499 Shawmut Ave. To Get Much-NeededHandrails

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

The South End Landmark District Commission (SELDC) unanimously approved a proposal for the installation of handrails on the front granite steps at 499 Shawmut Avenue during its meeting on Tuesday, Apr. 4.

Although the installation of handrails on the front steps might not sound significant on the surface, these front steps, which have been without handrails, could have been limiting for certain residents.

In the last six months, two owners of condominiums at 499 Shawmut Avenue have been significantly injured and, without proper measures like these handrails, would be unable to access their homes safely.

“One owner, age of 71, has sustained a severely broken leg and has been unable to live at 499 Shawmut Avenue due to access restrictions. She uses a cane and will return to the building in mid-April,” said a representative from Eddie’s Iron Works, who presented the proposal before SELDC commissioners.

The representative added, “The other owner has sustained multiple fractures of vertebrae in February, compromising her mobility and ease of using stairs.”

The proposal sought to add two iron handrails, which would be installed by the aforementioned Eddie’s Iron Works – a commercial and residential professional welding company based out of Everett.

Overall, the handrails would be able to be installed in less than a day and would allow for these recovering residents to return to their homes when the time is right – most importantly – safely.

While one would think the approval process of this proposal would be a slam dunk, several modifications to the handrails were required before the commissioners ultimately approved them.

The initial design called for handrails with decorative rings sandwiched in between a top and bottom rail. However, Commissioner John Amodeo indicated that both the rings and bottom rail would have to be removed to keep with the required simplicity of the area.

Fellow Commissioner John Freeman indicated that removing the rings might actually be safer, even though he did mention it was out of the commission’s purview. 

“It’s actually better, for that matter, too … the rings interrupt the finger grasp, so it’s a safer rail to not have the rings,” said Freeman.

“It’ll actually be better for your owner – for your client,” added Amodeo.

Another required change was to turn the bottoms of the three posts holding up the rail and attach them to the inside of the wall that encloses the steps so they are not set in the granite treads. “We do this so that you don’t get water infiltration around the base of the post into the step that could freeze and cause cracking of the steps – we want to avoid that,” said Amodeo.

The final modification was that the bottom of the handrail lines up with the end of the wall that encloses the granite steps – without damaging the granite.

A motion was made to accept this proposal with the provisos mentioned above and was seconded by Commissioner Catherine Hunt. There were no public comments made about the proposal, and it was eventually unanimously approved.

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