City Council approves $100,000 recommendation for Powder House

City Council approves $100,000 recommendation for Powder House

Another $125,000 from state now in prospect

  • Posted on: 17 September 2013
  • By: mholbrow

The City Council has approved a recommendation by the Community Preservation Act (CPA) Committee to allocate $100,000 towards repair of the 1818 powder magazine at Magazine Beach, according to a press release (see below) issued this afternoon by Cathie Zusy, Chair of the Cambridge Neighborhood Association's Magazine Beach Committee. The vote makes the project eligible for a 2 to 1 matching fund from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

The Community Preservation Act, approved by Cambridge voters in 2001, allows towns and cities to levy a community-wide property tax surcharge of up to 3 percent to create a local Community Preservation Fund and qualify for state matching funds. The money must be used for open space, historic buildings, and affordable housing, according to the city’s website.

-----------------Press Release:-------------------
City Council Approves CPA Recommendation
to Allocate $100,000 to the Powder Magazine

Last night the Cambridge City Council unanimously approved the CPA Committee’s recommendation to allocate $100,000 towards repair of the 1818 Powder Magazine at Magazine Beach. Stabilizing this building—restoring the roof, re-pointing the masonry, restoring the windows and doors, and adding security lighting—are essential next steps to prepare the building for its next use. In 1818 it was erected to store gunpowder safely, a half mile from settlement. In 1899 the Olmsted Brothers converted it into a bathhouse when bathers flocked to the Charles River to swim. Ideas for its next use include it becoming a concession and meeting area that is welcoming, celebrates Cambridge’s diversity, and that sells healthy, affordable food.

Cambridge Historical Commission Director Charles Sullivan said, “This is a major win for historic preservation in Cambridge. The powder magazine is one of the oldest buildings on the Charles River Basin and, for decades, has begged for attention.”

In a June 20, 2013 letter to the CPA Committee, new DCR Commissioner Jack Murray, proposed to share the cost of stabilizing the structure with Cambridge. If the City contributed $100,000 towards this work, he promised to “provide the balance of funding,” which is estimated at about $125,000.

This is the second time the City has allocated CPA funds towards the Powder Magazine. In 2011 they dedicated $25,000 to help fund an Historic Structure Report and to help fund roof repairs. This money was matched two-to-one by DCR. The Historic Structure Report was presented to the community this past May and is due out in the coming month. It will serve to guide all future preservation efforts for the magazine.

Representative Jay Livingstone was present at last night’s hearing to encourage the Council to support the powder magazine repairs. The Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, which has led this initiative, has been advocating for improvements to the park since November 2010, when they held their first cleanup. Since then they have partnered with the Charles River Conservancy and the Riverside Boat Club and have organized many cleanups, celebrations, tours, exhibits, and even films. The CNA has also raised about $13,000—from over 100 individual donors—to benefit this project. The CNA is awaiting news of a DCR match for this. (This money will also go to powder magazine stabilization.)

Cathie Zusy, Chair of CNA’s Magazine Beach Committee, emphasized at the Council meeting that:
1. Magazine Beach Park and its powder magazine are a resource for the City. At 15-acres, it is Cambridge’s second largest park and it is a riverside park;
2. This isn't just a beautification or historic preservation project, but a social justice one. For generations, families without the means to vacation else where, have picnicked there;
3. Improvements at Magazine Beach are not going to happen without Cambridge support. DCR, the State’s parks department, just doesn’t have the resources to do this.

For further information about Magazine Beach go to: or contact Cathie Zusy at 617-868-0489.