Historical Commission Names Three for Preservation Awards

As most people know, the Weston Historical Commission is responsible for the preservation of Weston’s historic and architectural heritage.  With an eye toward keeping the look and feel of Weston’s neighborhoods, it is the job of the Historical Commission to review applications for building permits for all buildings built prior to 1945.  

In a bid to compete with the Oscar Awards (minus the slappage and weird outfits), the Historical Commission voted in 2020 to give awards to people who they feel have contributed exceptionally to the preservation or restoration of Weston’s architectural history.  These awards highlight projects where extra effort is made to preserve the architectural integrity of buildings that are part of the 300-year history of Weston.  Occasionally (okay, this is a spoiler alert), they will also recognize a person who has contributed to the preservation of history but is/was not necessarily involved in a particular building but rather a neighborhood or open space.

After a nearly two-year delay due to the pandemic, the first two awards have been presented–may I have the envelope please?

215 Boston Post Road in an early 1980s (pre-renovation) photo. Image credit.

For Best Preservation… of the Edward Fiske House– Steven Gaklis and Giovanna Bortolamedi

Stephen Gaklis and Giovanna Bortolamedi (working with Duckham Architecture and Northwoods Builders) win for their work and dedication to restoring the 1867 Edward Fiske House at 215 Boston Post Road.  A fact not learned on High School Quiz Show this weekend is that the assessment on this house when built was the highest in town for a residence.

Also not mentioned in the award write-up is that this is the Edward AND Adelaide Fiske house–Mrs. Fiske, who was from Maine and apparently was a servant at some point so the marriage was a SCANDAL in Weston– outlived her husband by quite a bit. Edward died in 1870 from tuberculosis shortly after the house was built–and she lived at least another two decades so was fully responsible for the house being worth saving. And building Historical Commission…please amend your award, thank you.

Here’s more about the project:

This elegant residence occupies a stylistic place in the continuum of stick style to Queen Anne, a relatively rare style in Weston. The interesting interlocking masses of the whole, and the complexities of intersecting hip roofs and inserted dormers yield a satisfying, balanced and rich composition.  The “stick” aspects of the exterior trim which picks out corners, windows, and bays and decorates the gable ends, are tasteful and relatively modest for the era. 

‘It is a credit to the owners, Steven and Giovanna, that they have recognized the special beauties of their house and are motivated to bring it back to its original form and finish,” said Henry Stone, Historical Commission member. “It is particularly wonderful that they are bringing back missing elements, such as porches, identified by their historical research assisted by Pam Fox.”

The Owl does not have a recent photo but promises to get one.

Posthumous award to Paul Penfield for his dedication to the creation of Weston’s portion of the Massachusetts Central Rail Trail

“Paul Penfield was tireless in his efforts to identify, recognize, and preserve historic elements and features of the old Central Mass Railroad, now the Mass Central Rail Trail, including significant participation in the ongoing campaign to save the derelict Weston Depot,” read the Historical Commission accolade.

As soon as the future Mass Central Rail Trail was announced, Paul spent innumerable hours on the tracks searching for and cataloging every extant rail rest post, mile stone, section marker, iron stringer cattle pass, rail top cattle pass, signal post, bridge, and telegraph pole.   He identified each by its GPS coordinates and nearest Eversource tower and then researched its historical function.  He led various groups of Weston residents, including Commission members and WFTA walkers along the route to educate them about these treasures.  He researched historical photographs and interviewed local railroad historians to learn as much as possible.  He reached out to Historic Commission members in nearby towns to inform them of the Weston artifacts and to help them discover artifacts along their Central Mass Railway routes.  He also worked with Weston Media Center to ensure they documented pre-construction conditions with photographs and video.  Finally, he authored several articles for the “Weston Town Crier” about this work, as well as more in-depth articles about the history of the Central Mass Railway for the Spring 2018 “Weston Historical Society Bulletin.”

Paul developed and nurtured contacts at DCR, Eversource and VHB Engineering (the civil engineers who designed the conversion from abandoned rail bed to finished trail) to ensure that Weston would become their partner in decision-making all through the process of the trail design.  This helped these entities understand and manage the town’s priorities, including making certain that the historic artifacts would remain protected before and throughout construction. As construction began, he accompanied archaeologists from PAL (Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc) as they marked each artifact in both Wayland and Weston with protective orange fencing and support stakes.  During construction he personally shored up this protection as needed. Paul attended almost all “tailgate construction meetings” as the representative from the Rail Trail Advisory Committee, ever mindful of conservation and historic goals. 

Paul founded the non-profit FLRT or Friends of the Legacy Rail Trail to assist with future fundraising and activities on the Mass Central Rail Trail in Weston. 

With Paul’s leadership, guidance, and impact, Weston’s portion of the Mass Central Rail Trail has been enhanced and the Historical Commission is grateful.

Paul Penfield passed away suddenly last year at the age of 88. You can read more about him in the Owl.

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