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of the

Watertown Historical Commission

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Council Chambers


Adopted July 9, 2009


Historical Commission Members Present:  Russo, Jones, Roach, Melone, Steele, Loukas, Berg


Staff Present:  Hayward, Collins


 Public Present:  See attached Sign-In Form


Russo chaired.  The meeting opened at 7:00p.m.


1.                     Public Hearings? Demolition Permit Requests ? 175 North Beacon Street, a single family wood structure (Presently a pre-school) & a two family wood structure (presently a guest house), Perkins School for the Blind, owner/applicant


Rich Falzone, Facilities Director for Perkins School, reported that the Perkins School proposed to demolish two Techbuilt, Inc. structures built in the 1950s ? a 12 room duplex and a single family.  One is in the construction zone of the proposed new classroom building and the other is 8 feet away from the site. 


Falzone described the guest house, the two-family which is 8? from the site, as 52 years old, serviceable, occupied and maintained in excellent condition.


Russo inquired if relocation of the building was considered.  Falzone responded that it was not.


Jones inquired why this particular site was selected.  Falzone responded that they wanted the dorms closer to the lower school. Presently, the dorms are 60? apart.  In addition, conservation and parking limits made this site the best one.


Melone and Jones inquired if the applicant would consider relocation of the existing buildings.  Fred Baker, CFO of the Perkins School, responded that the Perkins School would consider the relocation of the buildings.


Brenda Nicolas, Student Programmatic Director, responded that the dorm students are young and some in wheelchairs and the new site would be closer.


Dan Dyer, Architect for the Perkins School, informed that the new school would provide more space.  He confirmed that the relocation was not considered because it was not needed programmatically and the design style did not fit with the Perkins style.  The new proposed project, according to Dyer, was not an architectural replica of the Lower School but it contained the vocabulary of it as seen by the brick, sills and lintels.  He explained that it would blend with the 1910 building.


Russo was concerned that the new building being compatible with the 1910 Sturgis building. 


Jones was concerned about the massing and height to the Sturgis building.  Dyer responded that the building was 15? to 20? taller than the Sturgis building.  Jones remarked that the new building?s proximity was closer than the Perkins School standard.  Dyer responded that it was close but not overwhelming.  He noted that the courtyard design was found elsewhere on the Perkins campus and it would be a positive outdoor space.


Jones thought it was a positive response to the existing conditions on campus and that overall it was a good addition.


Berg requested that more gothic elements of the Sturgis building be included in the new building.   Dyer responded that the same form, brick, and roof slope was proposed.  However, contemporary building and programmatic needs required a larger size.


Steele inquired why the main entrance was oriented to the West side.  Dyer responded that it was selected to avoid the neighborhood and to capitalize on the sunlight with a south facing orientation.


Russo inquired why weren?t the windows selected more similar to the ones located in the library.  Dyer responded that the windows were selected to meet the programmatic needs of the interior.


Michael Donhan, 26 Royal Street, was concerned about the height of the building and the increased traffic on Royal Street.  He suggested that the 1950?s building be sold and moved. He identified that the Techbuilt building was a post war style worth saving.  He contacted Robert Campbell at the Globe and Architectural Boston about these buildings.   He noted that there is interest in Techbuilt buildings being preserved.    He questioned the  construction begin date of six weeks. He suggested that taking the buildings apart, though difficult, could be done.


Nicolas responded the construction begin date for August was established in concern for students and their academic schedule.  She noted that the Techbuilt buildings don?t have sprinklers in the buildings and have cracks.


Berg inquired if Perkins would consider moving the house.  Nicolas noted that timing was an issue, but she was ok with a move.  Melone noted that realistically a site would be needed to take the moved buildings.  Berg agreed that empty sites in Watertown are not available.


Jones noted that there is merit to the buildings.  He thought the proposed building was uninspired.  He thought the massing of the proposed building was reasonable.  However he thought it was problematic for the abutting building but not for the campus overall. 


Jones noted that prefab Techbuilt buildings were no longer produced.


Berg said that the highest point of the proposed building was 55?.  However, the Sturgis building was only 40?.


Russo noted that the Perkins spire was a point of note and much higher.  He felt that the proposed building doesn?t relate as well as it could.  He felt if was different from the rest of the Perkins campus.  He questioned what opportunities existed with the proposed changes.  Dyer disagreed.  He thought the proposed building related to the adjacent building and was well sited.  He added that the project was too far along and only small changes could be incorporated.


Jones wanted the building to be lower.  Dyer responded that that change would result in the elimination of the roof and introduce a roof line that does not relate. Jones noted that the width of the building was prescribed programmatically.  However, other options were possible.  Dyer noted that the 3rd floor housed offices.  A lower height would make that floor too narrow.


Loukas stated she was open about the outcome of the Techbuilt buildings.  However, she was concerned about the proposed building in relation to the Sturgis building and the Perkins campus.


Dyer noted that the new building was only 40,000 square feet.  Other buildings on campus have larger square footage.  Loukas did not feel the new building related well to the existing building. 


Dyer noted that the orientation of the building was selected for the screening provided by existing greenery, and was located 200? from the street.  In addition, the smallest side of the proposed building was sited towards the populated neighborhoods.


Jones was concerned about the impact of the new building on the adjacent historic building.


Steele was concerned about the massing of the proposed building in relation to the Lower School.  She commented that Lower School is classical in terms of size and the quad.  She wanted to see how the proposed building backs up to the Lower School.  Dyer responded that the proposed building provides visual access to the back of the Lower School which was not accessed before.  Steele wanted to see drawings of the building in relation to the Lower School. 


Melone inquired if there were models of the proposed building.  Dyer noted that there were computer models of all the buildings on the Perkins School campus.


Vote: Melone moved to continue the public hearings to allow the applicant to submit models of the buildings.  Steele seconded the motion.  The motion was unanimously approved.


2.                  May Minutes ? approval rescheduled for the next meeting.

3.                  1870 to 1950 Watertown Newpapers


Joyce Kelly of the Historical Society of Watertown reported that the HSW needed an off site storage space for its Watertown newspapers from 1870 to 1950. Presently, they are being stored in the attic.  The Building Inspector notified that the HSW cannot store the books in the attic because of their weight. Russo indicated that they are an important historic research resource for the Town.  Steele suggested a grant to digitize the books.  Roach reported that an engineer had determined that the house could take the weight at 60 to 100 lbs. per square foot before restoration and that the amount had increased after restoration.  Childes will consult with the engineer to determine the load bearing capacity of the building.


4.                  Barns and Outbuildings Inventory


Russo encouraged members to continue their inventory efforts and to forward their records by email to him. Russo scheduled a meeting for June 16th  to provide instructions on how to search information on building  permits.


4.         Schick House


Russo reported that he will meet Bill Barry to discuss the site.  He informed that Mt. Auburn is interested in buying the Aggregate site to be used as a parking lot for the Mt. Auburn Hospital employees.  The HC recommendation for the Schick House and property is to be developed as a residential development or a business park.  Another suggestion was the exchange for free rent for repairs.


5.                  341 Mount Auburn ? Invitation to Comment


Russo reported that he sent a comment letter to EBI about the antenna.  Hayward reported that the Town is not interested in leasing the building for the antenna placement.


6.               Boston Post Cane


Kelly reported that the WHS is in possession of the cane.  Russo will contact John Flynn for census information on the oldest man and woman resident.


Meeting adjourned at 8:42pm.