The City-owned historic home of legendary Boston politician James Michael Curley at 350 Jamaicaway, now sitting empty, is technically available for event rentals. But even finding that out—let alone reserving a spot—is no easy feat, the Gazette has found.
Unlike other major City-owned spaces, the Curley House is not advertised as a rentable location on the City’s website, nor on other local guides. The Gazette was only able to locate the rental contact person, Angela Chandler at the City’s Treasury Department, after contacting City Councilor Matt O’Malley’s office and Richard Dennis, head of a friends group and Curley’s 89-year-old stepson.
The friends group has a long-stalled plan to create a Curley museum in the house and rent it out more frequently.
According to City spokesperson Melina Schuler, if someone somehow figures out that the house is available for rent, a use policy must be discussed before the event is approved. The license agreement outlines restrictions to events, such as “the Facility must not be used for private financial gain” and clean-up must be complete by 6 p.m.
Banned for-profit activity would include catering, making most facility rentals highly unlikely.
And there is no standardized cost for event rentals: that is discussed on a case-by-case basis.
Most of the other City-owned large event spaces, like City Hall Plaza and Faneuil Hall, have easy contact points listed on the city’s website. They are also under different management: the Property and Construction Management Department. Supervision of the Curley House transferred from there to the Treasury Department in recent years.
With that in mind, it is little surprise that the Curley House has not hosted more than 10 events in the last several years, according to Dennis.
Carole Mathieson, a Jamaica Plain resident and the retired assistant to the Chief of Basic City Services for the City’s Property and Construction Management Department, which handled the day-to-day care and upkeep of the house, told the Gazette that the house “is a sad reminder of how we don’t take care of things.”
She explained that when she retired in 2011, the City was on the verge of an agreement with the Friends that would outline a maintenance plan that would open the house up more for use and generate enough income to upkeep it.
But due to the language of the George Robert White Trust—funds from which were used to purchase the house—a “loophole” was found, she said.
“Someone in the Trust office decided the property shouldn’t be used to create income for someone else,” she said. The lawyers from the City and from the Trust reached a “stalemate.”
The house was shunted to the Treasury Department, she said.
And now the house “is abandoned, for all intents and purposes,” Mathieson said. “The paint is peeling, it hasn’t been cleaned.”
“The house is in sad shape. It’s crying out to be used,” she said. “If that’s going to be the continued position of the City, they should sell it. It’s not providing any purpose.”
Mathieson added that when Curley’s enormous desk was found in City Hall storage years ago, it was decided that it should be kept in the Curley House.
That historic piece of furniture is currently sitting, unused, in the middle of the house’s living room, she said.