On October 16th, the 35th Annual Preservation Achievement Awards from the Boston Preservation Alliance will take place at the Huntington Theater! Two Dorchester projects will be receiving awards! You can RSVP here!
“If you can’t use it, you lose it. When we preserve older and historic places, we know they have to be useful for today’s society. History has to be accessible, and that’s what this year’s winning projects are all about. Whether it’s making historical maps available for free and for all online, adding ramps to the backstage of a theatre, sharing untold stories on YouTube, or making historic spaces viable and sustainable for the future, each project makes history more accessible for Bostonians. Each project is useful for sharing the full history of Boston.”
Get your tickets or sponsor today.
Have you ever had dinner in a bathroom? You have if you’ve dined at the Comfort Kitchen in Dorchester! The Upham’s Corner comfort station is a single-story stucco and clay tile Mission Revival style building constructed in 1912 as a public restroom to serve passengers using the streetcar that formerly traveled along Dorchester’s Columbia Road. Although the streetcar has long since disappeared, the Comfort Station is a rare surviving structure from an era that prioritized public amenities and thoughtful architecture. The Comfort Station’s location underscores Upham Corner’s geographic importance to Boston and exemplifies the public infrastructure important to growing and expanding American cities at the time.
After permanently closing in 1977, the building was unmaintained and fell into disrepair. In 2014, after considerable public input, the City of Boston requested proposals for the building’s reuse. Because of its small size, less than 1,000 square feet on the main floor, identifying a new use was a challenge. Ultimately, Historic Boston, Inc. partnered with Biplaw Rai, a Dorchester resident, and other partners to create a new restaurant called Comfort Kitchen. The restaurant, which functions as a cafe by day, serves global comfort food inspired by the African diaspora, and fully utilized every nook of the building including a full buildout of the basement. As much of the original fabric of the building was preserved as possible, and some elements were relocated or replaced with like materials, allowing the original character of the building to shine. The restored Comfort Station is an important contribution to the evolution of the neighborhood, providing a much-needed alternative to fast food restaurants for community gatherings. As a Black-owned, immigrant-owned, and woman-owned business enterprise, the ownership reflects the neighborhood’s composition. Historic Boston Inc’s redevelopment model transfers ownership of its completed projects to its tenants/partners after a five-year historic tax credit compliance period, which is the goal for this project. In every way, this quirky little building has been returned to its community.
“If anyone can turn a historic bathroom into a bustling restaurant, it’s HBI,” says Alison Frazee, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. “The creativity in design, financing, and community partnership resulted in this special space in Upham’s Corner to once again serve the community but in a new, delicious way.”
For developer, architect, contractor and project team, visit here.
The Pierce Building is an anchor of Dorchester’s Upham’s Corner, which was first settled in 1630 and annexed to the City of Boston in 1870. The Pierce Building sits across from the North Burying Ground, which gave this neighborhood the name “Cemetery Corner.” The site of the Pierce Building was once owned by Samuel Bowen Pierce, who was born in 1806 in Vermont and sold crockery and varied goods throughout New England. After his death in 1895, Pierce’s son J. Homer demolished the homestead and built the current structure, naming it the S.B. Pierce Building after his father. Homer became a large land developer in Dorchester. After WWII, the neighborhood saw a slow decline and over time the building suffered from deferred maintenance.
In the early 1980s, after the building was foreclosed, the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation took control of the property and did a modest rehabilitation for retail, artists’ lofts, and office space. But more investment was needed, especially after a small piece of marble fell from the façade onto the sidewalk below. Starting in 2020 with extensive work on the façade, the team began interior restoration the following summer and completed the project in the fall of 2022. The extensive project included new mechanical systems, lighting, and interior finishes, ADA upgrades, brick repointing, envelope sealing, restoration of historic architectural elements, new windows, and new restrooms and kitchen facilities for tenants. The second floor is now an incubator space for creative businesses and local entrepreneurs. The first floor’s new tenant is JP Morgan Chase’s Community Center branch which will help expand access to banking and boost financial health and inclusion among Black, Hispanic, and Latino communities. These kinds of bank branches offer access to affordable home loans, low-cost checking accounts, and financial health education workshops. The upper floors will remain the home of the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, a team that acts to build strong, thriving, and diverse communities through affordable housing opportunities and economic development.
“Upham’s Corner is experiencing a period of revival, and it’s crucial to the community that its history and character remain accessible in the landscape as new buildings emerge,” says Alison Frazee, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, “Dorchester Bay itself is an anchor of the community, and the Pierce Building’s restoration maintains a tangible connection between people and place in this thriving neighborhood.”
For owner/developer/architect information, visit here.