In a previous blog post “Restoration, My Perspective” , I spoke about the importance of restoration that is in keeping with the original style of the building being restored. I ran across a very interesting example integrating old and new structures in Civil Engineering magazine recently – which involved salvaging the façades of several old buildings occupying the same block – and integrating them into a new municipal building that is now a centerpiece of the community (Image of the original Ferdinand Building above from Feldman Land Surveyors website ). The article is entitled Roxbury Reinvention. If you have access to the publication, you might enjoy reading the original article, but there is also lots (and lots) of information available online about the project.
The centerpiece of the effort – the Ferdinand Building – is located in Roxbury, a neighborhood south of the Boston city center, otherwise known as the Dudley Square area (Civil Engineering 2016 ). Once a thriving retail area, Roxbury declined during the 1960’s and 70’s, with the exodus of residents and businesses to the suburbs. The Ferdinand – a Baroque and Renaissance Revival structure constructed in the 1880’s  – once housed New England’s largest furniture store, “Ferdinands Blue Store”. The building was distinguished by architectural features such as copper-clad windows and elaborate exterior embellishments, and occupied a prominent place in the community during Roxbury’s heyday (Image below from the Boston Globe ).
This image, from the Feldman Land Surveyors website , shows the beautiful exterior ornamentation on the original structure, which appeared to be largely still intact throughout the facade despite the delapidated condition of the building.
Integrating Old and New Structures
Here, the façade stands perilously stripped of the supporting structure, during the restoration process integrating the Ferdinand and other historical buildings into the new structure (images from the Saski website ). It amazed me when I first saw these images, that traffic and normal activity apparently carried on around the perimeter throughout this period. Although securely braced, the structure seems very vulnerable here. The engineering behind this effort is no doubt an interesting story in itself.
The finished product (also from Saski website ), in which the new brickwork mimics the form of the original building, unites a historical structure into a modern, multi- purpose commercial building – honoring the history of the neighborhood while addressing the needs of a modern community.
Although the purist in me would like for the new building standing behind the Ferdinand (now renamed the Bruce C Bolling Municipal Building) to share the same ornamentation and exterior finish, I have to admit that the end result is well integrated. Given the challenges a commercial project of this scale presents, it seems a reasonable compromise. And vastly preferable to the alternative.
 Su, Jimmy (2016) “Roxbury Reinvention”, Civil Engineering, February 2016, pp 52-59.
 Ross, Casey (2014) “Dudley Square’s Comeback Tied to Historic Structure”, Boston Globe, March 31, 2014, https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/03/30/retail-resurrection-dudley-square/Yum2wcS2kAT0MDkqVtEuoK/story.html