PS: Recognition Preserves The Value Of Fall River’s History

The Preservation Society of Fall River wholeheartedly supports adopting new historic districts and recognizing significant properties in Fall River.

New nominations within the city to the National Register of Historic Places are key to the city’s future because they promote the value of Fall River as a historic community.

And Fall River is, indeed, a historic community.

Across the country, cities and towns are promoting historic preservation as a catalyst for urban redevelopment – kickstarting their local economies by promoting heritage tourism and increasing skilled labor demand.

Despite decades of property neglect, demolitions, and reckless alterations, a great deal of Fall River’s historic architecture still exists and is ripe for sensitive restoration.

Recognizing these local landmarks and neighborhoods is a great first step in preserving Fall River’s unique culture and history, for residents, tourists, and future generations to come.


This position statement was submitted to the Fall River Planning Board on Jan. 11, 2023, as Citizens Input.

Weaver Street High Rise Project Denied

The Fall River Zoning Board of Appeals denied a special permit and variance request to build a high rise housing development more than double the size allowed in the historic Commercial Mill District on Weaver Street.

The ZBA unanimously denied Abbott & Farnham LLC’s request to waive front, side and rear setbacks, as well as building height and parking requirements at 100 Weaver Street after the board granted the applicant four continuances over a period of six months to gather more information.

Responding to initial public reaction to the original proposal for a 14-story, 346-unit building, the project was scaled back to 296 units and 11-stories at the Dec. 15, 2022, meeting without any plans reflecting the changes submitted to the ZBA for review.

The Preservation Society released a position statement opposing the special permit and variance request for 100 Weaver Street in June 2022.

Fall River Zoning Board of Appeals, Dec. 15, 2022

Background

The Fall River Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special permit request for a 192 unit, six-story, senior market rate housing apartment building in a Commercial Mill District at 100 Weaver Street in June 2019. At the Dec. 15, 2022, ZBA meeting, Attorney Thomas Killoran, who represented the applicant, told the board that the senior housing project was no longer financially feasible.

Remembering Alfred Lima

Alfred J. Lima was, and forever will be, a Fall River preservation icon.

With news of his passing, we as a city must reconcile with heavy hearts the loss Fall River has suffered. However, it is with Al’s trademark modest optimism that we look toward the city’s future thanks to all he accomplished in his life.

From the first effort to save the historic Central Congregation Church from demolition to the planning and creation of the Quequechan River Rail Trail that would bear his name, Al’s fingerprints are on dozens of important projects throughout Fall River.

Al helped set the foundation for preservation efforts in the city, helping found the original Preservation Society in the 1980s and tirelessly advocating to help Fall River adopt the Community Preservation Act in 2012 – the first Gateway City in Massachusetts to do so.

Fall River has not been a friend to historic preservation in recent decades. There were many times when Al had to battle with wealthy businessmen and ambivalent politicians in his mission to better the community. But regardless of the challenge, Al always stuck with his professional training as a city planner and a devotion to Fall River to create a beautiful vision for the city.

Rest in peace, Al. You will be missed, but never forgotten.

Respectfully,

The Preservation Society of Fall River

Board of Directors

Preservation Society Purchases Third Historic Property

The Preservation Society of Fall River is happy to announce its purchase of the c. 1865 William Valentine Carriage House at 166 Purchase Street – the Preservation Society’s third historic property acquisition in less than four years.

“The Valentine Carriage House is our third historic building that we’ll be preserving in our persistent effort to recapture Fall River’s historical heritage,” said James Soule, President of the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors.

The property once served as the carriage house and stable for Mr. William Valentine, who lived in front of the building in the home at 150 Purchase Street. Valentine was a horse enthusiast and built the Carriage House for his hobby before the building later transitioned to its current use as two apartments. He was also a member of the old Niagara volunteer fire company.

William Valentine was a descendant of Captain William Valentine of Rhode Island, who, along with Bradford Durfee and Holder Borden, became interested in Fall River’s early cotton manufacturing that would later transform the city.

“Not only does this purchase preserve this property, it helps the Preservation Society continue its efforts to improve the neighborhood,” Soule said. “The Carriage House’s Purchase Street location allows us to focus more attention on the Lower Highlands Historic District.”

The property directly abuts the rear boundary of the Preservation Society’s property on Pine Street – the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House, a Fall River Underground Railroad site. Its acquisition will also help alleviate parking congestion in the area with hopes to open a museum in the former basement office of Dr. Fiske.

The Valentine Carriage House is currently vacant and will be rented out after renovations and preservation work are completed. Financing was made possible thanks to Bristol County Savings Bank. Special thank you to Attorney Arthur Frank for assistance with the closing.

Letter: A Bad Precedent For Fall River’s Waterfront

The following letter was submitted to the Fall River Zoning Board of Appeals as public input for its meeting on June 16, 2022:

Members of the Fall River Zoning Board of Appeals,

The Preservation Society of Fall River respectfully asks that the ZBA deny the variance and special permit request for the property at 100 Weaver Street.

Standing at 160-feet tall, the proposed 14-story building would overshadow the entire North End of Fall River and set a terrible precedent ahead of increased development along the city’s waterfront.

Fall River’s own Waterfront Urban Renewal Plan stresses that new developments in this area blend with the neighborhood around them as well as its nearby historic structures.

The plan’s proposed design guidelines specifically for the Zoning Board of Appeals state that new buildings in a historic district should relate harmoniously to their neighborhood context by establishing relationships of use, scale, dimensions, design patterns, and materials that are compatible with the historic design character of adjacent buildings.

The c. 1873 Border City Mill No. 2 building stands close by at five stories tall. Rather than complementing this monument of Fall River craftsmanship, the new development would hide it – and the waterfront – from view of the public.

The city’s existing zoning recognizes the value of Fall River’s historic skyline as well.

The proposed 14-story, 160-foot-tall building is located within a historic Commercial Mill District, which limits buildings to six stories and 80-feet in height. A decision to waive all setbacks, building height restrictions, and parking requirements for 346 units would be detrimental to the neighborhood and do nothing to maximize the area’s potential for the city, instead only maximizing profits for the developer at the cost of Fall River.

If we are to ensure Fall River residents will continue to benefit from Fall River’s historic skyline and waterfront, it is vital that these assets are protected and not walled off by development unreflective of the community.


Sincerely,
The Preservation Society of Fall River, Inc.
Board of Directors

Fall River home celebrated during National Preservation Month

In honor of National Preservation Month, the Preservation Society of Fall River is pleased to recognize the work of Marta Oliveira and her family in restoring the c. 1890 John Grouard House.

The Grouard House is located at 670 High Street in Fall River’s Local 40C Highlands Historic District. John W. Grouard was partner of the Fall River paint firm Grouard, Smith & Co. He painted the home of Andrew J. Borden in May 1892 and gave testimony during the trial of Lizzie Borden.

Preservation Society of Fall River Vice President James Souza, State Representative Carole Fiola, Mayor Paul Coogan, homeowner Marta Oliveira, her father Manuel Oliveira, Preservation Society of Fall River President James Soule, and Fall River Historic District Commission Chair Kristen Cantara.

Fall River’s Local 40C Highlands Historic District includes stricter guidelines for exterior work on historic homes to preserve the character of the neighborhood. When purchasing the home, Oliveira and her family were not aware the property was located within the Local Historic District and were surprised when the city’s building inspector referred them to Fall River’s Local Historic District Committee.

“The house already had some major modifications, so it wasn’t a complete preservation project, but the work was done sensitively,” said James Soule, President of the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors. “It really enhanced some of the original character again and we were very proud to be able to spotlight her and the outstanding restoration work her father did on the home, which really came out quite beautifully.”

The family saved the original windows and added new storm windows, according to Soule, and stained the original shingles rather than wrapping the house with vinyl siding.

“They rebuilt the porch and, although not to the way it was originally, it’s a huge improvement from the alterations that had been made,” Soule said.

Mayor Paul Coogan, State Representative Carole Fiola, members of Fall River’s Local Historic District Committee, and the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors attended a brief ceremony at Oliveira’s home to present the award on May 17.

“I think she did a great job with this piece of property,” Mayor Coogan said of Marta, a former student of his. “I’m very happy for her and her family.”

State Representative Carole Fiola also presented Oliveira with a citation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives. “I want to thank Marta and her family and the Preservation Society for together making sure Fall River is preserved and its history told,” said State Rep. Fiola.

Preservation Society of Fall River Purchases Second Historic Home

In partnership with the administration of Mayor Paul Coogan and Fall River’s Community Development Agency (CDA), the Preservation Society of Fall River, Inc., is pleased to announce the purchase of its second property – the c. 1845 John Read House located at 95 June Street.

“Purchasing the historic John Read House marks a momentous occasion for the Preservation Society as we acquire our second historic home, our first as a Community Housing Development Organization,” said Jim Soule, President of the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors.

In March 2021, the Preservation Society received official designation as a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) under the HOME Investment Partnerships Program by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Our dual mission of historic preservation and as a CHDO allows us to save older housing stock while improving those older homes and their neighborhoods,” Soule said. “We’re beyond thrilled that the administration and CDA recognize and support this vision.”

The Preservation Society will oversee rehabilitation of the three-unit house, which is currently vacant, with an emphasis on preserving historical characteristics of the property and, by extension, the neighborhood around it. As part of the agreement, all units in the property will be rented as affordable housing for a minimum of 15 years.

“The Preservation Society’s purchase of this home goes beyond maintaining the historic appeal that is so important to Fall River,” said Mayor Paul Coogan. “This is also another great step towards improving our housing stock by providing three units of affordable, high-quality housing.”

The CHDO designation enables the Preservation Society to better serve its mission to protect and preserve Fall River’s historic properties while incorporating the vision of Fall River’s Master Plan and Downtown Urban Renewal Plan, which calls for support of the city’s older and historic homes and properties.

The Preservation Society purchased its first property in 2018, the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House – an Underground Railroad Station on Pine Street. It’s currently maintained as a multi-unit property with plans for a future museum.

PS: Nathaniel B. Borden School Demolition

It was a rainy morning after the 129th anniversary of the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden when Lizzie Borden’s grade school was demolished for a private parking lot.

After serving as the city’s oldest operating school, demolition of the c.1868 Nathaniel B. Borden School was completed quickly after Fall River Building Inspector Glenn Hathaway deemed the building a hazard to the public.

The hazard declaration came after the property owner recently completed asbestos abatement – a requirement before demolition. However, once abatement was completed, the building was left open for weeks. Despite an order from the Building Commissioner for the property owner to make safe the building, the windows were left accessible and the order to demolish was given on July 27, 2021.

The property owner submitted his letter of intent to demolish the structure in 2019, which triggered a six-month demolition delay until October 2019. The demolition delay expired after a year for not being acted upon, requiring another delay for the school in order to demolish it. However, the Building Inspector’s order superseded the demolition delay required by city ordinance.

When the N.B. Borden School was sold to the current owner for $5,000 in 2012, it was with the promise and legal agreement that it would be redeveloped into apartments. But as years passed and nothing happened, the building owner’s neglect and own stated lack of capability was used as justification to rob the city of a valuable resource.

Because the City of Fall River could not locate its copy of the purchase and sale agreement from when the school was sold, city officials were not able to verify if the language contained in the contract included the conditions of sale originally intended to make sure the redevelopment project was completed successfully as promised.

Although the school is now gone, many questions remain, leaving city officials and residents alike in the dark on how this happened and how can it be prevented from happening again.

Second Fiske House CPA Project Approved By City Council

The second phase of the Preservation Society’s exterior preservation efforts at the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House on Pine Street received the go-ahead from the Fall River City Council at its June 8, 2021 meeting.

The City Council unanimously voted to approve the FY22 appropriation order recommended by the Community Preservation Committee, which includes $60,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to restore the 13 remaining front façade windows and two basement windows (previously altered), the shutters, and front portico of this historic federal transitional to Greek revival house.

“By improving the front façade of this Underground Railroad site, all Fall River residents and visitors will benefit from the property’s visual, architectural, historical, and aesthetic demonstration,” Board of Directors President James Soule said.

This project will historically restore and/or preserve the front windows and shutters to look and operate as originally intended.

The front portico porch is in poor condition with signs of deterioration in the wood at the base of the columns. The CPA project will deconstruct and reassemble the portico with repairs made in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

The first phase of the Preservation Society’s Fiske House CPA projects was approved in June 2019 and included the repair and replacement of seven windows and the installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units for four of the apartments in the historic house.


The total FY22 appropriation order was $1,809,616 for a total of eight projects, including the Preservation Society’s project.

PRIVATE
Fall River Historical Society: Funding for design fee, removal and replacement of EPDM, new PVC membrane, slate roof, gutter replacement, downspout replacements, window repairs, installation of fixed shutters, repair of pilasters and brackets, and painting and repair and painting of the Mansard roof ironwork.

Notre Dame Rectory: Funding to partially fund the elevator.

Dr. Isaac Fiske House: Restore 13 front façade windows and two basement windows (previously altered), the shutters, and front portico.

PUBLIC
Maplewood Park Lighting: Funding to remove six lighting poles and replace with seven new ones, includes all electrical work and permits.

Historic Commission Form B’s: Funding for preparation of Form B’s in the Steep Brook and East side of Fall River.

Article 97 Protections: Funding to prepare Article 97 protections for unprotected properties located in the Bio-Reserve.

North Burial Ground: Funding to refurbish the iron gates at the entrance to the cemetery.

Fall River Fire Museum: Funding for roof replacement with a material in compliance with the Secretary of Interior standards, replace gutters and downspouts, and repointing the chimney.

PS: Lincoln and Silvia Schools

When the Lincoln School on Pine Street and Silvia School on Hartwell Street were
purchased by David Hebert, it was with promises to redevelop the properties and
transform their respective neighborhoods.

Promises that then-Mayor Jasiel Correia II and other Fall River officials helped facilitate
with minimum sale prices in 2017 and 2018.

However, as Hebert admits to criminal conspiracy around the time of the sales in the
federal trial of Correia, the true value of the transactions is already on display to the
community.

Five years later and the Lincoln School is no closer to being turned into apartments. The
building Hebert bought for $10,000 is now on the market for $795,000.

The Silvia School was bought for $5,000 to be transformed into a hotel and restaurant, but
last year, the only guests the building inspector found were squatters and rats.

The Preservation Society obtained copies of the city’s purchase and sale agreements for the
sales of the Lincoln and Silvia Schools through public records requests and shared details
with Mayor Paul Coogan at the start of his administration.

The Preservation Society expressed concerns that Hebert wasn’t fulfilling his contracts
with the city and highlighted the conditions of sale included in the agreements meant to
safeguard the best interests of Fall River such as set project timelines and $100,000
performance bonds.

There had been no prior follow-through by the city on the conditions of sale for the Lincoln
and Silvia Schools during the Correia administration; conditions that have been included in
previous purchase and sale agreements for municipal sales of historic schools.

With these documents, Corporation Counsel Alan Rumsey was able to attach a right of
reverter to the Lincoln and Silvia Schools’ deeds on behalf of the city in January 2020 to
help enforce the conditions of sale, since Hebert failed to deliver on his legal promises to
residents.

As the futures of the Lincoln and Silvia Schools remains in question, these two historic
buildings demonstrate the importance of purchase and sale agreements to Fall River
residents and the risks that come when the process isn’t followed.