Mattapan landmark to be a farm once again

Clark FarmClark Farm
A historic Mattapan property – the Fowler-Clark farm on Norfolk Street – that was close to collapse in recent years will be fully restored and returned to its original use as a working farm under a new owner.

The property, which includes a main house and barn, was purchased by Historic Boston Inc. last June. The organization now intends to renovate the buildings and ready the surrounding land for cultivation in a $3.1 million project that will be formally unveiled in an event featuring Mayor Martin Walsh later this month.

Kathy Kottaridis, the executive director of Historic Boston, Inc., said that the main farmhouse will include a single housing unit for a caretaker and the house and barn will be fully restored after years of neglect. The organization will lease the property to the Urban Farming Institute, which will host programs that will let the public learn more about urban farming and the history of the farm itself. The institute will run a farm stand on the site and care for live planting beds along the front of the property.

“It won’t be a community garden,” said Kottaridis. “There will be a farmer on site who will manage the garden spaces that are growing and instruct people on how to care for their own backyard gardens.”

The house will also be available for rental for community events, according to Kottaridis, who said nearby residents who have attended open houses at the site in recent months called for such an amenity.

“The message was loud and clear that there was an interest in having a place where local residents could use for special events— and pay for a place to have a party,” she said. “So there will be some function space in the house and that will also help us to interpret the history of the site and learn about what an important remnant of Dorchester’s past this property is.”

The project should be completed by the fall-winter of 2017, according to Kottaridis, who said that the next nine months will be devoted to raising the estimated $1 million that is currently needed to fully fund the project.

The farmhouse, which was built at the turn of the 18th century, is one of the city’s last tangible links to a now-distant agrarian past. It was once part of a larger 330-acre estate. Designated as historic landmarks in 2006, the house and an adjacent barn have since been boarded up by city inspectors worried that squatters would destroy the buildings through vandalism or fire.

In August 2013, the city took the unusual step of seizing control of the 30,000- square-foot site from its then-owner, the Epstein family estate, triggering a legal battle. The city said it had to step in to prevent the property’s “demolition by neglect.”

In addition to the Urban Farming Institute, key partners in the restoration project include The Trust for Public Land and North Bennet Street School, a Boston-based carpentry school that trains students in historic preservation projects. The school was instrumental in the recent restoration of Dorchester’s First Parish Church.

The public is invited to a ceremony on Mon., Sept. 28 at the farm to get an up-close tour of the site, which is located at 487 Norfolk St. in Mattapan. A group photo is planned with Mayor Walsh during the event, which will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect date for the tour of the property. It will be held on Sept. 28, not Sept. 20.)

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