April 02, 2009
The Cambridge Historical Commission’s Cambridge Preservation Recognition Program selected the restoration of 1637 Massachusetts Avenue, Baker Hall and 3 Mellen Street, now law school student residences, for a Preservation Award, in March.
The newly renovated buildings all predate Hastings Hall by more than a decade. They have housed a variety of tenants over the past 150 years, including two generations of Middlesex County medical examiners, a Nobel Laureate’s economic research center and even horses. Commissioned as private residences in the mid-1870s, the three houses were originally located on contiguous lots on Massachusetts Avenue, among the 69 mansions that once fronted the avenue.
In June 2007, to make way for the law school’s Northwest Corner Project, all three were hoisted onto platforms supported by hydraulic dollies, then rolled 150 yards up the street to their current location at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Mellen Street. (View slideshow)
The buildings’ exteriors were preserved, including original windows and clapboards, but their interiors—which had been redesigned multiple times over the years—were gutted and converted to 21 new housing units for HLS students. 1637 Mass. Ave., the largest of the three wood-frame houses (photo right), was refurbished to include 11 apartments, ranging from single and double studios to one two-bedroom apartment. It has served many purposes at Harvard, and was the Ukrainian Research Institute before its move.
Baker Hall, a Victorian era house, contains seven bedrooms, a large first-floor kitchen and living room, a stained glass window in the stairwell and rich woodwork throughout. It had recently housed the Law School’s Alumni Center and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
3 Mellen Street, formerly Baker Hall’s carriage house, now includes three bedrooms with private baths and a spacious open living room and kitchen.
Large pieces of the granite slabs that originally supported the houses’ foundations were sliced and veneered onto the new foundations, and remaining 2x2 granite pieces now decorate the plaza in the new location.
Last fall, the new buildings opened their doors to 26 law school students, winners of the on-campus housing lottery, who became the first to move into the newest—and oldest—residences at the law school.
An award ceremony and reception to present the preservation award will be held on May 21 at the Old Cambridge Baptist Church. The program will include before-and-after slide presentations for each project receiving an award.