Farmhouse moves closer to history

May 11, 2007
By

JOHN RUCH

ARBORETUM—The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) staff has suggested extra protections for the Lewis-Dawson Farmhouse in Arnold Arboretum in a study recommending it be named a Boston landmark.

Landmarking gives the BLC review powers over any exterior changes to a building, including demolition. But for the farmhouse, the study also seeks to prevent it from being moved off of its current 5-acre site, and bans new pavement or buildings within 100 feet of it.

Officials from Harvard University, which runs the arboretum and owns the farmhouse, met with BLC staff on Monday to discuss the study.

“We are not challenging the landmark designation,” said Harvard spokesperson Kevin McCluskey. “We continue to be engaged in constructive conversation with the Landmarks Commission about the specific language that will be included in the landmark designation.”

The 180-year-old farmhouse at 1090 Centre St. sits at the intersection with Westchester Road and next to the arboretum’s greenhouses. Vacant for almost 15 years, the farmhouse was at one point targeted for demolition in the arboretum’s current expansion plan. Harvard’s current plan is to keep the house “mothballed” in a state of preservation until a use can be found.

It is under consideration as a possible landmark thanks to a petition from members of the Jamaica Hills Association.

BLC commissioners spoke glowingly of the farmhouse at a preliminary hearing last year. At an April 24 hearing, they received a presentation of the farmhouse study and its special protections, which are intended to keep the building in its context and “preserve the pastoral quality.”

The BLC could take a vote on landmarking at a future meeting. But if any language changes to the study come out of the meeting with Harvard, those would have to be reviewed at a prior hearing and opened to public comment.

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