Friday, February 28, 2014

The Way Things Should Work . . . and Sometimes Do

One of the many projects that came before the Historic Preservation Commission at last Friday's three-hour meeting was 431 Warren Street. The building, which for many years was the location of the law offices of Couch & Deily, has a new owner, who wants to use the first floor as retail or office space and renovate the upper floors, which have been unoccupied since 1952, for residential use. The proposal requiring a certificate of appropriateness was to replace all the windows in the building with new windows.

Jack Alvarez, architect member of the HPC and a staunch advocate for the preservation of original wood windows, was justifiably concerned about the impact of replacement windows on the integrity of the building's facade. Because the windows are significant to the character of the building, Alvarez recommended that they be repaired rather than replaced. The architect representing the building owner asserted that the windows were not older than the 1950s and claimed there was no way they could be repaired. Alvarez wanted proof--either photographic documentation that the windows were deteriorated beyond repair or the opportunity to see the windows for himself. Remarkably, HPC member Peggy Polenberg objected to Alvarez's request, contending that the applicant's representative was an architect, too, and therefore his judgment should not be questioned.

Fortunately, Polenberg's was the minority opinion, and Alvarez was granted a site visit, which took place this Friday morning, just before the HPC meeting. On the walk-through with the contractor and the architect, Alvarez brought with him, for a second opinion, his wife, Kimberly Konrad Alvarez, also a preservation architect, who served on the Boston Landmarks Commission. At the HPC meeting, Alvarez reported on the outcome of the site visit. All the windows on the first floor and the windows on the facade of second floor will be restored. It was agreed, however, that, because of the negative impact of a previous roof replacement, the windows in the dormer will have to be replaced.



  1. The upper level of 431 was occupied by a tenant in the 1970's. At that time I lived at 429 Warren, 2nd level, above Mitchettelli's Store.

  2. Thank you, Jack Alvarez, for pushing for the site review -- and thank you, Carole, for this terrific report. Question: I'm assuming the building's asymmetry (caused, I'm guessing, by the wider entry portico on the right) is original?

    1. yes Peter - the right entry is for the main floor with a staircase that goes upstairs - the left entrance is another staircase for upstairs.