JP Observer: Part of historic house could be renovated for better use

Jamaica Plain depends on dozens of separate buildings to act as its “arts centers,” so it’s exciting to learn that additional space may be opening up in one of them.

The Revolutionary War-era Loring-Greenough House (LGH) across from the Civil War Monument on South Street hosts many community events—focused on arts, history, and culture—that it and other local groups sponsor.

From the street, the stately house built in 1760 looks like a classic Georgian Colonial home surrounded by a beautiful lawn and gardens. But, in fact, attached in back is a long, narrow, under-used two-story structure called “the ell,” named so because, from the air, the structures form the shape of the letter “L.”

The nonprofit Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club, owner of LGH since 1924, is trying to figure out the feasibility of adaptive reuse of the ell, which was added to the main building in 1811. The ell could potentially join the rest of the house in hosting activities and generating rental income to support the expenses of maintaining the property.

Amory Architects has been hired to conduct a feasibility study, funded by donations from Tuesday Club members and grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund.

The 1,600-square-foot ell is unheated and without plumbing but has some electricity. It is used for storage and making holiday wreaths as a fundraiser for the house.

The need for more space in JP for arts and culture was clear at a community meeting sponsored by the Tuesday Club at the house on Nov. 17. Among uses suggested was space that could hold a larger audience for events and performances than the current smaller rooms in the house.

Neighbor Alan Smith said, “Being a poet and man of the theater imagining this space, I can just dream of countless poetry, theater, and musical performances.”

Local resident and Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts supporter Charlie Fox said the busy historic school nearby “is in the market for any kind of space” because their popular programs have been growing.

Someone suggested reviving a tea/coffee shop like one that occupied the space along with an antiques shop from 1924-1930. Others mentioned office space.

Suki and David Amory outlined some factors affecting reuse. Plans would require: installing mechanical systems and sprinklers; satisfying rules of the Boston Landmark Commission and National Register of Historic Places; following different zoning regulations depending on use; and choosing uses that would not create noise that would bother neighbors.

Some plans “could trigger review of the whole building,” Amory added. “We are looking at the whole building, not just the ell.”

The ell is in “decent shape,” David Amory said, with a sound structure and beautiful wooden beams in the second floor ceiling.

The ell was used for lots of things during its history, including doing laundry, cooking in summer, parking carriages, storing farm equipment, and providing a room for a hired hand. It’s high time to get it in shape to contribute to the community the way the rest of LGH does.

[Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.]




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