Spoiler Alert!

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. 

On our website, we describe the demolition review process in our city, and at the bottom of that page you can review the demolition policies of our neighboring towns and cities.

Demolition Site on Winthrop Street

For information on the homes demolished on Winthrop Street site above, and the famous folks who had lived there, read more here!!

This is the fourth post in a series of Clarifications & Corrections. See also:

“Pro-Active Preservation,” about our ongoing survey and inventory research.

“Kissing Cousins”, which explains the different roles of the Historical Commission, the Historical Society and the Historic District Commission.

And “Are We Anti-Development?” about the big picture directive of the Medford Historical Commission.

Are we “anti-development?”

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.

US! off-duty at Salvatore’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we’re not planning to turn Medford into a history theme park, what are we up to?

NOT US! a photo of a Plimoth Plantation wedding, via Boston Globe

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.

This is the third post in a series of Clarifications & Corrections. The first post in the series was “Pro-Active Preservation,” about our ongoing survey and inventory research. The second was “Kissing Cousins” and it explained the different roles of the Historical Commission, the Historical Society and the Historic District Commission.

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.