Look at any streetscape in San Francisco and you will find pristine homes that have remained true to their late Victorian Era roots. Almost every postcard from San Francisco depicts either the Golden Gate Bridge or a row of Victorian Homes brightly painted and basically untouched since the turn of the last century.
East Boston was like that once but the late 1970s and 1980s and the cheap alternative to replacing rotting clapboards and paint was aluminum and vinyl siding.
Last week the city announced its Host Community Agreement with Suffolk Downs. In it, Eastie will receive a guaranteed payment of $10 million a year and upwards of $20 million if the casino is unsuccessful.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina said the opportunity that exists with the agreement is something Eastie may never see again and the possibilities are endless.
One possibility LaMattina is already eyeing is restoring Eastie’s architecture and housing stock back to its original glory.
“I want to see vinyl siding gone from the front of homes,” said LaMattina. “Think of it, we could work with the Department of Neighborhood Development and set up a grant program for residents to restore the front of their homes.”
With a historic façade improvement with clapboards or hardie-boards and paintjob ranging between $7,000 and $10,000, LaMattina said the possibility now exists to set aside funds to do a certain amount of home facades per year.
“If we could set aside $1 million, that’s just 10 percent of the minimum guaranteed payment, we could do 100 homes a year in Eastie,” said LaMattina. “Think of how that would change the aesthetics of the neighborhood?”
Eastie has always been diverse with architecture, with its peak spanning from the 1830s through the 1890s, and each new style reacting to the times, available materials, and the trends that proceeded.
Beginning with the Greek Revivals, Eastie and the nation as a whole, built homes to mirror the massive temples of ancient Rome and Greece, giving America a classical “Republic” look.
The architecture quickly moved with the times. As the Industrial Revolution made materials more available, the homes in the community became more elaborate and ornate, shown in the detail and rich colors of the Italianate Victorians.
Then as the 1880s wore down, people began to return to a stripped-down, bare, uncomplicated style, deserting the highly decorated and embellished art of the Victorians.
It is sort of an aesthetics pendulum if you will–as people’s mood swung from left to right, there were periods of restraint, simplicity and elegance as you see in the Greek Revival Period. Then it gradually became more ornate, followed by full-blown Victorian architecture, which was extremely ornate. Then there was a reaction to the highly decorative styles and a return to simple lines.
The pendulum is now swinging back to a period of historic renovation that residents are noticing and LaMattina thinks can continue with extra funds.
“There are a lot of people historically renovating their homes,” said LaMattina. “I think more people would do if there were funds available to help push a remodeling project over the goal line.”