With centuries of historic and architecturally significant buildings, Fall River residents now have access to a resource created to help homeowners navigate the maintenance and upkeep of historic properties for the first time.
The Preservation Society of Fall River and the city of Fall River’s Historical Commission are pleased to announce the completion of Fall River’s first Design Guidelines.
“The creation and adoption of historic preservation Design Guidelines for Fall River’s protected historic district is an outstanding accomplishment,” Preservation Society President James Soule said. “The Guidelines are specifically for the protected Highlands Local Historic District, but its breadth and coverage allows it to be used for historic properties across the city for preservationists, general contractors, and homeowners alike.”
The release of the Design Guidelines marks the completion of an initiative started by the Preservation Society in 2014 when it helped create Fall River’s first protected historic district – known as a Massachusetts General Law 40C Local Historic District. The Fall River Historical Commission is the governing body in charge of the city’s 40C Local Historic District in the Highlands, which oversees a set of rules to ensure the neighborhood maintains its historic charm.
“The Fall River Historical Commission is thrilled to have completed its set of Design Guidelines in conjunction with the Fall River Preservation Society and the Fall River Planning Board,” said Historical Commission Chair Jason Bouchard-Nawrocki. “This valuable resource will help streamline the review and approval process for property owners within the Chapter 40C Highlands Local Historic District. It helps answer many of the questions that the board frequently receives regarding an historic property in the city.”
“While the City has one singular local historic district, the Guidelines were created with the mindset of expanding and creating additional protected local historic districts in the future,” added Bouchard-Nawrocki.
The Design Guidelines detail some of the challenges historic homeowners commonly face as well as the solutions and maintenance to prevent future more costly issues. The Design Guidelines were funded by a $50,000 Community Preservation Act grant to the Preservation Society in FY2020 and were created by Dominique Hawkins of Preservation Design Partnership in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“The documents will be available to the public and can at once aid historic homeowners in basic maintenance needs,” said Soule. “We hope and expect that the ease and accessibility of using the Guidelines will help prevent unnecessary loss of our older and historic housing stock.”
A special note of appreciation to former Historical Commission and Community Preservation Committee member Antone Dias, who helped begin the Preservation Design Guidelines project.
The city of Fall River’s Design Guidelines is free for the public to download and can be found on the websites of the Fall River Historical Commission, the Preservation Society of Fall River, and the Fall River Community Preservation Committee.
What is a Historic District?
National Register of Historic Places Historic District: The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.
Local Historic District: A local historic district is a district designated by a local ordinance, which falls under the jurisdiction of a local historic preservation review commission. A local historic district is generally “overlaid” on the existing zoning classifications in a community. Therefore, a local district commission deals only with the appearance of the district, not with the uses of those properties.
May is National Preservation Month and to celebrate, the Preservation Society presents “Milling About Oak Grove” — a historic cemetery walking tour on some of Fall River’s notable residents related to the city’s historic mills!
There will be hosting two tours on Sunday, May 21, at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
PLEASE NOTE THAT DUE TO EXPECED RAIN ON DATURDAY, MAY 20, THE WALKING TOUR HAS BEEN MOVED TO SUNDAY, MAY 21.
These tours will be FREE of charge in honor of National Preservation Month!
Groups will depart promptly from the Oak Grove Cemetery main entrance, so arrive early!
The tour is less than a mile walk with multiple stops along the way and should take approximately 1 hour long.
The Preservation Society of Fall River presents “The Mill In Time: A Lecture on Technology, Industry and Architecture in Fall River Mill Design” by Architectural Historian John Tschirch.
As one of the great manufacturing centers of the Industrial Revolution, Fall River, MA, has a collection of mill architecture illustrating state-of-the design of the mid-to-late 19th century. This lecture, illustrated with period drawings and photographs, reveals the progressive technologies of both Britain and the United States and how these influenced Fall River’s extraordinary industrial buildings, which are a significant part of the nation’s architectural heritage.
John Tschirch is an architectural historian, writer, and teacher. His latest books include America’s Eden: Newport Landscapes through the Ages (2022) and Newport: The Artful City (2020), which received the Victorian Society of America Book Award in 2021. John received his M.A. (1986) in Architectural History and Historic Preservation from the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. His thirty-year career in the preservation has brought him across the globe to study historic landmarks and landscapes. He also advises on historic preservation projects and has entered the world of historical fiction writing, inspired by his travels, with the publication of Gods and Girls: Tales of Art, Seduction and Obsession (2019).
The preservation of heritage sites of international significance is of foremost interest to John. He has lectured widely in the U.S. and abroad on architecture, landscapes and historic cities, from the Attingham Conference in London to Yale University’s Mellon Center Seminar on 18th Century French Design and the UNESCO sponsored conference on Architecture and Culture in Buenos Aires.
In honor of National Preservation Month, this event is free.
Seating is limited and will be available on a first come, first serve basis.
Special thank you to this events co-sponsors:
CIVITECTS Architecture and State Representative Carole Fiola!
When: May 17, 2023 6-8 p.m.
Where: Curtain Loft Mill, Former Wampanoag Mill No. 1
420 Quequechan St., Fall River (Back Meeting Room)
The Dr. Isaac Fiske House at 263 Pine Street in Fall River, MA, is one of nine new additions from across the country to the National Park Services’ National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
“The Fiske House is one of several Underground Railroad Sites in Fall River, but none had received the Network to Freedom designation,” Preservation Society President James Soule said. “We at the Preservation Society are excited that the Fiske House is the first in the city to be added to this prestigious Network and we are hopeful it’s not the last.”
The Dr. Isaac Fiske House, built in 1833, was used by Dr. Fiske as a station on the Underground Railroad with freedom seekers passing through the home on their journeys northward. The Fiske House joins more than 700 sites, facilities, and programs throughout the nation already in the Network to Freedom.
“Each addition to the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom centers around a story of hope in the face of hostility and oppression,” said Diane Miller, the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program manager. “Now in its 25th year, the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom continues to document and expand knowledge related to the Underground Railroad and increase public awareness of the struggle for freedom and equality endured by so many in our country’s history.”
The Preservation Society has spent years conducting research and collaborating with partners like researcher Kenneth Champlin, the Fall River Historical Society, and Roger Williams University Associate Professor of History Charlotte Carrington-Farmer and student researchers Kristen Black and TJ Ward to complete the Fisk House’s Network to Freedom application.
The Preservation Society purchased the Fiske House in 2018 with assistance from a Community Preservation Act grant and has plans to open a public Underground Railroad Museum at the property in the future.
The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom serves to honor, preserve, and promote the history of resistance to enslavement through escape and flight, which continues to inspire people worldwide. The Network currently represents over 700 locations in 39 states, plus Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Through its mission, the Network to Freedom helps to advance the idea that all human beings embrace the right to self-determination and freedom from oppression.
The Preservation Society of Fall River and Roger Williams University invited members of the community to learn some of the history behind the Dr. Isaac Fiske House — one of Fall River’s Underground Railroad sites on Pine Street — at a public presentation hosted at the Fall River Public Library on March 30, 2023.
Through Roger Williams University’s Community Partnerships Center, the Preservation Society ‘s Board of Directors and students in Associate Professor of History Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer’s class spent the Fall 2022 semester exploring the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House together.
By scouring old newspapers and going on research trips to Fall River, student researchers Kristen Black and TJ Ward learned some of the stories from the home at 263 Pine Street and the family that lived within.
The research was conducted to support the Preservation Society’s 2023 application for the Fiske House to be added to the National Park Service’s National Underground Network to Freedom.
The research will also be used to help build exhibits and informational displays at the future Underground Railroad Museum the Preservation Society is planning to open in the space in the future.
You can watch the full presentation on the Preservation Society’s YouTube Channel.
The Preservation Society of Fall River is pleased to announce the donation of a portrait of famed abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Elizabeth Buffum Chace by local artist Sheila Leshinsky Oliveira.
The painting is one in a series of seven historic portraits Oliveira created with support from a grant by the Fall River Cultural Council and previously displayed in an exhibit titled “Famed & Framed” at Fall River Heritage State Park.
“I was honored to learn and visually interpret the life work and noble humanity of Elizabeth Buffum Chace, which reflected her belief that all persons are created equal,” Leshinsky Oliveira said.
After her family moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, Elizabeth married textile manufacturer Samuel Buffington Chace in 1828 and her anti-slavery beliefs radicalized. Chace joined the anti-slavery movement of William Lloyd Garrison and she and her sisters founded the Fall River Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1835. The Chace family home would later serve as a station on the Underground Railroad.
The Elizabeth Buffum Chace portrait will be added to the permanent collection of the Preservation Society’s future Underground Railroad Museum at the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House, an Underground Railroad Site on Pine Street in Fall River.
“The oil painting portrait of abolitionist Sarah Buffum Chase by artist Sheila Leshinsky Oliveira is the Preservation Society’s first exhibit item representative of Fall River’s Underground Railroad activity and is extremely appreciated,” said Preservation Society President James Soule.
“Thanks to the Fall River Preservation Society for installing this portrait at the Fiske House as a reminder of the role Fall River played in the Underground Railroad and the extraordinary work of one woman who supported equal rights and freedoms,” said Leshinsky Oliveira. “It is my hope visitors to Fall River’s Fiske House and other historic sites will learn and appreciate the rich history of my hometown.”
The Preservation Society has begun preliminary work on the Fiske House Underground Railroad Museum and hopes to open its doors to the public in 2024-2025.
Through Roger Williams University’s Community Partnerships Center, the Preservation Society of Fall River and students in Associate Professor of History Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer’s class spent the Fall 2022 semester exploring the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House together.
By scouring old newspapers and going on research trips to Fall River, students Kristen Black and TJ Ward learned some of the stories from the home at 263 Pine Street and the family that lived within.
The Preservation Society and Roger Williams University invites members of the community to learn some of the history behind one of Fall River’s Underground Railroad sites.
Please join us at the Fall River Public Library Meeting Room at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, for a presentation on some of the research conducted by students to learn more about Fall River’s role in assisting freedom seekers on their journey north.
This event is free and open to the public. Seating will be limited and is available on a first come first serve basis.
The Preservation Society of Fall River respectfully asks that the Zoning Board deny the variance and special permit request for the 16 townhouse units proposed in the historic Commercial Mill District on Alden Street.
The townhouses proposed for the location would not be consistent with the neighborhood, which mirrors the National Register of Historic Places-designated Quequechan Valley Mills Historic District on the opposite bank of the river.
This neighborhood, primarily made of granite mills and tenement housing, is a unified pocket of Fall River history that deserves to be protected from variations of city ordinance that don’t work to protect it.
While many of the historic mills in the Quequechan Valley Mills Historic District are now gone, many of the mills on Alden Street have already been redeveloped or are in the process of being redeveloped into a variety of housing stock.
With more frontage on the Quequechan River Rail Trail than an accepted city street, these out-of-place townhouses encroaching on the community’s history and recreation would be a detriment to efforts to redevelop the area in a respectful manner and Fall River as a whole.
Please uphold Fall River’s ordinances with respect to this proposal and follow the guidance of the Fall River Master Plan and Downtown and Waterfront Urban Renewal Plans which call for development in historic areas to be congruent with the neighborhoods around them.
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.
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.
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.