August 24, 2018 Eustis Street Fire House Uncovered
Boston Uncovered is a project of the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology, and explores unique pieces of Boston history from the smallest bits of Roxbury Puddingstone to a subway tunnel under City Hall. The team from City Hall came to the HBI headquarters at 20 Eustis Street to film on one of the steamy days in late July. Watch the video or read the history below to learn more about HBI’s Eustis Street Fire House.
In 1859, the wooden firehouse that stood at 20 Eustis was demolished and replaced with a new brick structure. Home to the Torrent 6 man-pulled fire engine, the firefighters who pulled it served the Roxbury Neck area, which is presently Washington Street. Architect, John Roulestone-Hall designed the two-and-a-half story brick structure, embracing an Italian/Greek revival style.
Though attempts were made to demolish the building in the 60s, the historic designation of the neighboring Eliot Burying Ground (1630) on the National Register of Historic Places helped protect the Firehouse in 1974. In 1981, it was further protected permanently by the Boston Landmarks Commission when it became part of the Eustis Architectural Conservation District with the burying ground, and the 1870s Owen Nawn Factory.
By 1991, the building had left abandoned and suffered the loss of the rear additional that had once been a stable for horses. That loss destabilized the building so much that it leaned precariously toward the burial ground. In 1993, HBI worked with the City to design a wooden bracing system that propped up the building for the next 17 years.
In 2008, Historic Boston Inc. was selected to lease the building from the City for 100 years and to rehabilitate it. With a graveyard on one side and a stubborn neighbor on the other, the building project proved to be a challenge. Nevertheless, HBI completed a $2.5 million project that fully restored the historic building and added a new addition at the rear.
HBI also commissioned a fence as public art that depicts the kind of firefighting equipment that would have been housed here when the firehouse was built.
Today the firehouse provides office space for two local organizations, the Timothy Smith Network and Historic Boston Inc. The Eustis Street Firehouse stands as a living monument to Roxbury’s history as a separate town and to advancements in municipal fire fighting over time. While it adds to the cultural landscape of Dudley Square, it is also a testimony to the power of historic preservation to support neighborhood revitalization.