Watertown History

The Restoration/Preservation of the Edmund Fowle House in Study Phase

As we reported in the January 2005 issue of The Town Crier, the Historical Society of Watertown has been granted a $500,000 award for the Edmund Fowle House, which is listed in the State Register of Historic Places. This appropriation was largely due to the efforts of Senator Steven Tolman, a staunch supporter and advocate of historical sites in his districts. The project and distribution of funds are being overseen by the Mass. Historical Commission (MHC). The Building Restoration Committee (BRC), a nine member committee consisting of seven Historical Society Council Members and two previous Historical Society Presidents, are working closely with our representative at the MHC, Paul Holtz. Mr. Holtz holds the position of Historical Architect for the MHC.

The Building Restoration Committee, with the approval of the MHC, has chosen McGinley Kalsow & Associates LLP to work this project.

This architectural firm has been involved in the renovation and restoration of over 125 structures on the National Register of Historic Places. They have extensive experience with the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for Historic Properties” and a history of working with the Massachusetts Historical Commission on projects like ours, as well as with governing town and state entities. They have also won numerous Historic Preservation and Design Awards, including three for their work on the Commander’s Mansion on the Arsenal property.

A study of historic records and the existing building fabric began this summer and is still in progress at this time. Architectural Conservators, including a nationally renowned conservator of early American structures and a preservation carpenter, all engaged by McGinley Kalsow, have been looking under floor boards, baseboards, existing woodwork and wallpaper to see what lurks beneath. They will analyze different plasters, lathe characteristics, nails and paint samples to try to unravel the timeline of changes made to this historic structure.


Brick and wooden slats uncovered by the architectural
conservators behind the filled-in fireplace in the north parlor


We are hopeful that these studies will reveal where the Council Chamber was located when the Executive Council of the Second and Third Provincial Congress met here in 1775-1776. These studies will also help us to better understand the changes made to the house in its long history.

This study will be followed by an overall physical needs assessment this fall which will help us determine what must be done to make the building compliant to the Mass. State Building Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It will also take into consideration the needs of the Historical Society in regard to administration space, collection storage space, and museum viewing space.

Design development for the landscaping, exterior and interior of the Edmund Fowle House will begin at the end of this year.