Fall River is home to thousands of historic properties, but many are at risk of being erased from their communities – either by neglect or demolition.
Because the Preservation Society believes the city should be a leader in protecting its historic resources, its directors have examined current and former municipal-owned buildings and determined the most endangered properties for 2020.
Two of the properties on this year’s list are currently privately-owned after sales by the city, but they are on the list to demonstrate that by selling historic properties without ensuring they are protected and reused, the best interests of Fall River and its residents are exposed to irreparable damage.
1. Nathaniel B. Borden School, c. 1867 (45 Morgan Street)
The historic school was sold by the city in 2012 after issuing a request for proposals that included multiple conditions of sale to ensure any redevelopment project was completed or the city was compensated.
After quickly contradicting and abandoning the original plan to redevelop the property into apartments, the current owner plans to demolish the building for a parking lot.
A public records request failed to produce the purchase and sale agreement for the city’s sale of the school, so the Preservation Society requested the city delay any demolition permit for the property until the document can be found.
However, workers have spent recent months clearing the building and the owner has ignored all requests to meet and discuss possible funding mechanisms to support redevelopment or alternatives to demolition. The Historical Commission’s demolition delay on the property expired in October 2019.
2. Central Police Station, c. 1915 (158 Bedford Street)
The old police station has been vacant ever since the new facility was built more than a decade ago, but the City Council Committee on Real Estate recently voted to issue another request for proposals to sell the property – only this time without any preservation restrictions.
The renewed push to sell the property comes after two interested parties reached out to the city regarding the building. At least one has plans to demolish it and construct a new structure.
Some City Councilors have suggested the station be demolished in the event a sale fails to materialize, despite the city having no plan for the future of the property or its environmental remediation as well as such action going directly against the city’s own Downtown Urban Renewal Plan.
The Preservation Society submitted a letter requesting that the city give higher priority to proposals that included historic preservation and suggested the city conduct an environmental assessment to increase chances of redevelopment.
3. King Philip Mill, c. 1871-1892 (372 Kilburn Street)
Demolition at King Philip Mills began in 2018, but one of the historic mill buildings still remains standing after unexpected asbestos abatement followed by an investigation of the demolition by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Environmental Protection.
The city sold the property to a private developer in January 2018 at a tax title auction after the highest bidder missed a deadline and was disqualified by the former mayoral administration. The owner’s plan includes the construction of 26 single-family homes and redeveloping the one remaining mill building into apartments.
A Community Preservation Act-funded feasibility study in 2017 established avenues for reuse of the nearly 1-million square foot granite complex.
4. The Armory, c. 1895 (72 Bank Street)
The Armory has been vacant since years of neglect caused structural concerns and forced tenants to leave in 2015. Emergency Community Preservation Act funds helped pay for repairs to the roof and chimney and, for now, the city is using the building for storage.
With no plan for the future use of the building, the Armory continues to remain at risk the longer it’s unoccupied. The Preservation Society recently inquired about the vegetation growing out of the parapets on the repaired roof and was informed that the Department of Community Maintenance would be clearing it this spring. The Community Preservation Committee just approved funds for removal of vegetation and repointing of some of the more severe sections of the roof.
5. Stanley Street Fire Station, c. 1902 (229 Stanley Street)
The oldest fire station still in use in Fall River was the last built in the city to house horse-drawn fire trucks.
The building was temporarily closed because of mold concerns last year for the second time in less than two years, requiring abatement. When the station needed a new roof a few years ago, the city opted for an asphalt roof instead of applying for Community Preservation Act funding to replace the original slate. Previous mayoral administrations have suggested selling the historic fire station and constructing a new facility to better meet the needs of the department, but with no legal commitment to the structure’s preservation, the future of this piece of Fall River Fire Department history is uncertain.
- View the 2019 Most Endangered Properties List here.