Spotlight on DCR’s Historic Curatorship Program for Preservation Month

May is Preservation Month! The National Trust for Historic Preservation has set this year’s theme as “People Saving Places” and for us, there is no better way to do that than to put the spotlight on DCR’s Historic Curatorship Program, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. 

Within the Commonwealth’s 450,000 acres of state parks and forests are a number of unused, historically significant buildings. Established in 1994, the Historic Curatorship Program partners DCR with Curators who rehabilitate, manage and maintain unused, historic properties in return for a long-term lease. In doing so, DCR secures the long-term preservation of threatened historic sites for the public’s benefit, and Curators exchange an investment and their hard work and unique skills for the opportunity to live or work in a one-of-a-kind location. 

Curatorship properties are preserved through a wide range of reuses – residential, non-profit, for profit, hospitality and museums, and must be compatible with the historic and natural character of the setting. You can learn more by watching this engaging video about the program. 

Here at AHF, we salute all the Curators and we thank DCR for spearheading such an effective and ground-breaking program. As the National Trust says: “historic place-savers pour their time, energy, resources (and sometimes a great deal of sweat and tears) into protecting places they care about.” And for the Curators that have invested and preserved these unique and historic properties across the Commonwealth, that definitely describes you! Throughout the month, we will highlight a few of our favorite properties to shed a bit of light on this ground-breaking historic preservation program. 

We’d love to see the Historic Curatorship Program continue to expand and for more properties to benefit from the attention and dedication provided by this public-private partnership. Interested? There are properties open for proposals in Monterey, Shutesbury, and Milton right now! Learn more here.

Want to learn more about becoming a resident curator? The curators of the Dodge House in the Bradley Palmer State Park in Hamilton have recorded their fascinating journey on their blog. Read more here.

Speedway Administration Building, Charles River Reservation, Brighton

Yes, we had to start with this one. The Charles River Speedway is near and dear to our hearts, as AHF is the Curator of this property!

One of the first structures built by the fledgling Metropolitan Parks Commission in 1899, the Speedway represents the earliest history of the nation’s first metropolitan park system. Architect William D. Austin’s dramatic shingle style masterpiece served as the headquarters for the Speedway – a horse racing track hugging the Charles River. 

In 2019,  Architectural Heritage Foundation (AHF)  began a 40-year lease to rehabilitate the property as a mixed-use community space. After years of vacancy, this landmark started its new life and opened to the public in 2021. Today, the Charles River Speedway is home to Notch Brewery and several small businesses, including The Koji Club, Super Bien, Pizza Project, Birds of Paradise, Bellwether Salon, and flexible event spaces at Garage B and The Annex. 

Learn more about the history of The Speedway and its current role as a vibrant community hub here. 

Walter Baker Chocolate Factory, Dorchester 

Built in 1919 as the Administration Building for the sprawling Baker Chocolate Factory, this Classic Revival style office building serves as the centerpiece of one of Greater Boston’s most successful historic preservation projects. 

In November, 2000, Keen Development Corporation, in conjunction with Preservation Mass, became the Curator of the Walter Baker Chocolate Factory Administration Building, signing a 50-year lease. Keen Development finished the restoration of the building in 2002, which includes 13 artist live/work lofts, gallery space, and meeting rooms arranged around a three-story central atrium. Today, the historic building also hosts Dot Art, a non-profit offering art education for neighborhood youth. 

Bascom Lodge, Mt. Greylock State Reservation, Adams 

Opened in 1937, the Civilian Conservation Corps built Bascom Lodge during the depths of the Great Depression. Perched on top of Mt. Greylock, the state’s highest mountain, the iconic property was designed in an architectural style that would later influence a generation of America’s National Park buildings. Constructed of local stone quarried from the mountain, and old growth red spruce timbers, the mountaintop lodge is the centerpiece of a 12,500 acre wilderness park. 

In May 2009, DCR selected a Curator to operate, rehabilitate and maintain Bascom Lodge. The Curators continue the decades-long tradition of providing quality food, lodging and programs for visitors to Mt. Greylock State Reservation. 

Learn more about Bascom Lodge here. 

Wachusett Superintendent’s House, Wachusett Mountain State Reservation, Princeton

Built as an office and residence for Wachusett Mountain State Reservation’s first Superintendent, Guy Chase, this is one of the first buildings built by the fledgling state park agency in 1903. Without a core use, the building sat vacant for 30+ years. DCR continued to invest in the stabilization of the house, but an active reuse was needed to reconnect the property with the public. 

In 2018, the Curators signed a 40-year lease to fully rehabilitate, maintain, and manage the house and garage as a bakery, cafe, and community gathering place. Today, Mountainside Bakery and Cafe serves as a destination for hikers and day trippers looking for a good meal and a place to rest. 

Visit mountainsidebakerycafe.com to learn more about the project.


The Dodge House, Bradley Palmer State Park, Hamilton

So far, we have highlighted properties that are being used for mostly commercial purposes. But what about the resident curators out there, putting their time, energy and money into historic state properties that will become their homes? For an insider’s look at the challenges, obstacles, and ultimate huge reward, take a look at the fascinating journey of the curators of the Dodge House in the Bradley Palmer State Park. Read more here.

AHF Announces Underutilized Property Program Consulting Services

Do you have a stuck project? The Massachusetts Underutilized Properties Program could be a great opportunity to move planning, feasibility studies, or construction projects forward. 

AHF has extensive experience with this state program, and has successfully supported several projects to gain funding. Wondering if your project might be a good fit, and looking for grant writing support or project consulting? Reach out to AHF today – email info@ahfboston.com.

Learn more about AHF’s past UPP consulting projects here.

The Massachusetts Underutilized Properties Program (via Community One Stop for Growth) is now accepting letters of interest for FY2025. In the last round of funding, the program generated $16.5 million for 39 projects across the state. 

For FY2025, Expressions of Interest are being accepted now through April 30, 2024, and full project submissions are due on June 5, 2024. 

Community One Stop for Growth is the Executive Office of Economic Development’s application portal that provides a streamlined process for municipalities and organizations to apply for 13 state grant programs that fund economic development projects related to planning and zoning, site preparation, building construction, infrastructure, and housing development.


Underutilized Properties Program, administered by MassDevelopment, for the purpose of funding “projects that will improve, rehabilitate or redevelop blighted, abandoned, vacant or underutilized properties to achieve the public purposes of eliminating blight, increasing housing production, supporting economic development projects, increasing the number of commercial buildings accessible to persons with disabilities.”

Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant Comes to Western Massachusetts

We are thrilled to share that Pioneer Valley Regional Ventures Center’s (PVRVC) has been awarded the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant to support the creation of the Preservation Works in Western Mass subgrant program.

This is the fifth year of the program, honoring the late Paul Bruhn, beloved executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont for nearly 40 years. This also marks the fifth year that AHF has actively tracked the grant, working behind the scenes to bring it to Massachusetts’s rural communities that so acutely need this type of support. In our experience, successful historic preservation requires vision, patience, creativity, collaborative partnerships – and importantly, financial resources.

Time and time again, we find that in our rural communities, historic properties are typically smaller in scale, which is a challenge when paired against high construction costs. The small communities in Western Massachusetts have a limited ability to raise a grant match, placing most state grant opportunities out of reach. With limited grant and philanthropic assistance, investing in the town’s historic assets places an extraordinary financial burden on these small communities, disincentivizing them from utilizing their historic properties as a tool for cultural and economic growth. 

The $750,000 grant will allow the state-designated regional planning agency to work with the Ventures Center to develop a subgrant program and select individual projects in rural communities for physical preservation projects that will contribute to economic vitality.

PVRVC’s new program will begin to close the funding gap for historic properties in rural communities and produce examples of the opportunity that exists to galvanize economic development by restoring and re-using National Register-listed community anchor buildings. The idea is to support economic development through the preservation of historic buildings in towns with fewer than 12,500 residents in Hampshire County, as well as small communities in Hampden and west central and southwest central Worcester counties.

It is the first time a Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant has been awarded to a Massachusetts organization. We look forward to supporting this endeavor across the western part of our state!

Learn more about the grant here. 

March 2024 update: the grant application process is now open!

Welcome to Summer at The Speedway

Photo by Christian Phillips

With summer just around the corner, it’s time for an update on the Charles River Speedway!

It can be tough to point to  anything anniversary-related around the Speedway, because we never had a “grand opening” moment. (Actually, we had several “grand openings”!) Part of that is because construction schedules are always tricky, but also because COVID brought big delays. The realities of small businesses going through a global pandemic translated to a very staggered start. Notch Brewing opened in July of 2021, Bellwether Salon and House of Art & Craft opened that fall, Koji Club opened in February of 2022, Super Bien in August and so on…

So, instead of focusing on one particular day, let’s say this: we are approaching a new summer season at the Charles River Speedway and we have a lot of really interesting things going on here. With a few new small businesses joining our community this spring, there is a feeling around these parts that we are entering into a new, exciting phase of vitality and creativity here at the Speedway. 

We invite everyone to join in the fun!

Learn all about our Speedway community or – check us out on Dining Playbook!

Notch Brewing/Notch Provisions

Named Boston’s Best Brewery in 2022 by Boston Magazine, Notch Brewing’s Brighton taproom and biergarten is their take on a traditional Czech and German-style beer hall. Notch Brewing is well known for their classic session style beers from the Czech Republic, Germany, England, and Belgium. Notch Provisions has its own storefront facing the courtyard, and provides beer-friendly foods like sausages, cheese plates, pretzels and more. 

Bellwether Salon

The Speedway is lucky to be home to Master Stylist Melinda Brandt. This inclusive one-chair salon studio provides a one-on-one experience in a welcoming environment, amidst the backdrop of all the buzzing Speedway central courtyard.

New! Pizza Project

Just opened! Long-time Speedway friend, collaborator, and maker of delicious things, Dan and Allie Spinale have just opened their first brick and mortar location here at The Speedway. The focus of their menu here will be on Sicilian slices and sandwiches, with inventive salads and specials coming soon. 

House of Art & Craft

Filled with soothing scents, beautiful hand-poured soy wax candles and aromatherapy products, this is the first permanent brick + mortar location for Steysy Clark.  As well as being a resource for sustainable goods, Steysy also hosts regular workshops where participants learn to craft their own candles and soap. 

The Koji Club

THE place in Boston to enjoy all things sake. At award-winning Koji Club, guests can enjoy sake while also learning about its culture and history from industry leader and tastemaker Alyssa Mikkiko Dipasquale.  A beautiful jewel box of a space, the experience here is immersive and intimate. The Koji Club was recently named to Conde Nast Traveler’s Hot List – Top 20 restaurants in the world and Esquire’s Best Bars in America, 2023.

Super Bien

This sparkling gem of a Latin American grocery store-meets-wine bar from the Buenas team features empanadas, sauces, and snacks galore. The food is fun and incredibly tasty, the South American natural wine list is one of a kind, and there are a ton of great food finds to bring home to keep the party going. 

Birds of Paradise

From Ran Duan and the award-winning team behind Blossom Bar, Baldwin Bar and Ivory Pearl, Birds of Paradise features thoughtfully-made cocktails and “airline snacks” inspired by the golden age of travel.

New! Boston Women’s Market Incubator Shop 

BWM is bringing a new concept to The Speedway this summer – an incubator shop with a rotating slate of local women-founded small businesses, makers, and artists. The Incubator Shop is open Thursday-Sunday.

Opening soon: Rite Tea & Espresso (opening June 2023)

The first dedicated bricks and mortar location for the Wicked Thrawl, which has been popping up inside The Koji Club for the past six months. Rite will feature a very special tea program, espresso drinks, pour over coffee and a really exciting rotating slate of seasonal drinks. 

Photo by Adam Parshall

Garage B

A former Garage building, today it is the flexible events space located within The Speedway complex. Garage B hosts weddings, corporate events and meetings, family celebrations, and frequent markets and community events. 

ABOUT THE SPEEDWAY

The Speedway is a vibrant, dynamic marketplace in Brighton. Once the headquarters for the Charles River Reservation parkland, today the revitalized historic buildings and central courtyard are home to a unique collection of small businesses – including bars, restaurants, shops, a hair salon and a flexible event space. 

Built between 1899 and 1940, the Charles River Speedway is considered one of DCR’s “origin properties.”  Arranged around an interior courtyard, the buildings once served as police headquarters, Superintendent’s residence, horse stables, and maintenance garages for the Charles River Reservation, formerly under the authority of the Metropolitan District Commission. The complex was also a companion facility for the Speedway trotting park, a horse and bicycle racecourse that curved for a mile along present-day Soldiers Field Road.

Long underutilized, and then vacant for over a decade, the buildings fell into disrepair.

Through a unique public/private partnership called the Historic Curatorship Program, Architectural Heritage Foundation and DCR set forth on the redevelopment of the historic property in 2019, with the first tenant, Notch Brewing, opening their doors in July of 2021. 

Read more about the redevelopment of The Speedway.

Preservation Month Spotlight: 2 Ionic Avenue, Worcester

This Preservation Month, we want to put the spotlight on a particularly exciting project: 2 Ionic Avenue, the future home of Creative Hub Worcester.

The former Worcester Boys Club, now vacant and desperately in need of rehabilitation, is preparing for a complete transformation into the Creative Hub Community Arts Center—a dynamic space for artists, creative entrepreneurs, and community members to work, make, collaborate, perform, and attend events in a vibrant, multi-purpose environment. This project will preserve an architecturally significant building while also preserving its core use: to provide a safe place for the city’s children to grow, learn, and thrive.

Tapping into the expertise of architects from Studio Enée and Studio G, the complete restoration of the 30,000-square-foot building will include artist studios, an art gallery, a performing arts space, youth arts education programs, and two event spaces. When complete, the Creative Hub Community Arts Center will provide arts education for 250 to 350 individuals each day. The project will also include a new infant toddler and childcare facility for the Guild of St. Agnes, a longtime provider serving greater Worcester County.

AHF is providing development and project management services alongside development partner Arts & Business Council of Boston and their Creative Campus initiative. We are thrilled to support Creative Hub Worcester’s mission to provide affordable and accessible opportunities in the arts for all Worcester community members through the restoration and re-use of this historic property.

Creative Hub Worcesterecently launched a new website filled with incredible historic images they found with the help of the Worcester Historical Museum.  We just had to share a few here! Visit their new site to see more.

The Charles River Speedway wins Kuehn Award from Preservation Massachusetts

AHF is so pleased to share that Preservation Massachusetts has named The Charles River Speedway a 2022 Robert H. Kuehn award winner. This award is particularly meaningful as it recognizes extraordinary projects that meld collaborative partnerships with creative and cutting-edge ideas for the rehabilitation and active reuse of historic buildings. We could not be more thankful for our partnership with DCR and the Commonwealth, and Bob Kuehn’s legacy in historic preservation and creative adaptive reuse projects continue to inspire us today.

We are honored to be award winners this year, and we are in great company – other award winners include extraordinary examples of great historic preservation projects like the Roslindale Branch of the Boston Public Library, the Courthouse Lofts in Worcester, the Knitting Mill Apartments in Fall River, and Swartz Hall at the Harvard Divinity School. We look forward to celebrating them all on May 11 at the annual Preservation Massachusetts Preservation Awards.

But that’s not all! The Charles River Speedway has also been nominated as a People’s Preservation Choice award, and we are asking for the support of the community to help us get to the top of the list. If you know and love the revitalized Speedway, we’d love to get your vote – click here to support The Speedway today!

Among a really great list of fellow nominees (this is going to be TOUGH), we put forth that the Charles River Speedway project has connected the public to historic preservation in a truly impactful and tangible way. Anchored by a biergarten and taproom (Notch Brewing) and a host of incredibly creative and talented vendors and retailers, including Boston’s first sake bar (The Koji Club) and a new location for mixologist Ran Duan of Blossom Bar (Birds of Paradise), the Speedway welcomes all to eat, drink, shop, and connect with neighbors every day. It is a place that invites you to practice yoga in the courtyard, buy local art, catch a concert in the flexible events space in Garage B (or perhaps hold your teen’s bar mitzvah?!), get the perfect haircut, and to grab a beer with your co-worker after work – all in the midst of a redeveloped historic complex that was once home to park administration offices, horse stables, snow removal equipment, and a police station.

Built in 1899 as the headquarters for a mile-long racetrack along the Charles River, the Speedway complex is a fascinating mix of building types across a 2-acre campus in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood. Designed by William D. Austin in the Shingle Style with Colonial Revival influences, the architecture mimics the styles often found in luxurious seaside escapes like Newport, used here to reinforce the premise that outdoor recreation and the enjoyment of leisure time is meant for all. Over time, the rise of the popularity of automobiles affected the complex in various ways, ultimately the racetrack was razed mid-century to make way for Soldiers Field Road. The Speedway Headquarters buildings were used for different purposes until the 1990s, slowly falling into disuse.

Owned by the Commonwealth and part of DCR’s Historic Curatorship Program, the redevelopment of the Speedway was made possible through a public and private partnership between DCR and the nonprofit Architectural Heritage Foundation. But the successful redevelopment of the Speedway was not accomplished by AHF and DCR alone.

From The Worcester Telegram – ‘Definitely a challenge’: $100 million needed to restore Worcester Memorial Auditorium

The estimated $100 million price tag to fix up the city’s long-vacant Memorial Auditorium in Lincoln Square comes with two questions: Is it worth it? Can it be done?

Yes, is the answer to both, said Jake Sanders as he recently gave the Telegram & Gazette a tour of the dilapidated 1933 building that serves as a memorial to World War I veterans.

The Worcester Telegram recently toured the Auditorium with AHF Project Executive Jake Sanders. Today, they published an in-depth look at the ongoing efforts to restore and revitalize the Aud. We urge you to read the whole article and take a look through the slideshow of images by Christine Peterson. We are grateful that the Worcester Telegram took the time to learn more about the project and tour the incredibly impressive space.

There are obstacles to be sure – if there weren’t, the Auditorium would have already been rehabilitated and currently in use. But we are dedicated to finding a modern and exciting reuse, connecting with investors, and bringing the Aud back to life.

Read the full article here.

Speedway Progress Update: November 2021

As we prepare for our first holiday season at The Speedway, we realized that so much has happened since we shared our last project update here. Though it can often feel like progress is happening at a snail’s pace, in truth, SO much has happened in a few short months.

Here are a few key highlights:

First, we completed our move from Old City Hall to our new, beautiful office space here at the Speedway. We are thrilled to be part of this community in Brighton!

Next up: this summer, in the middle of a heat wave, Notch Brewing threw open their doors to the beer-loving public. The Upper Courtyard was transformed into a biergarten with tables and shade sails. (We are thankful that we had plans in place to make the courtyard a comfortable place, no matter the season.) If there’s one thing that we have learned from COVID, our outdoor spaces are incredibly important.

Garage B began its life as an event venue, hosting graduation parties, birthday parties, corporate and industry events, as well as special markets (including the Boston Women’s Market, which will be hosting three markets at Garage B this holiday season starting this weekend on 11/19 – as well as the Small Biz Saturday Market with Notch Brewing on 11/27)

After a months-long application and selection process, we are thrilled to report that we have found tenants for all of our “Shops at the Stables” retail spaces. These six small-scale retail storefronts have always been intended to become home to a collection of unique local businesses, making the Speedway the unique, richly layered destination that we set out to create from day one. We are so thankful to our leasing partners, Graffito SP, for their invaluable help making these connections, and we are so excited to welcome the following businesses to the stalls.

  • NOW OPEN! The House of Art and Craft, Steysy Clark, a scented candle and aromatherapy shop.
  • NOW OPEN! Bellwether Salon, a one-chair hair boutique by veteran stylist Melinda Brandt.
  • NOW OPEN! Cambridge Art Association, a satellite gallery and workshop space offering art classes and programs.
  • OPENING SOON: The Koji Club, Boston’s first sake bar from sake sommelier Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale.
  • OPENING SOON: Hummus v’Hummus, a new “hummuseria” from Chef Avi Shemtov.
  • OPENING 2022: Tipping Cow Ice Cream, run by David Lindsey and Gerly Adrien.
  • OPENING 2022: Notch Provisions, a new culinary concept from the Notch Brewery team, featuring beer-friendly takeout options and merchandise.
  • OPENING 2022: Super Bien, a Latin American–inspired “grocery bar” concept from Melissa Stefanini, founder of Buenas.

We also welcomed two non-profit organizations – the Friends of Herter Park and the Fishing Academy – to the Speedway’s dedicated nonprofit office space. One of the key goals for the Speedway is to help facilitate the reconnection of the community to the broad recreational amenities of the Charles River, so we are particularly enthusiastic about the missions of the Friends of Herter Park and the Fishing Academy.

After a busy summer, we kicked things off with our first annual Labor Day Block Party at The Speedway, with live music, lawn games, and plenty of beer. Our tenants showed off their specialties and it felt SO good to welcome the world through The Speedway gates. A few weeks later, we welcomed many of our project partners to celebrate the official completion of the construction with a ribbon cutting ceremony in Garage B.

Rounding things out, we were so pleased to have the opportunity to talk about The Speedway as a historic preservation case study with Preservation Mass earlier this fall. AHF’s Kara Anderson and DCR’s Kevin Allen presented an in-depth look at the project, which can be viewed in whole here.  We are hopeful that some of the lessons we learned over the course of the past few years prove to be useful to others seeking to take on a complex project of their own.

Last but not least, we are thrilled to share that the New England Real Estate Journal recognized the Charles River Speedway as their October project of the month, and we congratulate our partners at D.F. Pray and Bruner/Cott for this recognition.

There is so much more to come as we near the end of 2021 – but for now, we are feeling immensely grateful for all of our partners, tenants, and friends here at The Speedway. To progress! To preservation! To making things work and getting things done!

Architectural Heritage Foundation is a 501(c)3 dedicated to stimulating economic development in disinvested communities through historic preservation. Follow AHF and its projects on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

Learn more about the Charles River Speedway revitalization project.

Let’s work together.
info@ahfboston.com