May 3, 2019 People in Preservation: Mattapan’s David Hurst
In honor of preservation month, HBI is kicking off a monthly blog series that highlights the impact of historic preservation projects on the neighbors, businesses, and residents of the communities where we work. From Roxbury to Mattapan to Highland Park, we hope to discover how individuals experience the effects of historic preservation, and how a single building has the potential to drive economic change and empowerment of neighborhoods. Each project gives us an opportunity to see the human and social benefits that come with saving and improving historic structures in Boston’s neighborhoods.
Longtime resident of Mattapan, David Hurst, is the Owner of Hurst Landscaping and Site Services Inc. Hurst Landscape & Site Services Inc. has been serving residential and commercial clients in Boston and Greater Boston for over 25 years. His company has worked on a variety of historic landscape projects including, the Dillaway-Thomas House, the Eustis Street Fire House, and most recently the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, on his home turf in Mattapan.
At the farm, David’s team was instrumental in transforming an overgrown yard into a lush and productive urban farm. The team laid hardscape for the front and rear driveways, the small parking area in the rear, installation of site lighting, installed perimeter fencing around the entire property, and built the planting beds for the fruit trees and productive shrubs. We spoke with David to ask him about how historic landscape jobs have become a big part of his business.
How did you get involved with historic landscape renewal and site service work?
DH: I used to do a lot of repairs at Milton Academy. They have a lot of older buildings and older hardscapes that needed repairs. That was where we started to do more of our historic preservation work, and then all of the projects that we have done for HBI since have been for preservation.
How did you start doing site work at Milton Academy?
DH: Jim Selman, head of facilities at Milton Academy saw us doing stonework in Milton at the [public] library. We started working there when they renovated the building, and they built the stonewalls, granite bridge, and laid the blue stone and brick pavers.
How is a landscape rehabilitation project different from new construction project? Are there different challenges and rewards?
DH: It might seem obvious, but with historic sites, the beauty is already there. It just needs to be brought back. You have to use a lot of care. Sometimes you have to see what it could be even though it’s not what it once was.
How have historic landscape projects helped you to grow Hurst Landscaping and Site Services Inc.? Are there any projects you have been really proud of?
DH: Our relationship with HBI has been very helpful. We’ve seen the jobs that you are doing and being able to be a part of the jobs is fun. Landscape for new construction mostly require you to just build something new according to a basic design. What is expected on the older jobs is that you be creative and kind of bring it back, and it’s not always about making it look new, but making it looking original (as in what it looked like before). It’s about making the work look like it is a part of that older building, a part of its history.
As for favorites, Fowler Clark is one of my favorites. Living in Mattapan, I’ve see that property a hundred times in the bad condition that it was left in. We helped to bring it up to date. Now I am ready to see it a hundred more times, but in the nicer condition. That in itself gives me a sense of pride.
How did you feel about working on the Fowler Clark Farm project (especially since you have been a long time resident of Mattapan)?
I think it has changed the neighborhood in a positive way. While we were working out front, we got to see how happy the residents were when they walked by every day. They were happy to see us there bringing it back. They were very excited and that excitement is contagious. They were happy that it was bringing the urban farm to the neighborhood too. Everyone was pretty excited to see the property have someone care of it and that the new farm was coming into the neighborhood and the opportunities that it would create for the residents. People always stopped and were asking, “are there jobs?”, “are they hiring?” and “how can we help out?”.
Do people know that your company worked on the project?
DH: Some people know that we’ve done that job, and I’ll get a call from some people who say, “I just found out that you guys did that, and it looks really nice”. I told some friends and family too. My son helped us do that job…two generations of Hursts worked at Fowler Clark.
While working on-site, what were some of the impacts that you saw this historic preservation of the building and landscaping had on a street/community/neighborhood?
DH: Everyone was happy to see the place brought back to life again. When we were working out front after they had planted, there were a lot of little kids walking by to go school in the mornings. They knew that the blueberries were right near the fence, and they would lean in and grab a few. They knew that they were there, and in a few weeks it was already part of the routine: you get some blueberries on the way to school or the bus.
But one of the funniest things was that I was working out front and two older guys pulled up. They were arguing with each other. They got closer and one said, “Hey! I bet him $20 that that building has been renovated. He doesn’t believe me”. The other guy with him was adamant and saying, “I have lived here for 50 years, and it’s always looked like that. They haven’t changed anything. That building has always looked like that.” DH: I didn’t wanna break the tie, but I told them the work had been done and the trim and buildings had been repainted and the site had been replanted too. I don’t know who won the twenty bucks.
Do you have any final thoughts about your work or about the HBI projects?
I really enjoy working with Lisa (Lewis) and Barbara (Knecht) and Bobby and Nataka. I really relish those relationships and I think about that every time I drive by.