Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2006 Preservation Award Winners
Russell Box Factory / Atlas Lofts • Chelsea
Park Street Church • Boston

Adaptive Reuse

This two-building mill complex was originally built for the Russell Box Company, which set up operations on this site in 1903. After its first plant was lost in Chelsea's Great Fire of 1908, the company constructed a new factory—the earlier of the two extant buildings on the property—in 1911. Designed by F. T. Eskrigge, the three-story, brown-brick building has a flat roof and an internal frame of slow-burning construction. The second building, designed as a storehouse by Fred S. Hinds, was erected in 1914 and is architecturally similar to the factory building, to which it is attached with a three-story, triangular connector. Eventually, the Russell Box Company moved its operations to Burlington, Massachusetts. The complex was last used by the mattress company Spring Air, which recently moved to a more modern facility elsewhere in Chelsea, leaving these buildings vacant.

The Russell Box buildings have found new life as Atlas Lofts, developed by Mitchell Properties as a 53-unit rental complex with both market-rate and affordable lofts. Prior to this adaptive reuse project, all of the buildings' windows were either badly damaged, or removed and boarded up. Mitchell Properties worked with a consultant to design new, historically accurate windows for both buildings. The brick exteriors were washed and restored, and sections were repointed as needed. On the interior, the project conserved two original staircases, which were brought up to code but kept as close to their original design as possible. Large, steel fire doors and original signs were refurbished and reused. Much of the interior woodwork was also preserved, including large support posts, as well as the wide-plank wood floors, which are visible as ceilings. The buildings now stand as reminders of the neighborhood's industrial past, while providing modern housing for downtown Chelsea.

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