Tuesday night marked another disappointment for supporters of making the Huntington Avenue YMCA an official Boston Landmark.
The Boston Landmarks Commission denied a to consider upgrading the building's status to a Boston Landmark with state/regional significance. When the petition was first denied at the Commission’s May meeting, petitioners were told they could present new research and information to the Commission at a later date.
“There’s been a lot of study and passionate research,” Commissioner Ellen Lipsey said on Tuesday. “Every effort has been made by petitioners on two occasions to document the significance of the building, but we find at a staff level neither upgrade [nor] acceptance of the petition is warranted.”
The decision seemed to hinge on the fact that to be a Boston Landmark, a building must have local and state, regional or national significance. The Commission believed that though the Y has much local significance, the building has no greater impact.
South End resident David Harrington attempted to convince the Commission otherwise during his presentation on Tuesday, which focused on the architectural importance as well as the historical and social significance of the building.
The Huntington Avenue building is the only YMCA designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, a prestigious firm known for designing South Station and the Chicago Public Library, he said. The use of Tapestry Brick design in the gymnasium is one of the finest in the city, he added, citing a letter of support from History of Architecture Professor James O’Gorman.
Countering Harrington’s claims of new evidence was a lawyer representing the YMCA of Greater Boston President and CEO Kevin Washington. Leslie Donovan, a historic preservation consultant for Tremont Preservation Services, also spoke.
“A lot of things that have been addressed in the new petition are really about why the Y itself is significant,” Donovan said.
She went on to state that the Huntington Avenue YMCA, built in 1913, is not unique in its age, considering the YMCA in Hyde Park was built in 1902.
She added that as far as being the founding building for Northeastern and its cooperative education program, a point Harrington made in his presentation, the Huntington Avenue Y has not been the only Y to create a school. Springfield College, she said, came directly from a YMCA in Springfield.
The final commission vote was 7-2 in favor of denying the petition, with two members recusing themselves from the vote. Commissioners Yeager and Colton voted in favor of the petition.
Approximately 25 people attended the Tuesday night meeting, and a majority were in support of the petition.
Supporters included general concerned citizens, as well as members of Save the Boston Y, whose mission is to block Northeastern University from demolishing the YMCA gymnasium to build a 720-bed residential dormitory.
Save the Boston Y is holding a neighborhood meeting tonight, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Susan Bailis Assisted Living Center, 332 Massachusetts Ave.