Curley House revival hits hurdle

PONDSIDE—Plans to revive the long-underused historic home of legendary Boston politician James Michael Curley are still ongoing as of last month, despite hitting a legal hurdle.

The Curley House is owned by the George Robert White Trust, a trust created to “create public works of utility and beauty” in the City of Boston. The house has been sporadically used to host private events since the Trust bought it in the late 1980s. The Friends of the James Michael Curley House would like to lease the house, turn it into a museum and host more private events in the house as a means to support the property.

Richard Dennis, head of the Friends group and Curley’s 88-year-old stepson, who is spearheading the revival effort, said that the group’s plans to take over operations from the city at the 350 Jamaicaway house are still going forward, despite the fact that introducing a non-City entity—the nonprofit Friends group—would cause complications. The group’s board met last month to discuss the current challenge.

According to language in the 14th article of White’s will, which created the White Trust, and a lawyer in the City’s Law Department, the city must pay the maintenance costs for any trust-owned property. It must also keep those funds wholly separate from any other sources of income or expense.

The will also stipulates that no funds from the trust be used for “religious, political, educational or any purpose which it shall be the duty of the City in the ordinary course of events to provide”—that is, no programming the City would normally provide as a matter of course can be funded by means outside the trust.

That means funds that support or maintain the Curley House, as well as any programming offered there, would have to be very carefully outlined to make sure they meet the requirements of the trust.

“We certainly cannot have educational operations there of the kind the City is otherwise required to provide,” Dennis told the Gazette. “I’m continuing to talk to the City, trying to find a way to get it utilized more often, to the benefit of the city.”

Friends of the Curley House’s plan, announced more than two years ago, is to lease the 1915 property from the City to boost public use of the space. The group plans to finance the management of the property, as well as educational programming there, by marketing the mansion as a reception hall.

“My goal is to perpetuate its existence as a house of interest. It’s in our hands to get the City re-interested,” Dennis said. “It’s a popular objective, but we’ve got this legal glitch that we’re trying to resolve.”

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