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 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.

The Speedway Progress Update: May 2021

The Speedway courtyard in the evening
The lights are finally on at The Speedway.

The past few months have flown by, and The Speedway is almost ready to open! The site has changed so much since our New Year’s update: the courtyard has been made habitable, and the building interiors are well on their way there, too. Our anchor tenant, Notch Brewing, has started to outfit its space with machinery that wouldn’t be out of place in a steam-punk movie in preparation for its first small batches of Brighton-made beer. We’ve begun the process of moving our office from downtown Boston’s Old City Hall to The Speedway to be closer to the people we serve. Just last week, we introduced our newest vendor and put out a call for Allston-Brighton nonprofits to occupy a portion of the available office space. And soon we’ll announce an exciting group of creative operators who will fill the retail bays and help to turn The Speedway into the vibrant community gathering place we always envisioned it would be. Here’s a breakdown of the progress we made over the past four months:

1. Courtyard Is Complete

At long last, The Speedway’s courtyard looks like a space for people to have fun. Underground utilities, including a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly stormwater mitigation system, have been covered with gravel and beautifully patterned paving stones. A complex-wide sound system was installed to allow visitors to enjoy music while relaxing in the courtyard. Lamps and heaters were installed, ensuring year-round access to this outdoor area – a great idea during normal times that became absolutely critical in light of the pandemic. Speaking of accessibility, the decks, ramps, and handrails are ready for a steady stream of visitors of all ages and abilities. We’ve installed signage throughout the complex to orient visitors to the space and its history. All that’s left is for the beer garden furniture to arrive from Germany!

2. Notch Fit-Out

On April 22, The Speedway received an exciting delivery all the way from Vancouver: a control stand and brewing tanks for Notch’s Brighton location. This equipment brings much more than a steam-punk vibe to project. The control stand (left) regulates all process flow while turning grain into malt sugar before fermentation; the vertical cylindrical tanks (right, at left) are where the beer ferments; and the stacked cylindrical tanks (far right) are for lagering/ maturation. Once the beer is brewed, it will be served fresh in Notch’s new taproom, which is also nearing completion. The bar and seating area are under construction, and the space is being finished. We’re thrilled to see our anchor tenant’s space come together and look forward to seeing it bustle with activity in the months ahead.

3. Garage B at The Speedway

Introducing our event space, Garage B at The Speedway! The name for this 1940s-era garage was the subject of several intensive brainstorming sessions, during which we considered a range of possibilities, including The Annex and The Loft. But since the space is neither of these things, we settled for good, old historical authenticity. Garage B offers 3,300 sq ft of interior space and 1,700 sq ft of private courtyard space, and can accommodate up to 240 people. The building’s large garage doors open to the outside, providing the option of significant airflow for those taking extra COVID precautions. Now that Massachusetts is beginning to open up, we’re taking reservations for private, community, and corporate events for mid-June and beyond.

4. Office Space Available

One thing the pandemic has taught us is that there’s no replacement for in-person interaction. Several office and co-working spaces are available to rent in Buildings F and G, which includes a shared conference room and kitchen area. Tenants will be able to take advantage of The Speedway’s high-speed internet, which will extend throughout the complex to serve the visiting public in the courtyard and events in Garage B. In keeping with the legislation that allowed AHF to lease the property from DCR, we’re offering 300 sq ft of heavily discounted office space to an Allston-Brighton nonprofit. And we recently announced that we’re moving our own offices from Boston’s Old City Hall to The Speedway to be closer to the communities we serve.

5. Retail Bays Are Ready

What once was a collection of horse stables and storage sheds is about to open for business. Our friends at Bruner/Cott and D.F. Pray preserved the rough, utilitarian character of the stalls by exposing wooden beams and leaving some walls unfinished to highlight the wood grain. To keep the barriers of entry low for our creative operators, we finished the retail bays so that they’re ready for occupancy and are offering flexible lease terms with both short and long commitment options to accommodate the uncertainty that comes with running a small business, particularly during the pandemic. We’re excited for the eclectic mix of tenants who will operate the stalls. Speaking of which…

6. New Tenant!

We’re trilled to welcome our first creative operator to The Speedway! Joining Notch at the complex will be Tipping Cow, a Somerville-based manufacturer of gourmet, allergen-free ice cream. We can’t wait to sample the dozens of delicious flavors that the folks at Tipping Cow have dreamed up (blueberry lime cheesecake, anyone?). All of the ice cream is peanut, tree-nut, and sesame-free, and there is a wide selection of vegan options, as well. We couldn’t be happier that Tipping Cow has chosen to open its second location at The Speedway.

Next month, The Speedway’s doors will open. We hope to see you there.

The Speedway Western Ave. entrance opening to the courtyard

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.

The Speedway Progress Update: October 2020

Speedway interior under renovation

One year has passed since AHF broke ground at the Speedway. On that sunny October day, surrounded by our partners and neighbors, we never imagined that such a gathering soon would be impossible. Had all gone as planned, the Speedway would have opened to the public this month. The courtyard would have bustled with families and friends mingling over Notch beer, enjoying outdoor music, and browsing local artisans’ wares. But like everyone else, we had to take a step back when the pandemic hit. We’ve weathered construction delays, endured market uncertainty, and thought long and hard about which aspects of the project are still feasible in the age of COVID. The answer: almost all of them. Our vision for the Speedway is still on track – just delayed and slightly altered to meet public health standards. We have some exciting updates to share with you as we gear up for a Spring opening!

1. Tenant Tours

Last Wednesday, AHF teamed with GraffitoSPBruner/Cott Architects, and Business Guide and entrepreneur Maggie Battista to host our first tour of the Speedway for prospective creative operators. Six small-format spaces in the former sheds and stables of Building E are available for short-term leases with food and beverage operators, small shops, makers, and artisans. We were blown away by the tour attendees’ enthusiasm for the site, and inspired by the creativity and tenacity they’ve exhibited in growing their businesses. The day came to a close with a surprise visit from State Representative Kevin Honan. Our next tour is scheduled for Monday, November 16. See our Call for Creative Operators for more details and to complete a Submission of Interest Form.

Prospective tenants on a tour of the Speedway
Prospective tenants listen to Bruner/Cott’s Christopher Nielson during a tour of the Speedway.
Kevin Honan, Sean McDonnell, and Gustavo Quiroga at the Speedway
Pictured from left to right: Representative Kevin Honan, AHF President Sean McDonnell, and GraffitoSP’s Gustavo Quiroga.

2. Storefronts and Doorways Galore

Nothing makes us feel that we’re nearing the end of construction more than seeing graffitied garage doors and boarded up entrances replaced with new glass. Notch’s taproom has received the first storefronts, while Garage B, the Speedway’s future event space, was outfitted with glass doors. We can’t wait to see how elegant the Speedway looks once the rest of the storefronts are in place!

New storefront at the Speedway
The Speedway is being outfitted with new doors and storefronts.

3. Speedway Shingle Style

Our friends at D.F. Pray General Contractors have awed us with their skill and patience in installing the Speedway shingles – one at a time, and entirely by hand. Their hard work is paying off. Siding is nearly complete at the Speedway, which looks better and better with each passing day. Though we loved the buildings’ old brown color, we decided to restore the property to its original unpainted appearance. The Eastern white cedar shingles will weather over time.

Shingles at the Speedway
Siding is nearly complete at the Speedway.

4. A Four-Season Courtyard

AHF always envisioned the Speedway as a place for people to enjoy themselves in all seasons, and we knew that a publicly accessible courtyard would be one of the site’s best features. Now that the pandemic has discouraged indoor gatherings, the courtyard has become more important than ever. We’re fitting out the courtyard for lamp posts and gas heaters so that visitors can use the space comfortably even in the dark and chill of late fall and winter. Who knew that a police station and racehorse stables could be so hygge?

A DF Pray worker attaches shingles to the Speedway
D.F. Pray has nearly completed the siding at the Speedway.

5. Something’s Brewing in the Speedway Brewery

The buildout of Notch’s brewery and taproom has begun! Turns out brewing beer requires some complicated plumbing. During the fermentation process, beer acidifies quickly and corrodes conventional cast iron drainage pipes. To transport byproduct from the operation safely off the premises, we dug deep trenches in the future brewery’s floor and installed a special lined cast iron pipe. We’ve also installed the lines from the brewery to the taproom, which will bring freshly made beer to Speedway visitors. All this work is now buried beneath a newly poured concrete floor, hidden from view.

Notch Brewery's space under construction at the Speedway
Notch is beginning to fit out its brewery and taproom at the Speedway.

Notch is beginning to fit out its brewery and taproom at the Speedway.

As ever, a big thank-you to the Brighton community for supporting this project over the past six years. The Speedway couldn’t have gotten this far without community members’ ideas, encouragement, and advocacy. We look forward to sharing more updates as the project comes together.

AHF president Sean McDonnell speaks with a community member at the Speedway.
AHF president Sean McDonnell speaks with a community member at the Speedway.

AHF president Sean McDonnell speaks with a community member at the Speedway.

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.

The Speedway, the BPA, and the Importance of Preservation Partnerships

BPA 32nd Annual Preservation Awards logo
Image credit: Boston Preservation Alliance

The built environment stands on a foundation of built relationships. For preservationists, whose projects live or die depending on successful advocacy, this idea carries special weight. The oft-expensive process of restoring or adaptively reusing historic properties hinges on partnerships between individuals and organizations, businesses and governments. Time and again, AHF has witnessed how strong relationships beget stronger projects. The Speedway is a case in point. This once-deteriorating collection of buildings is well on its way to becoming a lively community space thanks to the early determination and continued support of the Boston Preservation Alliance.

Also known as the BPA, the Alliance has spent more than forty years fighting to protect Boston’s built heritage. Thanks to the BPA, numerous historic buildings still stand in whole or in part throughout the city, among them the Boston Stock Exchange, the Dorchester Pottery Works, the Chestnut Hill Waterworks, Fenway Park, and now, the Charles River Speedway. When AHF was appointed Historic Curator of the Speedway in 2014, we joined the ranks of many local organizations that had been striving for years under the BPA’s leadership to save the property. In fact, our appointment might never have happened if not for the relationships that the BPA cultivated to ensure that rehabilitation remained a viable option for the site.

The Speedway before restoration
The Speedway in 2013 before restoration.
The Speedway's nearly completed shingling along Soldiers Field Road
The Speedway’s shingling is nearly complete along Soldiers Field Road.

Building institutional partnerships is a painstaking process, but the Alliance’s Speedway-related activities over the last ten years show that the such efforts bear fruit. In 2011, the BPA teamed with the Brighton-Allston Historical Society, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Historic Boston, Inc. to host a public brainstorming session that generated a variety of ideas for the property’s future. That same year, the BPA submitted a letter to the Boston Landmarks Commission in support of the Speedway’s designation as a city Landmark. In 2018, the Alliance helped AHF obtain Historic Tax Credits for the Speedway by submitting another letter of support to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The BPA’s reputation among these municipal and state institutions as a thoughtful and often successful preservation advocate meant that its letters held weight. The Speedway is now a City of Boston Landmark (a designation that offers greater protection than the National Register), and AHF has obtained Historic Tax Credits critical to moving the project forward. Throughout, the BPA has been among the Speedway’s staunchest supporters.

Today, October 15, the BPA hosts its 32nd annual Preservation Achievement Awards ceremony – yet another way that the Alliance promotes historic preservation in Boston. This year, the event is virtual, free (thought donations are appreciated), and hosted by award-winning journalist Katie Couric. There’s still time to register for this chance to learn about the inspiring preservation work occurring throughout the city and the Alliance’s role in making it happen.

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.

The Speedway Progress Update: July 2020

The Speedway courtyard construction site viewed through a hole in the interior wall
The courtyard and Building F under construction. Photo by Ella Rinaldo.

Where to begin? When we posted our first Speedway progress update in early March, we never imagined a pandemic would shut down renovations for a month. Nor did we expect that we would have to delay opening until winter, or that the restaurant and retail industries would be thrown into turmoil. While the Speedway construction site came to a standstill, AHF staff worked feverishly to adapt the project to a world of social distancing and economic disruption. Despite these challenges, we’ve managed to move the project forward.

During the shutdown, our main priority was to stay connected with our Brighton neighbors. To this end, AHF connected with State Representative Michael Moran, Charles River Community Health (CRCH), and local wholesaler Katsiroubas Brothers to help address more immediate needs in the community. The result is the Speedway Produce Program. Now in its eighth week, this initiative has delivered 320 boxes of fresh produce, as well as masks, to CRCH members experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. AHF sponsored the first month’s worth of produce boxes; thanks to dozens of individual donations and a Harvard University Allston-Brighton Emergency Response Grant, we are able to extend the program until the end of July. Visit our GoFundMe page to help Brighton’s most vulnerable residents access fresh food through the summer.

Meanwhile, the Speedway rehabilitation has progressed by leaps and bounds! Construction restarted in early May after a month-long shutdown. Since then, our contractor D.F. Pray has worked hard to renovate the complex, and it shows:

1. Shingling

If you’ve recently driven past the Speedway, you’ve probably noticed that the Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Road sides of the complex have gotten a makeover. Shingling is nearly complete on the buildings’ public-facing walls, transforming not only the Speedway, but the streetscape itself.

The Speedway's nearly completed shingling along Soldiers Field Road
The Speedway’s shingling is nearly complete along Soldiers Field Road.

2. Repointing Masonry

The masonry of Buildings C and H is being repointed, creating a stable foundation for the buildings’ future tenants – Notch Brewery and a to-be-determined restaurant operator.

Masonry undergoing repointing at the Speedway
The Speedway’s masonry is being repointed.
An open doorway at the Speedway with surrounding masonry being repointed
The masonry around one of the entrances to the Speedway’s Building H is being repointed.

3. A New Roof for the Speedway

The Speedway has a new roof! Ensuring that the complex is water-tight was one of our main priorities when construction got underway again.

The Speedway's Building H with new shingles, new roof, and restored windows
The Speedway’s new roof is now complete.

4. Restoring the Speedway’s Windows

For years, the Speedway’s windows were boarded up – the most visible sign of the blight that had set in at the site. Under the direction of DCR, a Student Conservation Association crew painted fake windows over the plywood, while the 169 real ones were locked away in storage. Now the original windows have been restored and are being re-installed. The difference is unmistakable.

Restored windows at the Speedway
Restored windows are a big improvement for Building H.

5. Ramping and Decking in the Speedway Courtyard

AHF is particularly excited to activate the Speedway courtyard as a public space. Last week, D.F. Pray began laying the foundation for ramping and decking, which will make the courtyard accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

Ramping and decking foundation in the Speedway courtyard
A foundation is being laid for ramping and decking in the Speedway courtyard.

6. Interior Renovations

The interior framing of Buildings E, C, and D –  future creative/retail bays and  Notch’s brewery and taproom – has been restored, allowing for more extensive improvements.  In fact, rough electrical work has begun in Building E!

Interior framing in the Speedway's Building E
The interior framing of the Speedway’s Building E has been restored.
Electrical wires hanging inside one of the Speedway buildings
Rough electrical work has begun inside the Speedway.

Behind the scenes, AHF is preparing to open the Speedway in a radically altered environment. Stay tuned for future announcements as we approach the Speedway’s new opening date in winter 2021.

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.

AHF Launches Speedway Produce Program in Brighton

This week the Architectural Heritage Foundation, through the Charles River Speedway project, announced the Speedway Produce Program, an initiative to expand food access in Brighton during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of state Representative Michael Moran, AHF has teamed up with the Speedway’s next-door neighbor, Charles River Community Health (CRCH), and local wholesaler Katsiroubas brothers, to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to CRCH patients facing food insecurity as a result of the shutdown. AHF is offering the general public an opportunity to contribute to this program.

AHF launched the Speedway Produce Program last Thursday with a delivery of forty produce boxes to CRCH, each of which contained enough fruits and vegetables to feed a family for up to a week. A Katsiroubas Brothers truck dropped off the boxes at the health center in the morning, and CRCH staff arranged for them to be safely picked up later that day. AHF also contributed eighty hand-made masks donated by a Wellesley-based volunteer sewing group. We plan to contribute 120 more produce boxes to CRCH’s constituency over the next three weeks. With additional support, we can increase the number of households served and even extend the program into June.

Even before the pandemic, many CRCH patients were struggling to get by. Seventy-one percent were living at 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, and many were forced to work two jobs to make ends meet – jobs that have disappeared or become much more hazardous due to the public health crisis. Now food insecurity – an ever-present issue for so many households – has become a dire problem.

AHF and the Speedway team invite the public to participate in the Speedway Produce Program through the GoFundMe Link below. A donation of $25 will sponsor one produce box; $100 will provide four boxes over the next three weeks; $1000 will enable us to extend the program by another week. (As of this writing, we have raised $850, nearly a fifth of the way to our goal of $5000!) With this initiative, we hope to play a small role in the much wider regional efforts to ensure food access for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Support the Speedway Produce Program

For updates on the Speedway Produce Program, follow AHF’s blog and FacebookInstagram, and Twitter pages, or sign up for the The Speedway newsletter.

Staff from the Architectural Heritage Foundation (AHF) and Charles River Community Health pose with the first batch of Speedway Produce boxes.
Staff from AHF and Charles River Community Health with the first batch of Speedway Produce boxes.
Let’s work together.