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HBI's Historic Fowler Clark Epstein Farm Wins Preservation Award

BOSTON, MA — The Fowler Clark Epstein Farm, the oldest farm still in existence in Boston, restored and revived by Historic Boston Inc. 2017, is a winner of The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2020 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Award, recognizing one of the best preservation projects in the United States.

The award is “the nation’s most coveted and prestigious awards bestowed on historic preservation efforts that demonstrate excellence in preservation practice and partnerships, as well as a transformative impact on the vitality of their communities,” the National Trust said in a media release.

“The Fowler Clark Epstein Farm’s turnaround is a victory for the Mattapan neighborhood and demonstrates the value of historic preservation to our city’s neighborhoods,” said Kathy Kottaridis, HBI’s Executive Director. “The leadership of the mayor, the partnership of nonprofit organizations, and the massive contributions of contractors and donors transformed this place into a neighborhood anchor.”

The Fowler Clark Epstein Farm was honored for its innovative adaptive re-use and partnerships and is a rare surviving Federal period farmstead, now serving as a residence, greenhouse, space for educational courses, and productive urban farmland. Historic Boston Inc. purchased the property in 2015 after it was the subject of litigation between the Epstein estate and the City of Boston over “demolition by neglect.”

“To develop a natural re-use for the site that satisfied both historic building preservation and contemporary needs for agricultural uses, a partnership among four nonprofit organizations evolved that brought the best of each’s expertise to the development and construction of this unique enterprise in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston,” the National Trust said.

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Historic Boston partnered with the Urban Farming Institute, the Trust for Public Land, and North Bennet Street School, working together to carry out the transformation of the distressed 18th century farmstead property.

“The result is a creative urban farming solution that proves the preservation field’s value to important community initiatives, such as reducing unemployment, increasing food access, and building new green space,” the National Trust said.

Fowler Clark farm has been managing the pandemic period successfully by creating and operating the UFI Virtual Farm Stand, which offers fall salad mix, parsley, chives, scallions, and about 20 other fresh items grown at its farms in Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury.

Other recipients of the award this year were a New Deal era health center updated into a medical facility and the Egyptian Revival-style headquarters of one of the largest Black-owned insurance firms, continuing its legacy of economic development.

The Driehaus Foundation National Preservation Awards are presented annually following a juried competition process. This year’s recipients were honored at the virtual National Preservation Awards ceremony.

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“We are excited to be able to support these National Trust awards, especially during a year that has presented unpredicted challenges for many of us,” said Anne Lazar, Executive Director of The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. “This year’s winners show the brilliance and breadth of architectural excellence and the deep commitment each winner has to preserving historical spaces, so they may be appreciated for generations to come.”

In addition to the Fowler Clark farm, this year’s winners included the Chelsea District Health Center in New York City. Honored for its reimagining of a crucial community medical center. It is was one of 14 New Deal era district health centers formed to bring care to underserved communities, and it now serves the same mission in an improved space.

A third winner is the Universal Life Insurance Company Building in Memphis, Tennessee, honored for its restoration of an architecturally unique site with a long tradition of community empowerment. The 1947 building was once home to the largest Black-owned business in Memphis and continues this legacy as an economic development resource for its diverse community. It was designed by the renowned African American architecture firm McKissack and McKissack.

“We are deeply honored to partner with the Driehaus Foundation to recognize outstanding projects that demonstrate historic preservation’s potent combination of architectural innovation, economic power, and cultural enrichment,” said Paul Edmondson, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This year’s recipients vividly demonstrate that activating historic places through partnerships and creativity supports the health and vitality of individuals and their communities across the country.”

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