656 Massachusetts Avenue was constructed as a single-family home in 1872 and was, at that time, known as 14 Chester Park. The earliest known owner was Benjamin F. Horn, a dry goods merchant who purchased the property from the City of Boston
The building was sold in 1878 to John A. Fowle, a wool broker. By 1885 the building address had been changed to 78 E. Chester Park. Julia A. Young converted the building to a lodging house by 1900. The federal census of 1900 indicates that Julia Young lived in the building along with eight lodgers, among them a physician, mailman, clerk, and druggist. She sold the property in 1904 to Benjamin Noyes, who defaulted on his mortgage, resulting in the house being acquired by Henry H. Dewey, listed in city directories as an auctioneer and constable. Between 1909 and 1945 the building was owned and operated as a rooming house by Charles F. and Anna C. Johnson. From 1977 until 2012 the building served as a variety of different single room occupancy uses
Design & Development Plan
In 2013 the building was functioning as a shelter and was in a state of major disrepair. 656 Mass. Ave. was obsolete for the current occupant which compelled the organization to sell the building. The structure went through a historic preservation changing its use from a lodging house/ shelter to six private luxury floor through residences.
The construction involved replacing the main footings which carry the entire load of the building. The entire structural system from the garden level up through the top sixth level was replaced. The entire rear roof was removed and a new dormers with floor to ceiling windows was constructed. One of the more challenging aspects of this project was reinforcing the open circular stair which settled unevenly over the past 100+ years. Perpetual oversaw the process to reinforce the curved stair stringers by building up an in-place LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beam that curved with the elliptical stair configuration. The entire stair system was replaced included the handrails, newel posts and balusters.
The Finished Product
Each of the six floor through luxury apartments have a different historic character, ceiling height, as well as their own heating, air conditioning and private outdoor space. Perpetual was able to bring this beautiful historic brownstone back to life helping to revitalize the Harrison-Washington Street block of Massachusetts Avenue
The redevelopment process included several presentations to the local community group, WSANA (Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association). Perpetual engaged the community and was able to obtaining neighborhood support to seek and obtain several building and zoning code variances from the City of Boston zoning board of appeal.