Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2017 Preservation Award Winners
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Photo of Fisher Hill Reservoir Park Gatehouse, Brookline

Fisher Hill Reservoir Park Gatehouse, Brookline

Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Fisher Hill Reservoir dates back to 1884, when the rapid growth of population in the metropolitan Boston area led to the need for a high-service distribution and receiving reservoir system. The State Legislature appropriated funds that year, and the Fisher Hill Gatehouse and Reservoir were the first components built, in 1887. The Fisher Hill Reservoir Gatehouse used two 36-inch-round pipes to connect to the reservoir and to the other high-service distribution and receiving reservoir in the area at Chestnut Hill. During the late 19th century, as water-supply infrastructure became increasingly essential to the growth of cities, the Fisher Hill Reservoir was crucial to improving the quality of life in metropolitan Boston. However, as the technology for water-supply infrastructure and management evolved in the 20th century, the need for the reservoir diminished. By the 1950s the Fisher Hill Reservoir was decommissioned, drained, and essentially abandoned.

The Richardsonian Romanesque-style Gatehouse is a monumental structure, featuring a granite substructure, stone main floor, brick second story, and slate hip roof. Since the appropriation of funds was under the direction of the Boston City Engineer, the Gatehouse was designed by Boston City Architect Arthur Vinal, who also designed the similarly styled and proportioned Chestnut Hill High Service Pumping Station, completed in 1887. Typical of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, the Gatehouse features oversized brownstone quoining and brownstone voussoirs at the window and door arches. Detailing includes decorative raised-relief terra-cotta panels on the façade.

The Fisher Hill Gatehouse and Reservoir sat abandoned for more than 50 years until the Town of Brookline purchased the property with the intention of adaptively reusing it by filling the reservoir basin and creating a community park and soccer field. The property’s transformation has also included the rehabilitation of the historic Gatehouse. Upon assessment, it became clear that years of neglect meant that the structure needed major repairs. Funded by public seed money and a grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund, the Gatehouse underwent a full exterior rehabilitation. The work included replacement of the roof, extensive masonry repairs, and window and door replacement. The original roof was severely deteriorated and missing significant components, resulting in water infiltration. A new slate roof was installed, with copper finial cap, hip flashing, gutters, and leaders that matched the originals. The Gatehouse also underwent extensive masonry cleaning, repair, and repointing, all necessary after years of neglect, water infiltration, and vandalism. The most extensive repair involved the careful stone-by-stone dismantling and rebuilding of the north masonry wall. The final step in the Gatehouse’s rehabilitation involved its windows. When the Gatehouse was decommissioned in the 1950s, all original windows were removed, along with the entry door, and the voids were filled in with either masonry or wood panels. After extensive study of historic photographs and drawings, appropriate wood window and door replacements were fabricated and installed, completing the rehabilitation project.

The Fisher Hill Gatehouse remains a remarkable surviving component of the Boston area’s historic water-supply system. The rehabilitated Gatehouse and repurposed reservoir park make a significant contribution to the town’s civic landscape, and showcase Brookline’s pride in making its past available for all to enjoy.

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