South End Landmarks District Commission Tackles Window Violations

May 11, 2018
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For the third month in a row, the South End Landmarks District Commission (SELDC) have had violations on unapproved windows installed in the neighborhood brought before the board. The District Landmark Commissions have been stepping up their efforts to protect the original historic windows.

This month, unapproved windows at 163 West Newton St. was brought before the Commission for review.

The contractor argued that what windows were original could not have been saved. The prime reason to replace the windows was for safety because some were falling out onto the street.

“You do realize you don’t make that decision right?” asked Chair John Amodeo.

The contractor said he now did understand that, but it was too late. He claimed to have followed the process for approval but didn’t take out a building permit that would have notified him the process had to go through the Landmarks Commission.

The old windows were put into storage for safe keeping. After sending staff and inspecting photographs, the Commission concluded that some of the windows were original and or very close to the original and had the curb sashes, which the SELDC is fighting to save throughout the district.

The owner of the building said that throughout his 37 years of ownership, he replaced the windows as needed, many before the SELDC was in existence.

Nicholas Armata, the staff preservationist for the South End, said that although it may not seem like it, the historic windows are repairable.

Armata believed the top windows were not original while the lower ones were, but he was only able to look at the windows in storage so he couldn’t place them to were they used to be.

The contractor put in windows that are not historically accurate and do not meet the historic guidelines.

“We always prioritize repair over replace,” said Amodeo.

Commissioner John Freeman added, “[The windows] looks bad but definitely repairable.”

Amodeo said it appears that there is a mix of both flat sash and curbed-sash on each floor of the  brownstone building.

“If a flat window ever needs replacing, our hope is that the owner might put in curb-sash to match the original,” said Amodeo. “If you don’t match it now, someone else might in the future. The goal is to keep the original fabric, and we don’t mind the mis-match of the windows.”

Amodeo added that it also sets an example on what the windows should look like for people who don’t know.

The Commission denied without prejudice the application for repair and replace because that is typically only used as a last resort.

The Commission asked that the proponent re-submit to repair the windows that are original and replace the non-conforming windows to meet the districts standards and guidelines. No new permits can be submitted for the building until the violation is remedied.

 

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232 West Canton St. got permission to re-build the light well at its front garden. After doing some digging and knocking down the drywall in the basement level it was discovered that the shaft already existed and was covered up. The contractor said he will be opening it up to provide a light source. The application was passed with a proviso that door details are sent to staff.

543 Massachusetts Ave., was allowed to connect two existing dormers to create one unified dormer above the cornice. Currently, the pitched walls on the inside make it very hard to put furniture in the bedrooms and have it accessible to the fire escapes. The Commission passed the application as submitted.

51 Gray St. was allowed to construct a new roof-deck and hatch despite minor visibility from a public way. The contractor said that they moved the deck as far back as possible to meet safety codes and to not be seen but, the railings remained slightly visible. The deck was passed with a proviso to make the railing steel with a black finishing.

155 Warren Ave. got permission to lower one window sill at the front facade garden level to allow egress from a basement level room.

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