Old stable denied landmark status

May 30, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

STONYBROOK—A century-old former stable at the heart of a condo development controversy on Meehan Street is not worthy of historic landmark status, the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) decided this week in rejecting a petition from 68 residents.

Neighbor Beth Charney researched the history of the 1909 brick building at 14 Meehan St. and submitted the landmarking petition. Official landmark status gives the BLC review power over any exterior changes to a historic building.

Local developer Peter Bourassa is planning nine condo units for the site. He previously proposed demolishing the stable, which is now a house. But in March, the BLC placed a delay on demolition and persuaded him to consider saving the building as part of his plans. He has now done that.

Charney presented her own extensive historic research at the May 27 BLC hearing. It was already known that the owners of the nearby Doyle’s Café, a well-known pub, built the stable. But Charney was able to track down original blueprints, discovering it was built in 1909 by architect Samuel J. Rantin.

She traced its history of reuse over the years, including as a window frame plant, a car repair shop and a roofing and sheet metal business.

“It’s key to this history of our pocket of Jamaica Plain,” said resident Joyce Perkit, referring to the building as a rare surviving commercial/industrial structure.

But BLC Executive Director Ellen Lipsey noted that a building needs more than local neighborhood significance to qualify for official landmark status. Charney later protested that she had demonstrated regional signficance, but the commissioners were not persuaded.

Maureen Monks, co-chair of the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association (SNA) and the stable’s next-door neighbor, acknowledged to the BLC that, “I think a number of neighbors were uncertain what the building means to them.” But, she argued, if the BLC had accepted the petition, it would give the neighbors more leverage over the development.

Commissioner John Amodeo noted the demolition delay had provided a lot of leverage. “I think in a way we’ve already served the building,” he said.

The commissioners unanimously voted to reject the petition.

Lipsey suggested that the building could qualify for listing on the National Register of Historic Places instead. She offered Bourassa the BLC staff’s help in securing historic tax credits for his project. Bourassa was in attendance and spoke against the landmarking.

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