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Old 05-09-2016, 10:28 AM   #1
tysmith95
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Building preservation in Boston

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I'm with you Brownstone over Skyscraper living.

The Millenium Tower is coming out nicely but I prefer the Brownstone living also.
Just an off topic question. Are brownstones expensive to build? It seems like there are no new brownstone developments going up around Boston. It would be awesome if places like the Suffolk Downs racetrack could be built into a community of modern brownstones.
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Old 05-09-2016, 10:37 AM   #2
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

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Just an off topic question. Are brownstones expensive to build? It seems like there are no new brownstone developments going up around Boston. It would be awesome if places like the Suffolk Downs racetrack could be built into a community of modern brownstones.
There's a mix of factors:

First is accessibility. Brownstones typically have a long stoop with stairs. That doesn't fly anymore. You'd have to have an accessible unit at the ground level.

Second is building code. If the brownstone has 4 or more dwelling units, then it must be fully sprinklered & have a reporting fire alarm system.

Third is material cost. Brownstones are of course made of brick/stone which is expensive masonry work. We've been doing infill between brownstones, like the (incredible) 691 Mass Ave, that uses different facade materials (terra cotta), but keeps the language of a brownstone in the repetitive window bays, scale, and order. 1085 Boylston is another example of a "modern" brownstone.
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Old 05-09-2016, 01:47 PM   #3
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

Peeking over the Pike



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Old 05-09-2016, 02:15 PM   #4
TheRifleman
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

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Originally Posted by tysmith95 View Post
Just an off topic question. Are brownstones expensive to build? It seems like there are no new brownstone developments going up around Boston. It would be awesome if places like the Suffolk Downs racetrack could be built into a community of modern brownstones.
You might be on to something. (modern Brownstones) I believe original brownstones are probably very hard to replicate due to craftsmanship and solid materials and quality of construction.

The quality in new homes today are garbage in my opinion. (All those shitty McMansions)

Plenty of oldschool Brownstones in Dorchester and Chelsea you might be able to afford.

Last edited by TheRifleman; 05-09-2016 at 02:34 PM.
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Old 05-09-2016, 03:04 PM   #5
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

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Just an off topic question. Are brownstones expensive to build? It seems like there are no new brownstone developments going up around Boston. It would be awesome if places like the Suffolk Downs racetrack could be built into a community of modern brownstones.
This is a crazy hard question to ask. So much of it has to do with rules, regulation, business and building culture, and the dreaded ROI. (Don't you find it funny that Roi in French = king? and R.O.I. in american = KING).

When most brownstones in the NE were being developed, it was before elevator buildings. Thus, density an good land use came from proximity. Putting up 4-5 story buildings with party walls gave you the best yield for your land.

The materials that were REQUIRED because of fire-safe technology of the day was limited to brick (low end) and Brownstone/Limestone, (medium end), and finer stones like Marble and Granite (HIgh end).

Why no new brownstones today?

For your best cost/sf ... this way of building density is crazy expensive and the return on investment is WAY higher if you building tall, and light on a smaller parcel of land. Contemporary fire protection techniques and expected building performance codes and criteria allow for lighter more layered building materials. No longer does the "think paint" of masonry make much sense.

In the end. Noone is rejecting the other housing type offers and requiring developers to re-look at this building type.

cca

Ps. they are done ... but only as infills to existing gaps in the street wall.
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Old 05-09-2016, 10:34 PM   #6
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

cca, this probably isn't your intention, but it seems like after every one of your posts I become more and more of a hardened preservationist.
The more you (rightly) explain why pre-WWII building methods & materials won't/shouldn't/can't be used any more, the more important it seems to me to save any and all examples we have left.
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Old 05-10-2016, 02:06 AM   #7
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

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cca, this probably isn't your intention, but it seems like after every one of your posts I become more and more of a hardened preservationist.
The more you (rightly) explain why pre-WWII building methods & materials won't/shouldn't/can't be used any more, the more important it seems to me to save any and all examples we have left.
Statler -- not everything built before say 1940 was great or even good

Some of it was the kind of "kitsch" for the era that is roundly derided in this forum for new construction

Essentially why revere the Bulfinch Era and Gridly Fox Bryant Era is that much of what wasn't good went away through a combination of natural losses to fires and people needing the land for more, bigger taller, etc. Occasionally, an older structure was just leveled because it no longer was "Au Courant" -- the most bizarre examples being in the burbs
  • 1) "Castle Hill" aka the Crane Estate on the beach in Ipswich-- The son of the "Plumbing Magnate" from Chicago -- Crane had Boston's Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge design an Italian Renaissance-style villa
    [from the wiki article[
    Quote:
    with stucco walls and red tiled roof...the edifice was set upon the highest promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. His wife Florence, however, felt that the mansion was cold and drafty, and made her displeasure known. Crane countered by promising that if she would give it ten years, he would replace it if she still insisted.I've forgotten whether it was Mr or Mrs who decided that the perfectly fine and quite new place had to be replaced with the current mansion......In 1924 the Italianesque mansion was torn down, as promised, and a new mansion soon took its place. Designed by architect David Adler of Chicago, the new fifty-nine-room mansion included a main facade designed in the 17th-century Stuart style, a library with Grinling Gibbons carvings imported from Cassiobury House, an English country house, parquet flooring, and paneled interior rooms from an 18th-century townhouse at 75 Dean Street, London.[4] Completed in 1928, this splendid mansion still stands, and the Olmsted Brothers' landscaping also remains largely unchanged.
  • 2) Elm Bank the site of the Horticultural Society Botanical Garden called Elm Bank Horticultural Center [from the wiki article]
    Quote:
    in 1874 to Benjamin Pierce Cheney, a founder of a delivery company that became American Express. At the time of Cheney's death in 1895, the property contained over 200 acres (80 hectares), and passed to his eldest daughter Alice in 1905.[6] In 1907, Alice and her husband, Dr. William Hewson Baltzell, engaged the architectural firm of Carrère and Hastings to design a Neo-Georgian manor house. They also commissioned the Olmsted Brothers firm, the most prominent landscape designers of the era, for the estate's site planning and to design new gardens and improve existing ones. In the 1940s,

Interesting how both older houses were torn down and replaced by "Downton Abbey-style" with the Olmsted firm doing the best version of "Capability Brown" -style landscaping

I'm sure that something of that nature happened in Boston or Cambridge as well or else like Jack and Mrs Jack they just moved from the Back Bay to the Fens and put-up their own Palace
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Old 05-10-2016, 08:00 AM   #8
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

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cca, this probably isn't your intention, but it seems like after every one of your posts I become more and more of a hardened preservationist.
The more you (rightly) explain why pre-WWII building methods & materials won't/shouldn't/can't be used any more, the more important it seems to me to save any and all examples we have left.
I have no agenda. I love these buildings. I also know without a doubt that these buildings cannot and should not be recreated in kind. What we get today is what where we have put ourselves ... for better (safety and performance) and for worse (money driven - bottom line capitalism).

I would also add that I think preservation is a very noble cause ... I wonder how preservation and environmental stewardship square with each other. Thoughts?

cca
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Old 05-10-2016, 08:27 AM   #9
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Re: Millennium Tower (Filene's) | 426 Washington Street | Downtown

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Originally Posted by whighlander View Post
Statler -- not everything built before say 1940 was great or even good

Some of it was the kind of "kitsch" for the era that is roundly derided in this forum for new construction

Essentially why revere the Bulfinch Era and Gridly Fox Bryant Era is that much of what wasn't good went away through a combination of natural losses to fires and people needing the land for more, bigger taller, etc. Occasionally, an older structure was just leveled because it no longer was "Au Courant" -- the most bizarre examples being in the burbs
  • 1) "Castle Hill" aka the Crane Estate on the beach in Ipswich-- The son of the "Plumbing Magnate" from Chicago -- Crane had Boston's Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge design an Italian Renaissance-style villa
    [from the wiki article[
  • 2) Elm Bank the site of the Horticultural Society Botanical Garden called Elm Bank Horticultural Center [from the wiki article]

Interesting how both older houses were torn down and replaced by "Downton Abbey-style" with the Olmsted firm doing the best version of "Capability Brown" -style landscaping

I'm sure that something of that nature happened in Boston or Cambridge as well or else like Jack and Mrs Jack they just moved from the Back Bay to the Fens and put-up their own Palace
I currently live in a 100+ year old cookie-cutter workman's house. There are at least a dozen of the exact same model in my neighborhood. Trust me I'm well aware of all the flaws cheaply-made older homes.

That said, there is more craftsmanship, better materials and more attention to detail in my drafty, little stick-built shack than most middle to high-mid end homes built today.

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I would also add that I think preservation is a very noble cause ... I wonder how preservation and environmental stewardship square with each other. Thoughts?

cca
You would know better than I, but to my understanding, modern buildings are far more efficient than buildings built even a decade ago. They are better insulated, sealed tighter (for better or sometimes worse) and use dramatically less energy to heat and cool.
There is an old saying that 'the greenest house is the one that's already built' but, eh. Given modern recycling options, new sourcing requirements, trends and methods with the addition of the overall energy savings, a well built, newer building is almost definitely going to be a net positive over a older structure, especially if it adds density the lot it sits on (a single family to a multi-unit, etc) On the flip side, if you tear down five small folk Victorians to build a McMansion with 4 acres of lawn, well...

Still though, I would much rather see old buildings made as efficient as possible (costly, I know - trust me, I know) than torn down. While a well retro-fitted older building will never be as efficient as a newer building, I don't think the difference is enough to justify razing an older building just because open floor plans and floor to ceiling windows are currently trendy. The added density argument I struggle with, but that is generally where I come down in favor of facdectomies or where ever possible, just building behind and above the existing structure.

More to say on this but I gotta run.
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Old 05-11-2016, 08:02 AM   #10
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

For a building to be preserved ... it needs to be made useful. Given our attention to comfort and attention energy usage (which are at odds with each other by the way), there is a tension between preserving something like a load bearing masonry mill building for it embodied energy and historic value and the fact that it is not building that "works" in any real way given our current standards of use and occupation.

Where does a preservationist stand in this discussion?

cca
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Old 05-11-2016, 08:52 AM   #11
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

Well, I guess I'm confused. Are there not hundreds, if not thousands of examples of mill buildings that have undergone adaptive reuse throughout New England and beyond or are we talking about two different things? If we are talking about the same thing, then those buildings seem to be in extremely high demand (depending on location) which would suggest that they do work for a modern population.

Though not a mill building, my favorite example of a masonry bearing building would be the Ames Building. Yes, it has historic value and needed to be preserved in that regard, but even if it didn't it was still worth preserving and reused as it is today.

I'd be curious to know how it ranks in energy use vs a newer building of the same size/use. I'm guessing quite a bit higher but perhaps not shockingly so?
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Old 05-16-2016, 02:45 PM   #12
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

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Well, I guess I'm confused. Are there not hundreds, if not thousands of examples of mill buildings that have undergone adaptive reuse throughout New England and beyond or are we talking about two different things? If we are talking about the same thing, then those buildings seem to be in extremely high demand (depending on location) which would suggest that they do work for a modern population.

Though not a mill building, my favorite example of a masonry bearing building would be the Ames Building. Yes, it has historic value and needed to be preserved in that regard, but even if it didn't it was still worth preserving and reused as it is today.

I'd be curious to know how it ranks in energy use vs a newer building of the same size/use. I'm guessing quite a bit higher but perhaps not shockingly so?
If we are talking about gutting a building with an exterior brick or stone facade then yes it is just a matter of applying insulation to the inside of the exterior facing walls and some new windows to bring it up to modern energy efficiency standards.

Brick alone equates to less than an R-1 insulation value which would be mighty drafty, so yes you need to insulate behind the exterior walls.
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Old 10-16-2017, 01:26 PM   #13
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Re: Building preservation in Boston



It's not a major restoration, but sometimes taking care of the small things makes a big difference.
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Old 10-17-2017, 09:07 AM   #14
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

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It's not a major restoration, but sometimes taking care of the small things makes a big difference.
Looks good with all that great detail around the lettering, though I am not a big fan of retaining signs with verbiage for defunct companies as part of historical preservation. Though an incorrect sign is better than whatever plastic logo of the day might otherwise be tacked up there.
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Old 10-17-2017, 09:53 AM   #15
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

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Looks good with all that great detail around the lettering, though I am not a big fan of retaining signs with verbiage for defunct companies as part of historical preservation. Though an incorrect sign is better than whatever plastic logo of the day might otherwise be tacked up there.
Not all defunct companies are created equal. I enjoy seeing the occasional relic as a marker of past eras - "Edison Electric Light Company" etc.

I agree there are some defunct ones I'd rather forget about though.
It's almost like someone should create a historic register of companies...kind of like a hall of fame, or register of historic places/
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Old 10-24-2017, 02:45 PM   #16
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Re: Building preservation in Boston




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Old 10-24-2017, 02:59 PM   #17
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

gorgeous! thanks for posting
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Old 12-01-2017, 04:37 PM   #18
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

With the full and complete understanding that this is their home and they have every right to change it to fit their needs, this story still breaks my heart.

History Reimagined in Beacon Hill

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These subtle details surface throughout the interior, a picture of contemporary sleekness. The crisp aesthetic reflects the modern tastes of the homeowners, who purchased the property after outgrowing their previous Beacon Hill address several years ago. While the 7,000-square-foot dwelling affords the couple and their two young daughters an abundance of space, its original format felt crowded and stifling to them. “It was very traditional, dripping with paneling and molding, and there was even an apartment for a butler,” Stern says. “The owners had an entirely different vision of how they wanted to live, which was more modern and stripped down.”
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Old 12-02-2017, 07:53 AM   #19
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Re: Building preservation in Boston

^ People suck.
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