The century-old former Notre Dame Convent was deemed not historically interesting enough to avoid the wrecking ball.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — An application to demolish a former convent house that has long stood vacant at the corner of Melville and First streets went forward without opposition from the city's Historical Commission on Monday, and is slated to become open space for enhancing future development at the adjacent former Notre Dame school building.
While members of the commission found aspects of the history behind the century-old structure interesting, it determined that the house itself was not sufficiently unique or significant enough to meet the criteria for recommending preservation.
"Even though it's an interesting property and ther's a lot of interesting pieces to its past, it doesn't meet our criteria for being historically significant," summarized commission member Eileen Myers.
The two-story Queen Anne wood-frame building was built between 1900 and 1910, and was most likely an apartment building prior to being renovated for use as a convent for the Notre Dame School beginning in 1937. According to early land records, it appears to have first been on the opposite side of Melville Street, but was relocated in 1913 to make way for the church rectory constructed there.
The convent was closed in 1992, and the last two sisters living there relocated to other housing. From 2002 to 2012, it was owned by the Elizabeth Freeman Center, but never occupied or renovated, and earlier this year sold to Scarafoni Associates. According to the demolition request submitted, the developer intends to raze it to "provide for landscaping and open space for the adjacent property at 41 Melville Street" [Notre Dame School]. Scarafoni Associates is a Berkshire-based developer that specializes in market-rate and affordable housing, condominiums, office and retail space.
"I think it will help market the future residential development, and would really help market that building," said City Planner C.J. Hoss on the proposed creation of open space adjacent to the fomer school building, for which the city expects an application will be forthcoming from Scarafoni in the near future.
In other Historical Commission news:
• Slow progress continues in the exploration of options for a vacant 1880s-era home at 79 3rd St., near the Samuel Harrison Society House (whose opening as a historic museum site is slated for summer 2013). The commission had tabled a demolition request put forth in August by the city for the property, which is currently awaiting review by the state Land Court over back taxes. Chairman Will Garrison told the commission he had been conducting an email exchange with Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity about trying to assess whether it is a rehab project that they may be able to undertake; however, a determination would have to be made from outside, as no one is currently allowed to enter the house because of safety and liability issues.
• The commission anticipates "no surprises" in restoration efforts to be undertaken on Pittsfield Probate & Family Court building on Park Square, which once housed the Berkshire Athenaeum. The commission reviewed with favor a Project Notification Form submitted by the Agricola Corp., contracted by the Department of Capital Assets Management in undertaking the project. Commission member Kathy Reilly commended the architect's work on a previous renovation at the adjacent Berkshire Superior Court, and could not foresee any concerns with them going forward on this project.
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