to view and participate in this hearing please use the following:

Access this meeting via Zoom remote videoconferencing:
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/94922681587

Call in via phone:
One tap mobile: +19292056099,,94922681587# US
Dial in: +1 929 205 6099 US Meeting ID: 949 2268 1587

Access livestream:
The meeting will also be live streamed at https://medford.vod.castus.tv/vod/index.php/@live:ch3.
To participate while watching the livestream, questions and comments may be emailed during the hearing to HistoricalCommission@Medford-MA.gov. For information regarding this hearing, please visit www.medfordhistoricalcommission.org. Comments may be submitted prior to the meeting in writing to HistoricalCommission@Medford-MA.gov.

Public Comment, Please!

With your input, we want to make the restoration of Thomas Brooks Park and the Old Slave Wall a beautiful and meaningful addition to Medford’s historic landmarks.

MHC is seeking your comments in advance of our upcoming Zoom public meeting, which will be held on June 2, 2020. [Edited to add – this meeting has been held, but we still welcome your comments as the planning process continues! historicalcommission@medford-ma.gov]

Project Overview

The Medford Historical Commission was awarded a generous grant from the Medford Community Preservation Commission to hire a consultant to develop a master plan for Thomas Brooks Park. This six-acre wooded landscape is located in West Medford, on Grove Street, and bordered by the Lowell Branch of the MBTA Commuter Rail tracks. It is currently a passive recreation area, and has a rich history that is greatly obscured. This project seeks to bring to light that history and implement select improvements over multiple years. 

The Brooks Family and The Old Slave Wall

Thomas Brooks Park is one of the few remaining sites associated with the Brooks Family, a lineage which has existed in Medford for more than three centuries. The namesake of the parcel erected his house in the eighteenth century behind a well-crafted brick and sandstone wall. This wall is attributed to a slave named Pompeii, who utilized clay from the grounds to craft the masonry necessary to divide Grove Street from Brooks’ private driveway. The wall is important to preserve as one of two extant period reminders of the lives and work of enslaved people in our community. Maintenance of the wall is, in fact, a condition set by the Brooks’ heirs upon their donation of the parcel to the City, in 1924, for use as a parkland. The family later donated Playstead Park, portions of Oak Grove Cemetery and, finally, their West Medford estates. The Shepherd Brooks manor is likewise a city landmark and is managed in partnership with the Medford-Brooks Estate Land Trust (M-BELT). 

Present Conditions

Currently, the park is hardly noticeable to motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians. Debris, overgrown trees, and brush restrict access to the green space. The fence along the Commuter Rail line is damaged in several places. Visitors desiring to view the Old Slave Wall and its marker must stand in the roadway and risk injury from oncoming traffic. In order to address these issues, the Commission is working to review existing conditions, work with the neighbors and develop a master plan for the parcel in order to restore this important historic landscape. The plan will encompass the entire parcel and focus schematic efforts on the development of access to the wall, its condition, care and maintenance. The Commission intends to seek Community Preservation funds for this work with additional efforts to follow in subsequent years.

Plans and Designs

To date, our consultant has made excellent progress on preliminary designs.

Hedlund Design Group, LLC, a landscape architecture firm from Arlington, MA, was selected for their expertise in municipal parks and culturally sensitive locations. The team includes nationally recognized individuals who provide additional relevant knowledge in the fields of masonry and archaeology. The team has been hard at work, developing a concept for the park. A public meeting was held in November 2019 and they have taken critical feedback and implemented it within the latest proposal.

Documents for Your Review – DRAFTS

We would appreciate all written comments to be sent in no later than June 1, 2020. Comments can be emailed to HistoricalCommission@Medford-MA.gov or via hard copy to the Medford Historical Commission, c/o Denis MacDougal, Room 205, in Medford City Hall.

If you have any questions in regard to this project, please do not hesitate to contact us at HistoricalCommission@Medford-MA.gov.

Topic: Medford Historical Commission’s Zoom Meeting
Time: Jun 2, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 935 8955 6215

May Meeting

Our May meeting will be a virtual meeting, via Zoom. Both Forest St and a house on Pleasant St are on the agenda.

The agenda includes instructions on how to login. While Zoom-Burnout is real, you might consider logging in, saying hello and then just listening in to the meeting while you tidy up from dinner.

April Meeting

In accordance with City Hall’s physical distancing policies, our monthly meeting for April was cancelled. It has been quiet – we have had no new applications for demolition, but our chair, Jen Keenan is still responding to all incoming inquiries and correspondence.

Our CPA and survey projects are, so far, ongoing – in fact, we were awarded a grant from the Masssachusetts state Historical Commission to continue the work of surveying and documenting the historic properties in Medford’s neighborhoods. Our focus in the upcoming year will be the Medford portion of Winter Hill, on Medford’s southern border with Somerville.

Jen has also checked in with all members and we are all doing as well as could be expected.

New Trees for Old

Our historic landscape restoration in the Victorian-era portion of Oak Grove Cemetery is one of the current Community Preservation projects funded by a Preserve Medford grant. This week, we went with an arborist from a local landscaping company to survey dead trees, stumps and the empty spaces where trees once stood, and to make a plan for what could be replaced and when.

March Agenda

Another light agenda for March! With no new demo review cases, we have more time to work on other things: our Preserve Medford projects, our Survey and Planning work and our Site Review comments for large-scale redevelopment in Medford.

In the service of increased transparency, we ask that, starting this month, anyone with items for the agenda contact us on or before the Monday one week prior to our regular meeting. This will allow us to get all business into the published agenda in a timely manner. Our meeting dates are the second Monday of every month, so the deadline for inclusion on the agenda is simply the first Monday of the month.


Comments on 280 Mystic Ave

The 40B development proposed for Mystic Ave has been getting a lot of attention, and public comments have been extended for two weeks. Please contact the Office of Community Development with yours! To read ours, click below –

Because the project is 40B, Combined Properties can, effectively, bypass the demo review process of the Historical Commission. The MassDOT Sign Shop might not look like much now, but the building is older than 75 years and it’s a solid brick building, where fabrication work – for signs used on our roads state-wide – was done for many years.