Thursday, September 11, 2008

Northern Ave Tender House to Be Demolished

Half of Northern Avenue Bridge tender’s house set for demolition
By Scott Van Voorhis | Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is it an important piece of city history or a rundown shack on a crumbling pier in Boston Harbor?

That’s the debate as City Hall moves ahead with plans to demolish part of the “tender’s house” next to the rusting, old Northern Avenue Bridge on Fort Point Channel.

The boarded up and rambling structure served for nearly a century as a home for the keepers of the rotating swingbridge - who had to be available, night and day, to let ships through.

Now city officials, saying the structure has become dangerously unsound after some pilings collapsed, are moving ahead with plans to demolish about half of it and mothball the other. Plans are also being drafted to renovate the bridge and raise it up so it no longer has to rotate to let ships through.

The decision to spare part of the bridge tender’s house comes amid an outcry by some residents in the Fort Point neighborhood.

“This is one of the last vestiges of the working waterfront,” said Michael Tyrrell of the Fort Point Neighborhood Assocation.

In a key step, the Boston Landmarks Commission voted Tuesday to approve the partial demolition, but with a string of conditions. City officials will have to ensure the structure is throroughly photographed and documented before demolition begins, likely early next week, among other things.

Where some see an unsightly shack, supporters of the tender’s house see a link to a time when the harbor was full of ships and the waterfront was teeming with sailors and fishermen, not luxury condos.

But the tender’s house in recent years fell into disrepair. The modern-day bridge keepers - recently a source of controversy after being photographed by the Herald grilling and watching TV while on the clock - now operate out of an air-conditioned trailer on the bridge’s deck.

“This is demolition by neglect,” said Valerie Burns, a Fort Pont resident.

However, city officials say they also care about the quirky tender’s house and are scrambling to save all they can of it. The partial demolition will cost about $100,000. The impending demolition was first reported by Banker & Tradesman.

“Personallly, I would like to err on the side of caution than to tear something down that can’t easily be replaced,” said Robert Rottenbucher, the city’s chief engineer.

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