July 10, 2015 Urban Farming and Historic Preservation: A Return to Mattapan?s Roots
This mural, found on an interior wall in the main house,
depicts Jorge Epstein?s vision of the farmstead
From a preservation standpoint, the rehabilitation of the Fowler-Clark farm as one of the oldest and most intact structures of its kind is remarkable in and of itself, especially considering the resiliency of the house and land to withstand decades of residential development (and perhaps the previous owner, Jorge Epstein who purchased the house in 1941, can be thanked for his personal interest in preservation which protected many of the historic features of the house). Today, the original house and barn are situated on a plot of land a little over a half acre in size ? which, though greatly diminished from the original 330 acres, is unique within a highly developed ?street-car suburb? such as Mattapan. But, what makes the project truly extraordinary is the proposed use of the land and buildings as an urban farming site. With this interesting twist of fate, the very profession that supported Samuel Fowler over 200 years ago will save the distressed property for years to come, creating new jobs and a space for farmer training programs in the process. The near seamless coupling of the old and new tackles some of Mattapan?s most daunting contemporary challenges, such as economic disinvestment and food insecurity, while tapping into the unique history of the neighborhood for creative solutions.
Rebecca Gourlay is a summer intern at HBI and a rising junior at Boston College