Downtown Boston Has Become One of the State’s Most Endangered Historic Resources

Preservation Massachusetts warns the city's 'Ladder Blocks' are at risk.

If you’re afraid downtown Boston is losing its character, consider your fears confirmed.

Preservation Massachusetts has released its annual list of historic properties and places that face the threat of being lost to time. The historic preservation advocacy organization named seven properties to Massachusetts’ “Most Endangered Historical Resources” list, including what’s called “Ladder Blocks Boston.”

According to the organization, the Ladder Blocks make up a section of downtown Boston that stretches from Boylston Street to School Street between Tremont and Washington Streets. The area, which resembles a ladder, is divided by roads like Bromfield Street, Winter Street, and Avery Street—these streets make up the rungs of the ladder.

The Ladder Blocks are teeming with notable examples of 18th- and 19th-century architecture. The area is a time capsule of sorts, serving as the city’s commercial center long before cars drove on its roads. With a surge of new large-scale developments adjacent to the Ladder Blocks (Millennium Tower comes to mind), Preservation Massachusetts says the neighborhood’s historic character is at risk of being lost. Since the area is not a historic district, the historic buildings within the Ladder Blocks are not protected in any way.

Preservation Massachusetts seeks to maintain the Ladder Block’s character and charm without compromising the area’s reputation as a hot spot for businesses and restaurants—it’ll start by looking at new developments as well as highlighting potential renovations for the neighborhood’s historic buildings.

“The Most Endangered Historic Resources Program has become an effective tool for preservationists to focus statewide attention on the condition of individual historic properties and their importance to communities,” said Jim Igoe, executive director for Preservation Massachusetts, in a statement.

Since Preservation Massachusetts was created in 1993, more than 140 historic sites have been designated as endangered. Less than 20 of those sites have been lost because of the organization’s efforts.

The six other properties named to the Endangered Historic Resource List this year are Usen Castle in Waltham, Knox Automobile Factory in Springfield, Sea Captain’s Row in Hyannis, the Cape Cod National Seashore in Truro, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Worcester, Notre Dame des Canadiens Church in Worcester.