Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin, Chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, announced the selection of the Boston Police Station Number One and Boston Printing Department Building / North Bennet Street School, in the city’s North End neighborhood, to receive a 2015 Massachusetts Historical Commission Historic Preservation Award.
“The Massachusetts Historical Commission is proud to recognize the extraordinary accomplishments of this year’s awardees,” said Secretary Galvin. “The projects the Commission is recognizing this year are particularly diverse and represent the many creative ways that significant historic resources are being preserved across the Commonwealth. This successful restoration and adaptive reuse project preserved two historically significant buildings in Boston’s North End while reuniting the North Bennet Street School’s programs under one roof for the first time in decades.”
The Boston Police Station Number One and Boston Printing Department Buildings / North Bennet Street School comprise one of 11 projects, individuals, and organizations honored.
The adjacent Boston Police Station Number One and Boston Printing Department buildings serve as excellent examples of early 20th-century civic architecture, and were recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Constructed in 1932 and 1931, respectively, the three-story brick buildings continued the North End neighborhood’s tradition of small-scale, masonry construction.
After extensive rehabilitation, the buildings now serve as the new home of the North Bennet Street School, which was founded in 1887 to provide immigrants with the tools necessary to succeed in their new country. Located in the North End for more than a century, the North Bennet Street School is the only institution in the United States with eight distinct, full-time professional craft training programs. Students from the school’s Preservation Carpentry program have contributed to the restoration of many previous Preservation Award-winning projects, such as the Eustis Street Fire House in Roxbury (2012) and the First Church in Dorchester (2014).
Prior to this project, the North Bennet Street School had outgrown its earlier location and established satellite programs in Watertown and South Boston; they purchased the police station and printing buildings in 2012 with the goal of bringing all their programs back under one roof. Repurposing and interconnection of the two buildings presented unique challenges. The density of the neighborhood meant coordination of deliveries with local businesses and the Boston traffic department; in addition, all equipment, including the erection crane, was removed from the site each evening.
The sensitive rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of both buildings, which utilized state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, included façade repairs, replacement of windows with historically accurate replicas, and the removal, repair, and reinstallation of detailed cornice work. Historic materials such as brick and slate were retained and reused where possible. Within the buildings, the team opened up and created new workspace areas, constructed new ventilation shafts, and installed a new HVAC system with energy recovery units. Consistent with the school’s mission, every aspect of the project incorporated quality craftsmanship, and provided a learning opportunity for students who constructed the new facility’s cabinetry.
Prior to the rehabilitation, an old police station garage stood between the two buildings; this garage was expanded to serve as a building connector. On the first-floor levels of the garage and police station, the unique waffle-slab ceilings remain exposed. The design team used glass to differentiate new construction at the connector’s upper portion, and located an ADA-compliant elevator shaft within the connector. The naturally lit, multi-level link now provides space for a ground-floor bookstore and gift shop, an art gallery, and a multi-purpose space for all-school gatherings, evening lectures, performances, and exhibitions.
This is the 37th year of MHC’s Preservation Awards program. Projects are considered annually for awards in the categories of Rehabilitation and Restoration, Adaptive Reuse, Education and Outreach, Archaeology, Stewardship, and Landscape Preservation. Individuals are considered in the categories of Individual Lifetime Achievement and Local Preservationist.