Epstein was a jeweler by day; by night, he chalked his initials onto pieces of buildings that were slated for demolition. The wrecking crews gave Epstein mantels from the old West End, a Roxbury tavern built in 1675, and stonework from the old South Station. During the 1950s and 1960s, they razed so many buildings that Epstein’s collection filled six storage spaces across the city. He later consolidated his findings in a former bus depot/factory on Blue Hill Avenue.
BOSTON — A Billerica waste hauling company has paid $62,500 to settle claims that it illegally dumped construction and demolition waste at an unauthorized site in Methuen.The attorney general says W.L. French Excavating Corp. violated Massachusetts state law by dumping 29 loads of waste, including concrete, bricks and asphalt.
According to David Chilinski of Prellwitz Chilinski Associates, the solution required a new look at the property and its potential. “We saw the same obstacles to reusing these buildings that others encountered. The community wanted to see the architecture and the incredible history it represents preserved and blended back into the town fabric. So we looked for ways to open up and unlock all creative possibilities both inside the structures and on the grounds of the property.”
But now the movement is being challenged. In February, US Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, who leads the House Ways and Means Committee, released a discussion draft of comprehensive tax reform that included a repeal of the federal historic tax credit, which preservationists say is crucial to continued development. Without the federal tax break and a similar one from the state, says David Listokin, a Rutgers professor of public policy, older buildings in mill towns like Lowell and Lawrence and in lower-income parts of Greater Boston like Everett and Chelsea would languish, just when these areas are beginning a turnaround led in large part by adaptive reuse. Condo and commercial construction in old warehouses — witness the Charleston Chew Lofts and Porter 156 — brings to struggling neighborhoods higher-income buyers, who then attract more small businesses and municipal improvements.
“It’s where old pianos come to die,” said building manager Colman McDonagh with a weary smile as he stepped around assorted obstacles while conducting the tour.
Yet there is much fading grandeur to take in, too, visual reminders of what a magnificent space Steinert Hall must have been, tucked 35 feet below one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, when Boston was burnishing its credentials as a world-class city for live music.
Structurally, the elliptically shaped concert hall remains surprisingly intact, its fluted Corinthian pilasters separating what were once proscenium boxes reserved for well-heeled patrons. On either side of the small stage, at balcony level, wall panels bear the names of Schumann, Beethoven, Haydn, Bach, Mozart, and Schubert.
The 650 seats are long gone, donated years ago to Boston College High School. Still visible in the floorboards, though, are ventilation holes where heat was once pumped from a massive fan. Other touches, like an original leather-faced door and 1915 Greek-themed wall mural, possibly painted by muralist Charles Avery Aiken (it’s signed “C.A. Aiken”), have been preserved as well.