The Nazzaro Center building took a big step toward becoming a Boston Landmark, protecting its exterior from future change. After a stirring hearing, the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) voted unanimously on Tuesday night to take up a study that will likely recommend guidelines for the building be protected as a landmark. The property, located at 30-32 North Bennet Street, also includes the outside open space of the Polcari Playground.
(00:00 in video) The hearing began with the BLC reading for the full application of the North Bennet Street Bathhouse and Gymnasium, now known as the Nazzaro Community Center. The building was built under Mayor Fitzgerald in 1906, completed in 1910 and served as a bathing facilities for North End residents until 1976. The exterior represents Renaissance style architecture, designed by McGuinness, Walsh and Sullivan.
(10:00) District One City Councilor Lydia Edwards spoke in support of making the Nazzaro Center a Boston Landmark as did State Representative Aaron Michlewitz (12:30). The latter spoke of his personal experience using the Nazzaro when it reopened in 1985 as a community center.
(15:00) Proponent Ellen Hume presented the petition by the “Save the Nazzaro” group that launched the landmark application to the BLC. Hume spoke of the neighborhood support that has emerged to preserve the exterior of the building and the surrounding open space. Using photos and maps, she highlighted how the Nazzaro sits at the center of the community and forms an integral part of its history.
Efforts to preserve the Nazzaro Center building gained steam after city consultants recommended the site as one of three final options for redevelopment in the search to locate a new community center. The other two recommended sites include Sargent’s Wharf and the Mirabella Pool bathhouse. Chair of the BLC emphasized, however, that the city commission only considers historical elements as part of its decision making process, not potential for other uses.
(31:20) First to comment in the public session was past President of the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA), Mary McGee, who highlighted that the neighborhood maintains several colonial properties, such as the Old North Church and Paul Revere House, but has failed to protect sites related to the immigrant experience such as the North Bennet Street Bathhouse that is now known as the Nazzaro Center.
(33:30) Longtime North End / Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) member and lifelong resident, Marie Simboli, had a letter read aloud at the hearing in support of preserving the Nazzaro Center.
(34:50) An extended series of public comments continued at the hearing, all in support of protecting the Nazzaro Center and Polcari Playground. Carla Nazzaro DiOrio, niece of the building namesake Michael Nazzaro, Jr., spoke about her father’s legacy in the neighborhood (39:00) and in support of the building’s preservation. Nazzaro was a local politician credited with saving the North End from urban renewal after the West End was redeveloped.
A notable element of the public comments was a series of new, young residents that live near and use the Nazzaro Center, speaking in support to protect the building and open space (48:00). BLC Commissioner and North End resident, Kirstin Hoffman also spoke during the comment period regarding the building’s historic integrity (53:00).
Mayor Walsh has recently clarified that the City does not intend to tear down the Nazzaro Center as part of building a new community center. If and when the BLC recommends the Nazzaro Center as a Boston Landmark, the final approval will be made by the Mayor.