Historic Boston Begins Work at Fowler Clark Epstein Farm

Boston – Historic Boston Inc. has begun rehabilitation and redevelopment of the 1860s-era barn at the Fowler Clark Epstein Farm in Mattapan, the first phase of eight months of work that will bring the historic property back for use as the home of the nonprofit Urban Farming Institute of Boston.

Work has begun on replacing the roof, repairing the barn’s structure, and inserting steel structure so that it can withstand winter weather and be ready for the next phase of work. The barn’s new uses will be as a classroom, demonstration kitchen, and offices for the Urban Farming Institute.

The barn associated with the property, the oldest remaining farm in the City of Boston, has deteriorated further than the adjacent house and will undergo about three months of work before its interior build-out for training and administration, and before work begins on the house.

“The barn is less stable than the house,” said Lisa Lewis, Project Manager for Historic Boston Inc., a nonprofit real estate organization that rehabilitates and repurposes historic and culturally significant properties. “There is more urgency to do structural and envelope repairs before proceeding with the full fit-out of the barn as offices and classroom.”

In September 2015, the project partners — Historic Boston Inc., the Urban Farming Institute of Boston, The Trust for Public Land, and North Bennet Street School — were joined by Mayor Martin J. Walsh to celebrate plans to transform the historic farm house, barn, and land into an urban farm and education/training center. The City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development is contributing $150,000 to the $3.4 million total cost of the project, with Historic Boston raising the rest of the money from about a dozen generous donors

M.J. Mawn, Inc. of East Walpole is doing the construction. The farm site is recognized as a City of Boston Landmark and is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Zoning Board of Appeals voted in the fall to grant variances for the new uses on the property and to allow construction of a greenhouse. Boston’s relatively new Article 89 zoning ordinance encourages and regulates farming in the City of Boston, but agriculture was already an allowed use on the property.

The Fowler Clark Epstein farm, named for a succession of family owners, is located on a 30,000sf site at 487 Norfolk St. in Mattapan. The barn, which served as a stable, is about 40 by 25 feet in size with two floors and a basement. The clapboards on the barn are thought to be original.

In addition to becoming Urban Farm Institute headquarters, the property will be a training hub and demonstration farming center. The institute is devoted to advancing commercial urban farming in Boston through land development, technical training, and education of urban farming professionals.

Rehabilitation plans include land and open areas cultivated for local food; classrooms for educational programs and a residence for an on-site farm manager in the historic house; an education/training center that will promote urban farming knowledge with classrooms, a demonstration kitchen and offices in the carriage barn for both farmers in training and public programs about farming and food production; a greenhouse to extend the New England growing season; and a farm stand with fresh produce.

The project will be funded partially through state historic tax credit and federal historic tax credit proceeds. Several area foundations and public agencies have committed $1.45 million to the project to date. These include the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund, Barbara and Amos Hostetter, The Trust for Public Land, the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development, the Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund, the George B. Henderson Foundation, The 1772 Foundation, the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, the Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust, the Clipper Ship Foundation, the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, and the Paul and Edith Babson Foundation.