Boston Landmarks Commission Announces Designation of the Fort Point Channel Landmark District
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For Immediate Release
February 06, 2009
Released By:
Mayor's Office
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Press Office

Designation protects Boston's largest historic industrial district

Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Boston City Council have confirmed the designation of the Fort Point Channel Landmark District. The designation comes after the Boston Landmarks Commission voted to approve the district's historic status on December 9, 2008. Mayor Menino confirmed the Commission's vote in late December, with the Boston City Council approving the designation on January 28. Historic designation ensures that the City consults with developers on future projects to manage changes that are appropriate to the historic character of the Fort Point Channel Landmark District. In addition to the standard project review guidelines, the Boston Landmarks Commission will now also review development in the district. "Historic preservation and new development are powerful partners in our City," Mayor Menino said. "The Fort Point Channel Landmark designation protects Boston's largest historic industrial district. Its sturdy loft structures will continue to be adapted to new uses and will be complimented with appropriately designed additions and new buildings. The Fort Point Channel Landmark District contributes to the emerging vitality of the South Boston waterfront."

The Fort Point Channel area was built literally from the ground up by the Boston Wharf Company (BWCo.) beginning in the 1830s by wharfing out and filling in to create new land from the leveling of Fort Hill on the opposite side of the channel. Early on wooden sheds on the wharves stored sugar and molasses, convenient to water and rail and then road transport. The BWCo.'s two in-house architects constructed the existing brick buildings from the 1880s to the 1930s for light manufacturing and warehousing for a variety of goods including candy, ink, leather, electric lights, wool, shoes, tea and coffee. By 1933-1935 Summer Street was the center of the wool industry with nine wholesale firms handling over 40% of the U.S wool trade.

Artists revived the district with their studios and commemorated the area with photos, paintings and installations when industrial uses waned. The first Open Studio was held in 1979. Office and condominium conversions have followed. Comprising 55 acres and 90 some historic brick loft buildings, the District is located in South Boston, over the Summer and Congress street bridges from downtown Boston. The District is approximately bounded by the seawall and A Street on the west, Seaport Boulevard on the north, Boston Wharf Road on the west and Iron Street on the south (see enclosed map). When the BWCo. sold its holdings around 2003, new developers bought portfolios with proposals for residential, retail, office and hotel uses.

David Berarducci, landscape architect and member of the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC), chaired the Study Committee, which met for 18 months. Mr. Berarducci commented, "The Study Committee focused on the architectural guidelines that will inform the future Fort Point Channel District Commission in its review of proposed alterations to existing buildings, new construction and open space improvements. I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness of the Study Committee and the residents, developers and others who participated at all 29 working meetings. The group's extremely deliberative and open process has resulted in design guidelines that will foster good preservation practices and new expression and contemporary design that is well-suited to the historic character of the District."

Steve Hollinger, Fort Point Channel artist and resident, served as the spokesperson for the petition that initiated the Landmarking process. Mr. Hollinger, who also served on the Study Committee, stated, "The level of collaboration in the drafting of Fort Point Channel design guidelines was extraordinary. The area's historic buildings have stood shoulder-to-shoulder for a century, and with this effort we can be assured they will be safeguarded and celebrated for generations to come."

Members will now be appointed to the new Fort Point Channel Landmark District Commission to review proposed projects. Residents of the District and/or property owners who may be interested in serving on the commission may find information regarding qualifications and candidate submittal process at www.cityofboston.gov/environment/fpc.

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