BHAC Approves Exterior Plaque for Peter Faneuil House

The Beacon Hill Architectural Commission voted unanimously to approve an application for the installation of a brass plaque at the Peter Faneuil House on Joy Street in accordance with a city requirement, albeit in a different location than was proposed, at the commission’s monthly public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 19, which took place virtually.

The Peter Faneuil House at 60 Joy St.

Ken Crisafulli, vice president of real estate construction and design for the nonprofit Rogerson Communities, which developed the Peter Faneuil House at 60 Joy St. into affordable housing, said they had received a grant through the city’s Community Preservation Act (CPA) for the restoration of the building. One requirement per the city for receiving a CPA grant mandates that the recipient must install a plaque in a visible location on the exterior of the building at the completion of the restoration project, he said.

While Crisafulli had initially proposed installing the plaque, which measures 7-by-10 inches and would be affixed using  four screws, on the left-hand side of the main entrance to the building, one proviso of the commission’s approval of the application is that the plaque would instead be installed directly below an existing lantern to the right of the door. The new location for the plaque came at the recommendation of Nick Armata, BHAC staff, who said moving it there would largely obscure it from sight, except for a short stretch of Joy Street.

          Commission Chair Mark Kiefer said to require the installation of the plaque in a visible, exterior location for the receipt of city funds runs “antithetical to historic preservation.”

Likewise, Commissioner Ed Fleck pointed out that this case represents “two city agencies with conflicting views,” since the BHAC has had a longstanding policy against installing exterior plaques in the Beacon Hill Historic District, which runs counter to the CPA’s plaque requirement. Fleck suggested that Armata and the Boston Landmarks Commission could work together with CPA staff to find a resolution.

Armata said the two city agencies had been “working behind the scenes” to resolve the matter, although he said he’s not directly involved in this process. In other historic districts, including the Back Bay, the plaque applications have all been referred to staff whereas in Beacon Hill’s historic district, the application are instead reviewed by the commission on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Commissioner Alice Richmond requested that the commission “communicate officially” with District 8 City Councilor Kenzie Bok and the Beacon Hill Historic District’s other elected officials to seek their help in resolving this matter.

In another matter, the commission unanimously approved an application to install a new intercom system at a multi-unit apartment building at 103 Charles St. between Pinckney and Revere streets.

The applicant, Jim Bellanca, said the new intercom system is an urgent necessity for tenants, since the building’s unlocked entryway has fallen prey to stolen packages, discarded syringes, and people camping out there overnight, among other issues.

Besides putting a lock on the exterior door, Bellanca said the applicant’s intention is now to move the buzzer panel to the exterior of the main entryway into the brick on the front façade. The installation would be made by drilling through the mortar to connect the electrical wiring on the other side of the door jamb, he added. (The intercom unit, which won’t be illuminated, will be custom-made by the Boston Intercom Group, said Bellanca.)

While Bellanca had initially proposed installing the intercom system to the right of the front door, one proviso for the commission’s approval of this application is that the applicant would work with staff to explore the option of installing the system through the wood to the left of the door. If this option isn’t feasible, the applicant would then be required to return to the commission. (Installing the intercom in the door well isn’t an option as the system would require multiple buzzers and therefore not fit into the well’s narrow confines, said Armata.)

On an application for 83 Myrtle St., the commission unanimously approved the proposed work, including replacing the existing front door, as well as replacing the existing doorbell with a new Ring doorbell system, which would be concealed behind a brass plate.

Brigid Williams, the project architect, said the door has been repaired (i.e. “chopped up and patched”)  many times and no longer closes properly due to its “unstable” door joints. She added that the new door would be an “exact copy” of the existing door, and that the existing hardware, including the door knocker, street numbers, and mail slot,  would be reused wherever possible.

One proviso for the approval of this application is that the applicant must provide written documentation from a historic door specialist stating that the door, which Armata said isn’t original but still “contributes to the fabric of the building,” is beyond repair.

Armata described the proposed Ring doorbell system, which would have no illumination and be concealed behind a brass plate, as a “good treatment for a doorbell.” (Establishing district guidelines for intercom systems was the subject of BHAC subcommittee meeting held on Dec. 12 of last year in response to the recent proliferation of applications for intercoms in the Beacon Hill Historic District.)

The commission unanimously approved as submitted an application for 73 Pinckney St., which includes replacing an existing 32-inch metal balcony railing with a 42-inch, code-compliant, wrought-iron railing at the rear façade, visible from Grove Square; reinforcing the balcony, if required; and increasing the height of the balcony door from roughly 6 feet, 8 inches to 7 feet, 9 inches to reach the existing stone lintel.

Likewise, the commission unanimously approved an application for 7 Chestnut St., with the proposed work including replacing all the existing single-pane, non-historic windows on the front façade with double-paned windows in the existing historic pane configuration; as well as installing a new light in the main entrance, new front-door hardware, a new service-entry door and hardware, a new roofdeck, new HVAC equipment, and a new intercom system.

This application’s approval came with the provisos that the service door be restored according to historic photos furnished by Armata, rather than replaced; that the HVAC equipment be installed on the roofdeck in a location not visible from a public way; and that the windows be constructed with a dark spacer bar.

The commission also heard an advisory review for Beacon House at 19 Myrtle St., with the would-be applicant (Crisafulli again representing Rogerson Communities) soliciting feedback on a window mockup at the rear of the structure.

Crisafulli said while the applicant is only considering the replacement of the existing windows with aluminum windows on the third through eighth levels on the rear façade at this time, they would likely aim to replace the windows on  each of the building’s other facades in the future while “replicating the style of what’s there now.” He added that the existing “weathered windows are letting in cold air and affecting residents’ livelihoods.”

Commissioner Kiefer advised the applicant that they should attempt to “match what’s there to the maximum extent possible.” If this isn’t an option, the applicant would then “need to demonstrate why it’s not possible,” he said.

Commissioner Wen Wen requested that swatches for the six paint-color options presented be placed next to an existing window to better gauge their visual impact.

On hand for the Jan. 19 hearing were Commission Chair Kiefer, Vice Chair Arian Allen, and Commissioners Fleck, Annette Given, Ralph Jackson, Alice Richmond, and Wen.

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