CPA Brief

29 Jun

Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, Inc.

17 Lawrence Street

Cambridge, MA 02139

 Project Summary:

Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, respectfully requests that $38,000 in Community Preservation Act funds be appropriated for historic preservation of the 1818 Powder House at Magazine Beach.  Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (CNA) has been working cooperatively with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the property owner, toward restoration and potential reuse of the Powder House.  Of the total requested, $23,000 would fund an Historic Structure Report; the remaining $15,000 would be applied toward emergency preservation/stabilization/repair of the roof.


Project Site:

Built on Captain’s Island in 1818 as a state gunpowder magazine, the Powder House was redeveloped in 1899 as a bathhouse for Magazine Beach. In recent years used chiefly for storage, it is part of Magazine Beach and the larger Charles River Reservation, designed by landscape architect Charles Eliot.  On the National Register, this building is perhaps the most historically significant structure on the Cambridge riverfront. Parkland at Magazine Beach has been the subject of significant restoration investment in recent years, funded in large part by the City of Cambridge.  The pedestrian bridge linking the park to the Cambridgeport neighborhood is currently being rebuilt with state funding.

CNA and DCR are now exploring future uses for the Powder House.  Before a decision can be made for reuse, the building needs a comprehensive assessment and roof repair for emergency stabilization.  However, the building’s historical significance and state of serious disrepair warrant investment to stabilize and preserve it now.   


Requested funds would support two related priorities:

  1.  Historic Structure Report & Conditions Assessment  ($23,000)

A qualified contractor acceptable to both the property owner (DCR) and the City of Cambridge Historical Commission will be hired to prepare a comprehensive report that will inform all subsequent initiatives for the Powder House, including preservation, repair, installation of interpretive markers, and adaptive reuse.  The report will be created in conformance with Preservation Briefs 43 and 18 developed by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. All work specified will comply with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  The report will include:

  • Building history (both developmental and social), including a construction and maintenance chronology.
  • Identification of character-defining architectural features, including those elements that must be preserved and those that may be sensitively replaced or modified.
  • Documentation of the building and site with a photographic survey.
  • Measured drawings (plans and elevations) of the building in Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and CAD conversion of available historic drawings.
  • Architectural survey and analysis of exterior envelope and interior elements, noting conditions and potential causes of deterioration.
  • Assessment of structural integrity of the building and recommendations for remediation of critical conditions, including cost estimates.
  • Assessment of water, sewer, gas and electrical utility access, with implications for adaptive reuse.
  • Regulatory review will include zoning, state building codes, historical commission review, universal access, and any other relevant requirements, with implications for adaptive reuse.
  • Preservation treatment and rehabilitation recommendations prioritized according to emergency, short-term, and long-term needs.
  1. Structural stabilization/ roof repair ($15,000)

CNA and/or the Cambridge Historical Commission would enter into an agreement with DCR, under the auspices of its Partnership Matching Funds Program,  to assure that a qualified contractor is hired to repair the roof of the Powder House, in a manner that is historically appropriate and in keeping with the recommendations of the Historic Structure Report and applicable regulatory requirements for National Register properties.  The roof is in very poor condition (see photo at right, taken 6/10/2011), threatening to result in deterioration of other significant elements of the property.  Pending a full structural assessment, the preliminary estimate for the roof project (including structural stabilization and re-roofing with historically appropriate slate materials) is $45,000.   CNA has been advised by DCR staff that the $15,000 in CPA funding requested for this project is eligible to be matched two to one by Partnership Matching Funds from DCR.   


Additional information will be forwarded as it becomes available.  Please direct questions to:

Cathie Zusy, Co-Clerk and Board Member, Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association

202 Hamilton St.

Cambridge, MA 02139


2 Responses to “CPA Brief”

  1. Susan Schlossberg January 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Hi Cathy,

    I think Magazine Beach needs:’ Recyling containers, better access to the river, drinking water fountain, trash containers to be emptied more often, more seating (conversation) areas, a fishing area, open beach area, yiung childrens water play area.

    We can walk it any time. I love riding it in the early morning when the rabbits and the birds are enjoying it with me.

    Talk to you soon,


    • Cathie Zusy January 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

      Great ideas! Thanks. Cathie

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