At our October public meeting, we voted to find the Queen Anne home at 202 Middlesex Avenue “historically significant” based on the architectural descriptions and family research in the Form B, shared in our previous post.
We will be reviewing 3 applications for demolition – at 120 Jerome St, at 116 Dover St and 15 Hadley Place – and determining historical significance for a large Queen Anne home in the Wellington area, at 202 Middlesex Avenue.
If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll have seen my recent post about Elinor, a young woman who lived in Medford in the 1930s and kept a diary. That diary has been found by a young woman living in the Boston area NOW and she publishes Elinor’s entries on Instagram – along with photos and a little background research about the names and places mentioned in the diary.
It looks like Elinor may well have spent the summer of 1933 at 202 Middlesex Avenue! In that summer, Elinor lived with a family she calls “Uncle Roy” and “Aunt Shirley,” or “The Robbinses” and she describes many of their local outings and adventures, including an evening “running walk” around the Fellsway and Wellington Road. Furthermore, according to our surveyors’ Form B on 202 Middlesex Ave,
“Henry Lyman Cornell (1852-1935) was a music teacher and vocal musician of opera. Little could be ascertained about his career through readily available records, but several brief newspaper accounts suggest he was actively performing in Boston as a basso during the 1880s. In 1900 the household, identified as 202 Middlesex Avenue, included his wife, Harriet Sophia (Withington, 1849-1940), whom he married in 1874, three sons, and three daughters born between 1879 and 1899. In 1930[…] the household included his daughter, Shirley (b. 1880) and her husband Leroy H. Robbins (b. 1880), a real estate broker.”
Medford’s current Demo Review process is not likely to be a surprise or an exceptional burden for homeowners or developers.
Most Massachusetts communities, from Boston to Woburn and beyond have a demo review process similar to that in the City of Medford. A property owner would be hard pressed to “leave Medford” and buy a property nearby that does not need to follow this, or a similar process, before being demolished. Similarly, a developer – someone whose business it is to redevelop properties – would not likely buy in Medford, Arlington, Woburn, etc and not know that older buildings will be subject to a demo review process by the town or city.
The Historical Commission’s goal is NOT to fully restore houses to their historic state – we are not here to recreate Sturbridge Village or Plimoth Plantation in the heart of Medford. Nor are we, personally or professionally anti-development – the commission includes historians, archivists and homeowners, as well as architects, folks in real estate, and building preservationists. You can read our bios here.
If we’re not planning to turn Medford into a history theme park, what are we up to?
The Medford Historical Commission, like most Historical Commissions in towns and cities across Massachusetts, is part of city government. Our procedures were put in place to allow the community to bring their preservation concerns to our public meetings, with developers present. During these discussions, we increase public knowledge about the historic uses of our buildings, neighborhoods and residences, about the city’s past residents, and about the past design and construction of the buildings in our city. And, finally, for buildings deemed both “historically significant” AND “preferably preserved” – a multi-step, public process – we discourage demolition in favor of designs that preserve the historic character.
Monthly Meetings – Our meetings are the second Monday of the month, and they were traditionally held in Room 201 in City Hall; like most of Medford’s city boards and commissions, we’ve been holding Zoom meetings since May 2020. The public is always welcome to listen in or speak up!!
Agendas & Minutes – Our agendas are posted in City Hall, and in the Transcript, and we try to post them on Facebook and here on the website.
The Medford Historical Commission has received an application for the partial demolition of the Queen Anne Victorian house located at 202 Middlesex Avenue. Located in the Wellington neighborhood, the building is a large and ambitious example of the types of buildings erected during the earliest development. Large lots were laid out for white collar commuting individuals but the proximity to the Boston and Maine Railroad enticed the working classes to round out the neighborhood. Constructed largely between 1880 and 1920, the Wellington area contains some of the finest examples of single family residences anywhere in the City. In addition, the house has an excellent social history which roots the occupants firmly to the fabric of the area. We will review the building for significance.
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.
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.
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.
“The City’s Building Department launched an online permitting system through CitizenServe, offering all applicants for permits available in the Building Department to submit applications and documents online. To access the online system, visit www.medfordma.org/departments/building-department.”
That said, residents can also SEARCH the permit database! You do have to hit the “Apply for a Permit” button, but that takes you to a page where you can actually search for permits – including, of course, demo permits.
In collaboration with the City of Medford Procurement Office, the Medford Historical Commission is pleased to announce that beginning on August 17, 2020, RFP 21-0191 for the Winter Hill Neighborhood Historic Property Survey will be available on the City’s online procurement platform. The following is our official announcement and how to get a hold of the documents:
CITY OF MEDFORD
REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS
Winter Hill Neighborhood
Historic Properties Survey
The City of Medford (City) is seeking proposals from qualified historic preservation consultants to undertake an intensive-level, neighborhood survey of cultural and architectural resources in the Winter Hill neighborhood of the City of Medford.
This project is being Electronically Bid (E-Bid). Requests for Proposals will be available beginning Monday, August 17, 2020. Proposal Documents will be available online at:
Proposers must meet the following minimum qualifications: a Bachelor’s degree in Historic Preservation, Architectural History, History, Art History, or a closely related field, plus at least two years full-time experience in an area relevant to the project; or a Master’s degree in any of the above mentioned areas.
All proposals shall be submitted online to http://www.BidNetDirect.com prior to September 17, 2020, at 2 p.m. Hard copy proposals will not be accepted by BidNetDirect.com. or by the Awarding Authority. You can register to become a proposer online at http://www.BidNetDirect.com. For assistance, contact BidNetDirect.com at 800-835-4603.
Each Proposal shall be submitted in accordance with the Instructions within the RFP. It is the responsibility of prospective proposers and or bidders to check http://www.BidNetDirect.com for new information via any addenda or modifications to this solicitation. Addenda will be emailed to all Plan holders registered with BidNet.
Questions regarding this Request for Proposals must be written and submitted via BidNetDirect.com.
As noted above, all addenda shall be sent via BidNetDirect.com and emailed to registered Plan holders.
The City reserves the right to reject all proposals, in whole or in part, as determined to be in the best interests of the City and to waive minor informalities.