February 1, 2012 With HBI?s Help, New Zoning Article Recognizes Hyde Park?s Historic Resources
These days, preservationists tend to include a wider range of types and eras of buildings on the list of what they find worthy of preservation. In fact, HBI recommended that the entire area of Cleary and Logan Squares that falls within the boundaries of the existing Hyde Park Main Streets district be designated as an NDOD?a recommendation that was adopted in the Strategic Plan. This means that historic buildings in this area?such as the former Burnes Brothers Department Store and the Fallon Block in Cleary Square, or the Way Building, the Everett Square Theatre Block, the former French?s Opera House, and the Vertullo Building (recently acquired by HBI) in Logan Square, to name a few?now have a certain level of protection, in that changes to them, or to buildings nearby that might impact them, will now be reviewed by the BRA.
After the 1930s?perhaps as a result of suburbanizing forces felt particularly strongly in Hyde Park due to its location at the southernmost tip of Boston, more or less surrounded by the less densely developed and auto-friendly towns of Dedham and Milton?many of the taller buildings suffered from the removal of their upper floors, or were torn down altogether and replaced by single story structures, or even surface parking lots in some cases. What HBI?s presentation demonstrates is that, in the era when Cleary and Logan Squares were functioning most successfully as a viable commercial district, it was denser and home to many more tall buildings than it has today.
It was quite striking to reveal that the existing, mainly low-rise district with which most people are familiar today is a fairly recent phenomenon. This also represents an interesting case of where historic data could be used in support of new development and increased density, instead of in opposition to it.