Pinebank memorial coming

May 25, 2007
By

John Ruch

JAMAICA POND—Remains of the Pinebank mansion, demolished in January, are now entombed within a concrete vault in the building’s foundation. Next up: construction of a memorial to the historic building, probably involving some outline of its foundation.

A community meeting to present an updated memorial plan will likely be held next month, according to Margaret Dyson, director of historic parks for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.

The 1870 mansion was the last of three elegant houses built starting in 1806 on the site overlooking Jamaica Pond. Essentially abandoned by the city in the 1970s, Pinebank was damaged by fires and fell into total decay.

Decades of public and private restoration efforts failed amid heated controversies. In 2005, the city announced that the building couldn’t be saved and ordered its demolition for safety reasons.

The site is now fenced off and bulldozed flat except for the two enormous sycamore trees that used to flank the mansion.

The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) ordered large amounts of brick and other building materials to be salvaged. In part, that was to keep alive the possibility of someday rebuilding the mansion. The group Friends of Pinebank still holds that hope, though not the millions of dollars it would probably require.

A large amount of salvaged material was stacked on wooden pallets inside a huge vault buried within the mansion’s own foundation, according to Dyson. The BLC suggested keeping the material on site in that way. Other samples of salvage materials will be included in “study packets” of detailed historical information and plans of Pinebank that will be given to about a half-dozen historic organizations.

While much of the salvaged material probably is too unstable to use in a reconstruction, it could be the basis for historically accurate recreations.

Dyson said some minor discoveries were made during the demolition.

One was a small area of cobblestones that had been buried under asphalt along one side of Pinebank. The area may have been a stable or storage location. The parks department and a BLC subcommittee will evaluate the condition and value of the cobblestones.

“We may end up keeping it. We may end up taking it out,” Dyson said of the area.

Another discovery was that there is no foundation under the mansion’s large rear terrace. That may put a wrinkle in the basic memorial concept of exposing some foundation wall to show the former mansion’s outline.

The city held several meetings last year about the memorial idea, which will probably also include informational signs. The BLC subcommittee has continued to advise the city about the memorial plans.