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New report to shed light on the condition of the historic Fowler-Clark Farm in Mattapan

Posted by Patrick Rosso  January 17, 2013 12:47 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/

The main house(right) and the stable (left) at the Fowler/Clark Farm.

The future of a historic property on Norfolk Street in Mattapan that has sat is disrepair, will soon come to light after an engineering report is completed by the owners.

The Fowler-Clark Farm, located at 487 Norfolk St., was condemned by the city of Boston in April 2012, according to the local paper the Dorchester Reporter.

It has made the "top ten" of the Dorchester Historical Society's most endangered property list and was the subject of a battle between the owners and the City of Boston in 2009.

The city’s Inspectional Service Department said it found a number of violations at the property in 2012, causing it to cite the owners and label it “unfit for human habitation.”

Currently the property is owned by the Ida Gertrude Epstein Trust and all the buildings are vacant.

“We’ve been working closely with ISD and the Boston Landmarks Commission because we know there’s been issues with the condition of the buildings,” said Stephen Greenbaum, an attorney for Arthur Brecher, one of the trustees of the property. “We’ve got it cleaned and we’re trying to make it look nicer.”

Owners have since boarded up the buildings’ windows, fenced off the property, and cut down weeds. The space in front of the property’s fence, however, is still littered with trash and waste.

“The next step for us is to evaluate the properties’ structure,” said Greenbaum.

The owners are in the process of generating an engineering study on the structures to determine what, if anything can be done to save them.

“Once we have the engineering report we’re going to come back to Landmarks and discuss it with them and ISD,” said Greenbaum.

The 30,000 square-foot property, situated on six parcels, consists of a house and stable, according to a Boston Landmarks Commission report from 2005.

The report was generated after developers proposed demolishing the buildings to make way for 22 townhouses, according to the Boston Globe.

At the time the house was owned by Ida Gertrude Epstein, who bought the house in 1941, according to the Globe.

The main house was built sometime between 1786 and 1806 and the stable was built sometime close to 1860, according to the report.

The farm is named after the Clark family, but the report says evidence shows that the house was first owned by Samuel Fowler, a Dorchester resident.

Over its 200-year history the property has been owned by five separate families and the original 11-acre property was subdivided in 1895.

In addition to the subdivisions, a number of additions have been made to the two-and-a-half story farmhouse, including the construction of a rear addition in 1967, along with a side addition that has not been dated.

The property also holds historical significance, not just for Mattapan, but also regionally, according to the report.

“The house, stable, and half-acre of undeveloped land collectively known as the Fowler-Clark farm remain among the earliest, intact, vernacular examples of agricultural properties identified in Boston and in urban centers across the Commonwealth,” read the report.

The report goes on to highlight the importance of the building to the area’s long forgotten agricultural past.

“The Fowler-Clark farm reflects Dorchester’s rich agricultural history, with a long line of yeoman tilling the land,” read the report. “The integrity of this siting, together with the age of the buildings, serve as a very tangible reminder of a time when this area was sparsely developed an agricultural practices characterized the landscape.”

But because of its age the building still faces a number of challenges relating to its condition.

“There are a number of issues pertaining to the building,” said Darryl Smith, an assistant commissioner with the city’s Inspectional Services Department. “But we want to work with the owners to bring it up to its original state.”

In addition to its historical significance, Smith said the city is interested in cleaning the property up because it has been a source of trouble, from unsafe living conditions to being used as a “drug den.”

Smith added that once the new engineer’s report is finished it will present a clearer picture of the structures' conditions and if they can be saved.

Owners are currently in the process of completing the report. Greenbaum said he expects it to be completed within the next month or two.

Greenbaum, however, added that the trust has no real interest in the building or retaining it “long-term.”

“No, not really [interested in restoring the building],” said Greenbaum. “It’s not what the trust was set up to do. It was set up to benefit the grandchildren [of Ida Gertrude Epstein].”


(Patrick D. Rosso/

The main house(right) and the stable (left).

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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