Friday, April 04, 2008

The Birth of Charlesview

In the last year or so, the Allston-Brighton TAB has been regularly running a history contest -- name that building in this old photograph -- by Allston-Brighton resident historian Bill Marchione.

In two recent issues (here and here), the TAB has switched over to printing an interview by historian Jim Vrabel of Bernard Redgate about the public activism in the 1960s trying to block the Boston Redevelopment Authority's plan to remake part of North Allston at Barry's Corner -- starting with a plan to tear down more than 50 houses.

The BRA ultimately got their way by tearing them down to make way for the Charlesview Apartments:

VRABEL: Didn’t you have some kind of system to warn residents when the city inspectors came out?

REDGATE: We had a truck horn connected to the leads from a car battery that we mounted on a cart, and we would sound it as we rolled it through the neighborhood if a stranger was spotted, letting everyone know that we were being invaded...

VRABEL: In 1965, after those first evictions and demonstrations, Mayor Collins appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to restudy the plan. What were the commission’s recommendations and what happened?

REDGATE: My mother thought we had come to an agreement. She wanted to have housing built on the property that had been cleared and give the houses that were still standing back to their owners and let them remodel them. That was what the commission recommended. But then it didn’t happen, and they turned around and demolished the rest of the houses and put up that awful housing (the Charlesview Apartments).
The TAB piece includes a sad photo of residents apparently watching their houses being demolished.

The TAB's interview is particularly timely, showing how history doubles back upon itself. Harvard University has recently struck an agreement with the owners of Charlesview to swap the land with 6.9 acres a half-mile west along Western Avenue. The owners, Community Builders Inc., have proposed 400 units of housing at the Brighton Mills site to replace 213 units of housing at Charlesview, and the BRA is currently reviewing their Project Notification Form under the Article 80 large project process.

No comments: