Mayor Wu Signs Designation of BCYF Nazzaro Community Center as Landmark
Today, Mayor Wu joined State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, City Councilor Gabriela Coletta, Director of Historic Preservation Murray Miller, and the North End community to sign the designation of the BCYF Nazzaro Community Center in the North End as a Boston Landmark. Landmark designations recognize and protect a physical feature or improvement which in whole or part has historical, cultural, social, architectural, or aesthetic significance. Now signed by the Mayor, the designation will be finalized with the Boston City Council’s approval. In January, Mayor Wu announced that a new community center will be built in the North End. The Nazzaro building will stay a community center while the new center is being built.
“For decades the Nazarro has served as a public space to build community for North End residents of all ages,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “As we mark the official landmark designation of this historic treasure, we are excited to preserve and thank the many generations of leaders who have made this center so special, and look forward to creating a brand new space for community members to enjoy for decades to come.”
In 2022, Chairman Aaron Michlewitz allocated $20 million in state funding to the City of Boston for the construction of a new North End Community Center and $5 million for the rehabilitation of the current Nazzaro Community Center for the future use by a non-profit. This funding was contingent upon the current Nazzaro building being designated as a Boston Landmark. The designation process of the Nazzaro Community Center was initiated in 2019 after a petition was submitted by registered voters to the Boston Landmarks Commission. The Boston Landmarks Commission approved the designation during their September meeting.
“For decades, the Nazzaro Center has been an invaluable asset to our North End community,” said State Representative Aaron Michlewitz. “This Landmarks designation is a crucial step in assuring it will remain so for decades to come.”
The City of Boston engaged in a community process from 2017 to 2019 to envision a new community center in the North End. The result was the recommendation to build a new community center next to the Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) Mirabella outdoor pool on Commercial Street and repurpose the existing BCYF Nazzaro building for community uses. The Nazzaro will stay open until the new community center is complete. In the coming years, as the new community center enters construction, the City will engage with the North End community about the future of the Nazzaro building.
The Nazzaro Community Center opened in 1910. Designed in 1903 by the Boston-based architectural firm Maginnis, Walsh and Sullivan, the building is an example of early 20th century Beaux-Arts Renaissance Revival Style architecture with its detailed ornamentation indicative of the Arts and Crafts movement. The City of Boston constructed the building as one of 12 municipally run bathhouses in response to a public health policy implemented in 1895, which sought to address the effects of industrialization, urbanization, and poverty by providing public access to bathing and recreational facilities. The bathhouse operated until the 1970s when it was officially closed. In 1985, the Boston Centers for Youth & Families acquired the building and reopened it as the Nazzaro Community Center. The building was renamed after State Representative Michael A. Nazzaro Jr., a WWII veteran and lifelong resident of the North End who advocated against urban renewal efforts in the neighborhood. Nazarro also successfully passed legislation at the State House to end the practice of insurance redlining in the community.
“The Office of Historic Preservation is committed to protecting and preserving Boston’s history,” said Murray Miller, Director of the Office of Historic Preservation. “Today represents an important milestone for the Nazzaro Center, the community, and the City of Boston. Our office applauds the partnership that serves the purpose and process of this designation.”
Last year, Mayor Wu and the Boston City Council designated eight new historic designations and Highland Park as an Architectural Conservation District, the largest number in one year since 1983. Since the beginning of 2023, the City has designated four new landmarks. Any 10 registered Boston voters can petition the Boston Landmarks Commission to designate a historic neighborhood, building, landscape, or object as a protected Boston Landmark or District. Local historic districts carry the ability to regulate change in historic neighborhoods, unlike National Register districts, which advocate for their protection. You can learn more about designating a landmark in Boston by emailing BLC@boston.gov.
Additionally, Mayor Wu created the new Office of Historic Preservation, which falls under the Environment, Energy and Open Space Cabinet, on July 1, 2022. The Office of Historic Preservation works to ensure that Boston’s history is inclusive, honest, and elevates every community to have the tools and resources to research, preserve, acknowledge, and celebrate their history. The new office includes the Boston Landmarks Commission, the City Archaeology Program, and the Commemoration Commission. There are over 8,000 properties designated as individual Landmarks or located within Boston’s local historic districts. Preserving historic structures supports the City’s carbon neutrality and zero waste goals by preserving the upfront embodied carbon, which is the energy it took to harvest, manufacture, and ship building materials that make up these properties.