Boston – Bruner/Cott Architects recently completed The Speedway, a mixed-use transformation of a 19th-century trotting horse stable and metropolitan park police station and jail on the Charles River. The firm worked alongside the not-for-profit developer, Architectural Heritage Foundation (AHF), to preserve and revitalize the endangered complex to stimulate community growth and economic development.
A Boston Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was originally constructed in 1899 by the Metropolitan Park Commission as a headquarters to support a new parkway along the river. The stables and park offices supported a race track for bicycle and trotting races. The overall composition is characteristic of its architect William D. Austin’s work for the Metropolitan Parks Commission; an irregular roofline connects six shingle-style buildings, creating a single-story courtyard, highlighted by arched gable entrances, porches, double hung windows, and elaborate wood trim. Following the Park Commission’s tenancy, the facility housed the now-defunct Metropolitan District Commission Police. Beginning in 2005, the facility was largely abandoned. Portions of the buildings were beginning to decay, and one section suffered a serious fire.
Bruner/Cott’s design approach to preservation included removal of piecemeal garage extensions at historic stable frontages and the reconstruction of lost features including wooden carriage access, sliding barn doors, and an extensive series of carefully restored and replicated windows. Original building entrances within the sloping site placed doors at different levels, and a new raised platform for performers united these via an unobtrusive wooden ramp. Interior plaster was so damaged by fire and rain that it was removed entirely to add insulation. Fieldstone foundations were reinforced with concrete and repointed. Stables and a 1940 concrete garage were fitted with recessive glazed fronts and overhead doors to make strong connections to outdoor gathering spaces.
Now, as a new gateway to the Allston-Brighton neighborhood, the complex supports a diverse tenant mix including small retail shops and soon-to-open food vendors, a publicly-accessible community courtyard, a flexible event space at Garage B, and anchor tenant Notch Brewing’s biergarten and brewery.