South Boston residents’ efforts to stop the destruction of an 1867 mansion in the City Point neighborhood to make way for condos reachs a crucial juncture on Tuesday.
The Boston Landmarks Commission will consider whether a 90-day demolition delay is warranted for the James Collins Mansion and whether alternatives should be explored.
Residents have been collecting signatures to preserve the mansard mansion and will petition to have it declared a Hub landmark. If successful, any exterior changes by Middleton developer Rocco Scippa would require commission review and approval.
“It’s a defining house on East Broadway,” said Joanne McDevitt, chairwoman of the City Point Neighborhood Association. “It has a lot of historical significance.”
But Suffolk University history department chairman and South Boston Historical Society President Robert Allison, who’s preparing supporting documents for the landmark status petition, acknowledges an “uphill battle.”
“Legislation does specify that something has to have local, regional or national importance, and the Boston Landmarks Commission does tilt toward national importance,” Allison said.
Irish immigrant James Collins, who built the mansion, made money in the liquor trade and became a philanthropist in Boston and Ireland. His son, John J. Collins, was vice consul to London in the 1890s under Patrick A. Collins (no relation), who later became Boston’s mayor.
“It was one of the most valuable properties in the city when built, and that helped to define City Point as an upscale area,” Allison said. “And it’s one of the real hallmarks in South Boston that people from the ‘lower end’ would move to City Point as they became successful. It’s one of the things that contributed to South Boston’s insularity and intense neighborhood identity.”
McDevitt, who owns a nearby Victorian home on East Broadway, would like Scippa to build only a handful of condos within the existing 6,600-square-foot mansion and preserve its architectural integrity.
Scippa, who bought the half-acre, 928-930 East Broadway property in December for $2.2 million, says he’s happy to consider alternatives to demolishing the mansion, which once was a rooming house, as long as he has 11 units to sell at market rate to make money on his investment.
“I have the right to build 11 units based on what I’m allowed by the city, so why would I lower the amount?” he said. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s probably the best property in South Boston besides the Seaport area.”
City Councilor Bill Linehan, a lifelong Southie resident, supports preservation to the fullest possible extent. “There are certain buildings in a town that are iconic, and that one on Broadway is surely one of a very few,” he said.
|City Point Neighborhood Association, South Boston||