by eila in Accessibility, Announcements, Civic Action, Civil and Human Rights, Development and Zoning, Housing, Neighborhoods and Squares, Public Records / FOIA Requests, Ward 5
Posted on September 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm
Although the City of Somerville is well aware that the Armory facility is still inaccessible at the entrance ramp, the Mayor continues to hold important events and meetings here.
The health Department’s launch of the Well Being of Somerville Report 2011 was released at the Armory last week; and, on September 27, from 6 – 9 pm, the City plans to sponsor a (HUD-funded) Housing Symposium here.
The Armory’s accessible ramp was slated for completion by June 15, 2011.
Yet, in August, 2011, the owner and architect presented yet another design plan to the State Architectural Access Board with the statement, “These changes are an amended solution from the previous request of 4 May. We were not able to make the modifications at that time because of objections from the Somerville Historical Commission.“
The new design retains excessively steep and hazardous ramp conditions, albeit slightly less steep.
The Somerville Historic Preservation Commission’s Minutes for May 17, 2011 show that the Armory’s Architect presented their request to be heard at that meeting after the official posting of theAgenda. The Minutes indicate that the Architect did not adequately guide the Commissioners to fully understand just how much of a hazard that steep ramp is for people with balance, ambulatory, mobility and other physical disabilities. The minutes describe a portion of the discussion as follows:
“Noting that the Armory is one of the most distinctive buildings in the City and that the drawbridge ramp is a character-defining feature of the castle, its alteration would not be desirable.”
above: ”Somerville Armory Exterior View” found online at a beautiful wordpress blog called “Soldier’s Mail, Letters Home From a Yankee Doughboy 1916-1919.” The URI to TrackBack this entry is: http://worldwar1letters.wordpress.com/the-adventure-unfolds/watchful-waiting-1917/trackback/
What exactly are the specific historic materials, features and design elements that must be preserved on that “drawbridge ramp” ? Does the excessive slope honestly add precious historic value to this building?
The sweet online booklet produced by the City of Somerville Historic Preservation Commission, ”A Historic Tour of Somerville ” tells us that the Armory was constructed in 1903 to house the Somerville Light Infantry of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. On page 7 is a relatively recent photo of the Armory pre-construction, by Patricia DiPasquale.
Nowadays, we’re not using this facility as a drill hall, a men’s club, a place for storing munitions, a place to help the men readjust to a cold climate and be checked out for typhus. No cannons are being wheeled up that ramp at a run.
It seems that, at the design phase there was certainly a moment of opportunity to reconstruct a less steep ramp, and one that wouldn’t be hazardous for the confidence and comfort of thousands of people to come in the future.
Below are two photos from 2010.
Above: a close-up of the Armory’s currently inaccessible entrance at the door, with the 21st century intercom and other 21st century fixtures that were added to make this building functional.
Above: a full view of the Armory building today. We can see what an incredible job the designers did, in imitating the original building, while still making it a 21st century facility.
SInce the Architect first claimed that the City’s DPW Department refused to allow the owner to raise the sidewalk, and then stated that the Historic Commission is obstructing the completion of an accessible design, a FOIA request has been submitted via MuckRock, to try to gather more information about what is holding up the capacity of this facility’s owners to allow people with balance and mobility–related disAbilities to join in the fun.
Surely, exclusion and segregation don’t need to be preserved at the Somerville Armory any longer.