By Seth Daniel
The South End Historical Society is gearing up for its annual House Tour this coming Saturday, Oct. 15, a fundraiser for the organization that is one of the oldest Home Tours in the city.
The self-guided, two-hour, home tour will feature six private homes this year and three celebrations in public parks – including Childe Hassam Park, Ringgold Park and Hiscock Park.
“The House Tour started in 1967 and is our biggest fundraiser and one-quarter of our operating budget for the year,” said Lauren Prescott of the South End Historical Society. “Most of the homes this year are concentrated around the Boston Center for the Arts and that neighborhood. Our house tour is the oldest continuous house tour. We have homes running from contemporary homes to 19th Century traditional homes. One of our homes was completely repurposed to meet the family’s needs. That took the kitchen out of the basement and put it on the top floor. A lot of the home tour is seeing how people adapt their home to current needs.”
While most of the six homes are not yet public until the day of the tour, Ari and Rachel Mervis of 486 Columbus Ave. spoke this week about having their home on the tour. Ari Mervis said they just renovated their condo, and it was a chance to show off the skilled work done by local contractors.
“This is the first time our house has been on the tour,” he said. “We volunteered because we wanted to support the South End Historical Society. We love the history and character that make the South End special. Plus, this was a chance to do something to thank the amazing team that renovated our condo. It was their vision and hard work that created the home we have today.”
Prescott said one interesting side note to the Tour is that many of the homes have been renovated by local contractors. So, as with the Mervis’s, it’s a chance to showcase the skilled local workers.
“One of the great things about this tour is a lot of people who have renovated their homes have chosen South End based contractors to do the work,” said Prescott.
Sadly, it will be one of the first tours that won’t have some presence from Doris Sprogis, who died in 2015 and had been the original organizer of the tour in 1967. She acted as a volunteer on the tour up until her death.
“She was part of a group of residents who were concerned about what they were seeing happen to the South End, especially around Urban Renewal,” said Prescott. “In the 1950s, they saw the New York Streets neighborhood be completely removed. They also were part of the group that got us on the National Register of Historic Places and so we helped to found Landmarks so that now when anyone wants to do anything in their building, they have to go before the South End Landmarks Commission.”
Prescott did say the Society has moved away from the Landmarks function, even though they still get calls about Landmarks to their Massachusetts Avenue office in Chester Square.
“Our responsibilities today are education, preservation and programming for our members,” said Prescott.
One of those programs, quite obviously, is the House Tour.
Tickets to the tour are $30 in advance on the web, and $35 the day of the tour. A $50 ticket admits one to the house tour and to a social event afterward at Atelier 505 on Tremont Street. The tour lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is rain or shine.