Do you know where the Alford Street Pumping Station is? 

Do you know where the Alford Street Pumping Station is? 

At the invitation of the City of Everett and the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Historic Boston’s staff toured the very distressed Alford Street Sewage pumping station in Charlestown last week.  The building, which hugs the edge of the Alford Street Bridge and projects into the Mystic River on a sea wall, is known in historic preservation circles, but its poor condition and the opportunities it could present have sailed below the radar screen for some time.

Owned by the MWRA, Alford Street Pumping Station is one of three stations first built in 1895 for the Metropolitan Sewer District, one of the first regional sewerage systems in the country and recognized as one of the best in the country at that time.  However, in these early days of sewer management, Alford Street provided no treatment, only collecting wastewater and sending it into Boston harbor.

The tiny building of roughly 15,000 square feet was constructed to designs of Boston architect Arthur Gray and is the only one remaining of the original three.   Original equipment is gone or has been replaced, and the station was mostly disused in the early 1990s after dedication of the new DeLauri Pumping Station across the street.

The building has experienced substantial changes over time, including addition of a two story coal house that has since been demolished and other additions that have covered the beauty of the original building.  Today, it sits precariously atop a disheveled sea wall, and is obscured by the bridgemaster’s structure that controls the bridge for harbor traffic.  And the structure still supports the sewage functions of the DeLauri station; a massive sewer pipe runs beneath the vacant historic building and is not likely to be moved soon.

Nevertheless, what has mostly been a no-man’s land of industry and harbor uses at the Everett/Charlestown line for decades, is now an emerging and dynamic opportunity zone.  Large swaths of Everett’s waterfront are emerging as sites with development potential and the busy Encore Casino is one block away.

The City of Everett is thinking ahead about public access along the water’s edge and has begun planning with architects and engineers for that infrastructure and amenity.  The hole in their plans may very well turn out to be the charm in the Everett waterfront – even though it’s in Charlestown.  The Alford Street Pumping Station could become a preservation project unto itself, enhancing public amenities along this edge of the waterfront, and HBI is closely monitoring the historic building so that it can be helpful along the way.