North End seeks landmark lifeline
Locals want Nazzaro center safe from development
North End residents are pushing for landmark status for the beloved Nazzaro Community Center — a former bath house and haven for immigrants that later turned into a youth and families center — after a development scare that didn’t end until the mayor himself spoke up to say the city had no plans to sell the building.
“The goal of landmarking the building is to ensure that it’s preserved, no matter who’s in office,” said Kirsten Hoffman, a North End resident and member of the Save the Nazzaro Coalition. “And no matter what the political climate is, we think that this is a building that’s worthy of longterm preservation.”
“I never ever said that we’re selling the Nazzaro Center building property,” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh assured residents in an interview with NorthEndWaterfront.com. “We’re not in the habit of selling our property, at least under my administration.”
On Tuesday, the building will have a preliminary hearing in front of the Landmarks Commission. Hoffman, who is a part of the commission herself, said North End residents are tied to the building, and hope to erase any chance of removing it in the future.
“It’s much more than the history behind it,” she said. “It was a bathhouse in the early 1900s, but it was actually used as a bathhouse until the 70s. So a lot of the neighbors, who have lived in this neighborhood for a long time remember using the building as a bathhouse themselves. Or their parents or grandparents used it. A lot of people have very fond memories of this building.”
Rosemary McAuliffe, 91, another resident nearby the center on North Bennet Street, agrees.
“We want to save the Nazzaro Center,” she said. “It’s so useful. So many organizations use it and it’s so accessible. And maybe the interior could be upgraded a bit, but why can’t we just do that?”
Residents first became concerned about the center’s future following a city meeting with consultants last October where the idea of selling the center was floated as an option in response to its limited space and growing population. The building was also appraised, further worrying locals.
“This is sort of a personal thing happening,” said Pam Donnaruma, the publisher of the Post Gazette, which operates on Prince St. in the North End. “They keep chipping away and taking things away. We want to keep the North End the way it is — a neighborhood.”
Walsh has committed to renovating and expanding the Nazzarro Center at its existing site, or moving activities to another location which could involve building a new facility. The city began looking at options in 2017 and is has narrowed down the options to three potential sites: the existing Nazzaro Center, the Mirabella Pool site and the Sargent’s Wharf site.
Walsh said the goal would be to have a community center with about 41,000 square feet available about double the space available at the Nazzaro Center currently. The result, Walsh said, is groups often have to meet in the hallways and a lack of dedicated space for teens or seniors.
“That’s why regular visitors to the center have asked me to explore options for renovating or relocating the center to house a bigger space and expanded programming,” he wrote in a column in NorthEndWaterfront.com.
“I certainly don’t want to see it demolished or sold,” added North End resident Chapin Mechem.
On Sunday, Walsh declined to comment on whether he supports a landmark status for the building while it goes through the process with the commission.
PIECE OF HISTORY: A plaque dedicated to Ferdinand Carangelo near the entrance of the Nazzaro Community Center, which was a bathhouse for the community from the early 1900s through the ’70s, according to Hoffman.
RESIDENTS’ RALLY: Kirsten Hoffman, a North End resident and member of the Save the Nazzaro Coalition, is hoping the Nazzaro Community Center in North End, below left, is landmarked to protect it from development inquiries.