Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2015 Preservation Award Winners
Photo of Boston Police Station Number One and Boston Printing Department Buildings: North Bennet Street School

Boston Police Station Number One and Boston Printing Department Buildings: North Bennet Street School • Boston (North End)

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitation & Restoration

The adjacent Boston Police Station Number One and Boston Printing Department buildings serve as excellent examples of early 20th-century civic architecture, and were recently listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Constructed in 1932 and 1931, respectively, the three-story brick buildings continued the North End neighborhood's tradition of small-scale, masonry construction. The prominent local architectural firm of John M. Gray Company designed both buildings in the Classical Revival style. After extensive rehabilitation, the buildings now serve as the new home of the North Bennet Street School, which was founded in 1887 to provide immigrants with the tools necessary to succeed in their new country. Located in Boston's North End for more than a century, the North Bennet Street School is the only institution in the United States with eight distinct, full-time professional craft training programs. Students from the school's Preservation Carpentry program have contributed to the restoration of many previous Preservation Award-winning projects, such as the Eustis Street Fire House in Roxbury (2012) and the First Church in Dorchester (2014). Prior to this project, the North Bennet Street School had outgrown its earlier location and established satellite programs in Watertown and South Boston; they purchased the police station and printing buildings in 2012 with the goal of bringing all their programs back under one roof. Repurposing and interconnection of the two buildings presented unique challenges. The density of the neighborhood meant coordination of deliveries with local businesses and the Boston traffic department; in addition, all equipment, including the erection crane, was removed from the site each evening.

The sensitive rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of both buildings, which utilized state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, included fašade repairs, replacement of windows with historically accurate replicas, and the removal, repair, and reinstallation of detailed cornice work. Historic materials such as brick and slate were retained and reused where possible. Within the buildings, the team opened up and created new workspace areas, constructed new ventilation shafts, and installed a new HVAC system with energy recovery units. Consistent with the school's mission, every aspect of the project incorporated quality craftsmanship, and provided a learning opportunity for students who constructed the new facility's cabinetry. Prior to the rehabilitation, an old police station garage stood between the two buildings; this garage was expanded to serve as a building connector. On the first-floor levels of the garage and police station, the unique waffle-slab ceilings remain exposed. The design team used glass to differentiate new construction at the connector's upper portion, and located an ADA-compliant elevator shaft within the connector. The naturally lit, multi-level link now provides space for a ground-floor bookstore and gift shop, an art gallery, and a multi-purpose space for all-school gatherings, evening lectures, performances, and exhibitions. By uniting all of the North Bennet Street School's programs in one building for the first time in decades, this successful adaptive reuse and rehabilitation project preserved two historically significant buildings, as well as an institution significant to Boston's North End and the nation's history of professional craftsmanship.

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