The Face of the Neighborhood

October 3, 2019
Kevin Derrick

NBSS was recently awarded significant funding to restore and repair exterior masonry at its 150 North Street facility. The School occupies a highly visible space at the entryway to Boston’s North End neighborhood, and the result of this work will preserve the building’s historic appearance for decades to come.

Support for the project was granted by George B. Henderson Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund/Mass Development, and The Seth Sprague Educational and Charitable Foundation. Additional funding was provided through the School’s Amelia Peabody Facilities Endowment and the Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez Fund for Facilities.

Since its founding in 1881, North Bennet Street School has been a fixture in Boston’s historic North End neighborhood. Originally occupying several buildings on North Bennet Street, in 2013 the School moved to North Street, after a successful fundraising campaign allowed NBSS to restore and renovate an expansive 65,000-square-feet facility. The entire project was completed in under 24 months, with all full-time programs, continuing education classes, and staff operations continuously maintained throughout. Work on the facade was identified as necessary in the renovation process, but put on hold due to budget and time constraints.

Generous support from the partners named above helped make possible a host of repairs to the School this past summer. These included work on the exterior masonry (replacing damaged stones and window lintels; stabilizing a large crack at one corner), as well as replacing a significant portion of the roof. Though the noise and loss of climate control this summer were challenging at times, the building now has a strong envelope with a tightly sealed roof and repaired facade.

Sarah Turner, President of NBSS, recently reflected on what the funding has meant for the School. “Caring for our remarkable facility is essential to the work we do at North Bennet, as we’re a school that builds, restores, and preserves. We are so grateful to have the support of foundations and other partners, who help us tend to the place that makes our work possible.”

Throughout the complex process, the contractors took great care in their work, owing to the deep historic and architectural significance of the School’s Depression-era masonry structures. The buildings were originally built to house the Boston Police Station No. 1 and the Boston Municipal Printing Department, adjacent to the Traffic Tunnel Administration Building (128 North Street). The site was designed by noted Boston architect John M. Gray in 1932 as a part of the construction of the East Boston Traffic Tunnel, completed in 1934 and now known as the Sumner Tunnel. The structures were envisioned as a single civic complex to cap the tunnel, with three distinct facades reflecting the three distinct municipal functions. Together they comprise the most prominent intact surviving example of Georgian Revival civic architecture in downtown Boston. The entirety of the complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

Historic photos of the building’s original construction on North Street

Longtime NBSS partner BOND Brothers ably served as Project Managers for this work, in close collaboration with Ralph Henry, Director of Facilities at the School. The skill and intelligence of the tradespeople involved were on display throughout this project.

The School facility occupies more than half a block, anchored on Richmond and North Streets, and located on the Freedom Trail of historically significant sites. Visible from the Rose Kennedy Greenway, NBSS is a local landmark for the North End, helping to maintain the neighborhood’s status as a center of education and culture.

Learn more about the School’s history here.

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