The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) on November 10 voted not to impose a demolition delay on two different buildings related to Scape’s mixed-use proposal in the Fenway. The buildings, 1252-1268 Boylston St. and 1270 Boylston St., were both determined by Landmarks staff to be significant, but the Commission ultimately voted against the delay after hearing the public comment and the commitment of the developer to honor their history.
1252-1268 Boylston Street
The BLC demo delay process begins with the confirmation that the community process has been met for a particular building, which was the case fro 1251-1268 Boylston.
Nicole Benjamin-Ma, a senior preservation planner at VHB, presented some history of the two story masonry building building, sayinfg that it was constructed between 1923 and 1924 as an automobile garage, then became a garage and various commercial storefronts. In 1931, the garage became vacant and was leased for other automobile-related uses. She said that the Great Depression had “taken a hit on private automobile ownership,” then other storefronts began to occupy the garage area.
Around 1950, a bowling alley moved into the space, and she said that in the 1990s, the bowling alley was renovated into a restaurant and bar with the Ramrod name, and the billiards area was renovated to the Machine nightclub and recording studio, as well as a fitness center.
Commissioner John Amodeo said he beleived that Ramrod had opened in the 1970s, then closed in the 90s when Machine took over and then the Ramrod name was given to the restaurant and bar.
Benjamin-Ma said that there was “a lot of conflicting information” in her research, so she “stuck what was in the phone book at the time,” as well as what was found in a long form building permit. “Those were the only things I could definitely pin down,” she said.
The public also made comments about the newly proposed space, which includes residential housing and retail space, as well as a Black Box theater to honor the LGBTQ community that relied so heavily on the Machine nightclub as a safe space.
“What I really appreciate about the new space is the continued support that they’re going to allow schools like Boston Arts Academy to use for the theater and to support this important population of friends,” said Denella Clark, president of the Boston Arts Academy Foundation, who was not in favor of imposing a demo delay. “I really hope that we will be able to move forward with this process.”
Pam Beale, a member of the Impact Advisory Group for this project, said that there has been “no mention or request to save this building,” at any of the meetings during the public process for the project. She said that there is :no architectural significance” in the building, and that it has lived its life. There is “broad support for the design and programming” of the newly proposed project.
City Councilor Kenzie Bok also spoke out against the imposition of a demo delay. She said in a letter submitted to the BLC that the changes made to the Scape proposal throughout the community process are positive ones, and suggested that the “memorialization” of the Machine nightclub “would be highly appropriate.”
Amodeo said he “appreciates” the “commitment to community and keeping the community alive” from the project team, who said they want to work with the Commission and with The History Project, which documents the history of the LGBTQ communities in New England, as suggested by Amodeo.
The Commission voted to not impose a demolition delay for 1252-1268 Boylston St.
1270 Boylston Street
The community meeting process was deemed sufficient for this building as well, and Benjamin-Ma said that the building was constructed in 1919 as a catering headquarters and a food manufacturing plant.
Throughout the 20th century, the building was used for food manufacturing or restaurant space, and then became a series of bars and clubs serving the LGBTQ community, Benjamin-Ma said, including the 1270 Club. Most recently, the building was home to the Baseball Tavern, which has since closed.
Amodeo said that the 1270 Club “played an important part of history for the LGBTQ community,” as a “significant meeting place for the community.” He said that these bars and nightclubs served as more than that; they were community centers for people. “It’s very important that that history be documented.”
While the Commissioners did not seem to think the building itself was extremely significant, they thought that what happened within the walls needs to be preserved in the new building.
Commissioner David Berarducci said that he remembers the 1270 building and the changes it had gone through over the years. He “recommends the documentation of it in a very significant way,” he said.
The applicant for the project, Andrew Flynn, said he is committed to preserving the history and the community, and gave his “personal commitment” to providing these resources to the community moving forward.
The BLC did not impose a demo delay for this building either, allowing the project proponents to move forward to the next steps of the process.