Support the permanent protection of H. H. Richardson and J. C. Olmsted homes

Oct 12, 2021

Historic house with light blue/gray paint and a mansard roof
J. C. Olmsted Home, Warren Street, Brookline, Mass.

For more than twenty years, preservation groups, architects, historians, and community members have worked to ensure a long-term future for the home and office of renowned architect H. H. Richardson in Brookline, Massachusetts. In December 2020, Historic New England joined with hundreds of others from across the U.S. and abroad to advocate to delay the proposed demolition of the Richardson house and the neighboring home of landscape architect John Charles Olmsted.

In the intervening months, the Brookline Preservation Commission has taken steps to establish a Thematic Local Historic District that would recognize and provide some protection for these two highly significant historic places, as well as the legacy of the Richardson and Olmsted firms.

About the Thematic Local Historic District

In addition to the houses at 25 Cottage Street and 222 Warren Street, the proposed district includes Fredrick Law Olmsted’s home, Fairsted, John Charles Olmsted’s earlier home at 16 Warren Street, and H. H. Richardson and Julia Gorham Richardson’s grave site in Walnut Hill Cemetery.

The proposed Local Historic District will ensure that the properties will not be razed and that the Brookline Preservation Commission will review any changes to elements visible to the public, making sure they are sensitive to the historic character of the homes while still allowing them to be adapted to modern needs. In order for the district to be established, Warrant Article 20 must be approved by a 2/3 vote of Brookline Town Meeting in November.

H. H. Richardson Home, Cottage Street, Brookline, Mass.

Historic New England strongly supports Warrant Article 20 and the establishment of the Olmsted-Richardson Thematic Local Historic District.

Brookline’s nine existing historic districts currently protect only a few hundred irreplaceable historic properties, but include a variety of housing types, from single-family and two-family homes to multi-family apartments. As the Boston Metro area grapples with the challenges of providing sufficient housing, preservation of existing housing of a variety of types and scales is an important part of the solution. The proposed district would add an additional three modestly sized private homes to the total protected and would catalyze the rehabilitation and use of the Richardson house, which has been vacant for far too long.

More importantly, the district will protect the international historic and cultural significance of Richardson and Olmsted, and recognize that the public benefit of preserving these places is vastly superior to allowing their replacement with potentially larger and more expensive, culturally sterilized, modern single-family houses.

Make Your Voice Heard

Strong public support is the only way to ensure the long-term preservation of the H. H. Richardson and John Charles Olmsted houses. If a local historic district is not established, the current owner could legally demolish the houses in 2022. We encourage you to send comments in support of Warrant Article 20 and the establishment of Olmsted-Richardson Thematic Local Historic District. Two key public hearings will consider the issue, prior to the Town Meeting vote: