The sudden demolition of a historic former tavern at 804-810 Huntington Ave. last week took local officials and residents by surprise. The lack of notice led to a City stop-work order and questions about historic review. And it is unclear what is planned to replace it.
“That place was a landmark,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, who grew up in Mission Hill and sent city inspectors a letter questioning the lack of notice. “I hoped the property owner would have understood the need to talk to us.”
The City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) issued a stop-work order on the project for failure to notify abutters about the otherwise legal demolition. ISD reports that the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) approved tearing down the 87-year-old tavern last fall, but the BLC and the Mayor’s Office did not respond to questions about when and where that process happened.
The tavern was a one-story building with a corner entrance at Huntington and Frawley Street. Decorated with roofline moldings, including a shield and a lion, the structure was built in 1926 and was long home to Burke’s Tavern, an earthy Mission Hill landmark. Burke’s Tavern, owned by the same family for at least two generations, was known in decades past for hosting music acts. Burke’s closed in the mid-1990s and the place later became Pat Flanagan’s. That also closed, and the building has been vacant for at least several years.
ISD spokesperson Lisa Timberlake told the Gazette this week that the demolition permit was issued Jan. 24.
After ISD found out there had been no community notification, ISD issued a stop-work order, Timberlake said, which blocks any further work done on the site. ISD won’t issue any fines, she said, but ISD Commissioner Brian Glascock has ordered a review of the applicant’s file for other possible action.
ISD issued the permit in the name of Diane Miller, who told the Gazette she is a receptionist at JDC Demolition, a subsidiary of J. Derenzo Co. Contractors, based out of Brockton. Miller said no one at the company was immediately available for comment.
According to a handwritten sign posted outside the site, the owner of the property is M.H. Masse Co., with John Cliff working as property manager. The Gazette left a message with a receptionist who answered at the phone number on the sign. Cliff did not return the Gazette’s call by press time.
The owners on City records are James Gately and the Oaxaca Realty Trust. The Gazette was unable to locate contact information for those entities.
Demolition of any building over 50 years old requires a review by the BLC, including at least one public meeting. Known as “demolition delay,” the process involves a 90-waiting period to discuss possible alternatives to demolition.
Timberlake said BLC approved the demolition last November and notified ISD about it. But there was no public notice of such a meeting, and the project does not appear on the BLC’s publicly posted agendas from that time.
The BLC did not respond to Gazette questions. Shaina Aubourg, Mission Hill’s representative from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, typically arranges such community meetings. She referred all questions to the Mayor’s Office.
In a letter to the Gazette, Friends of Historic Mission Hill co-founders Alison Pultinas and Lois Regestein wrote that, “The [demolition] process cries out for well-written [City] policies that consider neighborhood impacts as well as the significance of the standing structure. Historic preservation as well as appropriate new development cannot be taken for granted in Boston.”
Meanwhile, no one seems to know what will happen with the property.
Sánchez—who held his first election victory party at the tavern in 2002—told the Gazette he had talked to the demolition manager, who said there are no further plans for the site beyond cleaning up the site, filling in the pit with gravel and fencing it in.
“I didn’t even know the building was condemned,” he said. “Why were they so quick to tear down the building? It raises the question of, ‘What’s the bigger plan?’”
According to Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) spokesperson, the BRA is not aware of any future plans for the site. The BRA reviews large-scale developments in the city.
John Ruch contributed to this article.