BHAC approves outdoor signage at new Charles Street children’s store

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission unanimously approved an application for outdoor signage for a proposed Charles Street children’s store at its Feb. 18 hearing, which took place virtually.

The applicant, who intends to open a store called “The Happy Journey” this June at 73 Charles St., told the commission the sign would be black, with shades of gold and green, and made of wood, measuring 96-by-8 inches, and adorned with a turtle on one side and a schoolbook and an apple on the other. It would be affixed over the front doorway using two existing wood screws, the applicant added, and those would be obscured from sight with putty.

Yankee Woodcarvers of Plymouth has been commissioned to manufacturer the sign, the applicant said, which would be similar to the existing signage for Pinckney Nails at 91 Charles St. and Elegant Findings Antiques at 89 Charles St.

The commission approved this application with the proviso that the applicant submit final shop drawings showing the sign’s location on the building façade for staff files. 

In another matter related to proposed storefront signage, Laura Cousineau, owner of Upstairs Downstairs, which recently moved to the retail space formerly occupied by The Red Wagon at 69 Charles St. from its former home at 93 Charles St., applied for a new hanging sign that would closely resemble the one that was at the business’s old location for 28 years, although she agreed to the commission’s request to change its color to black from the proposed Essex green. (Cousineau also agreed to change the color of the awning to black from the proposed alpine green per the commission’s recommendation.)

Unlike the old sign, which read “Upstairs Downstairs,” the one would have the business’s new name, “Upstairs Downstairs Home,” printed in 23-carat gold stenciling, said Cousineau, and would be adorned with a “swirl” deign at the bottom.

No masonry would be penetrated or altered during the installation of the sign, Cousineau added, which would also use existing hardware.

This application was approved unanimously with provisos that the new sign be black; that the replacement awning, which would be also be black to match, not have scalloped edges; and that Cousineau submit shop drawings to staff for final approval.

On an application to ratify a violation for 11 Irving St., which was carried over from the December hearing, the commission voted 3-2 to deny the installation of an unapproved intercom system and instructed the applicant to find a solution where the system would be affixed to the door, instead of to the building itself, in keeping with the historic neighborhood’s guidelines.

David Sherf, the property manager, had proposed moving the intercom system from an alcove in a stairwell leading to a basement living space to the left side of the doorway on the building’s façade in an effort to mitigate the impact on the occupant of that unit, who said she has been inundated with delivery packages for the entire nine-unit building. 

“All the wiring comes in on the left,” Sherf added, “so you really can’t move it to the other side of the door.”

While the proposal would entail alterations to the exterior of a building in a historic neighborhood, which is prohibited under BHAC guidelines, Nick Armata, senior preservation planner for the city, after working closely with the applicant over the past few weeks, said: “In this particular instance, this seems like the only logical solution I can’t think of anything else. I’m not sure there’s another option available at this point.”

In conclusion, however, Commissioner Miguel Rosales said, “We shouldn’t be endorsing breaking the historic guidelines because the applicant doesn’t want to find a solution that’s appropriate.”

The commission unanimously approved as submitted an application for 78 Mount Vernon St. to install new dormers at the rear façade, as well as a new oriel, while also unanimously approving an application as filed for 66 Beacon St. to repaint the front door using black Benjamin Moore gloss paint.

An application for 40 Phillips St. to replace 12 wood, one-over-one windows with 12 Fibrex one-over-one windows was unanimously denied without prejudice because the commission deemed that the proposed composite material was “inappropriate” for the historic district.

The commission voted unanimously to continue an application for 83 Mt. Vernon St. – the William Ellery Channing House, which was built in 1835 – to construct a new fifth-floor dormer and deck, as well as to install new door hardware, new front light fixture and a new intercom system, and to repaint the front door Heritage Red.

A subcommittee comprising P.T. Vineburgh, the commission’s chair, as well as Commissioners Alice Richmond and Rosales, was convened to review the extensive application and full mock-ups, and its future hearings will be open to the public, said Armata.

Likewise, the commission voted unanimously to continue an application for 27 Brimmer St. to replace the roofdeck, as well as to remove and rebuild the headhouse in a new location, with new guardrails and a new skylight.

Commissioner Rosales, who described the roofdeck request as excessive, said, “It’s a very exaggerated proposal. They should make an effort to minimize the size and visibility.” 

Peter White, a principal with the Woburn architectural firm ZEN Associates, responded he would be “happy to scale it down and reduce the visibility, and to come back [to the commission] with the best foot forward.”

The commission requested that White return to its next monthly hearing with a mockup of the new proposal.

Moreover, the commission voted to deny an application for 62 Chestnut St. to replace wood shutters with replicas to match in color, style and material due to “insufficient information” provided. The sample submitted as part of the application also wasn’t consistent in proportion and detailing with the existing shutters, according to the commission, which are in derelict condition.

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