Want to showcase your special house? DHS offers one way

An example of the oval historic marker now available through the Dorchester Historical Society.

Do you live in a historic house? If so, the Dorchester Historical Society is offering you a new way to showcase it.

In an effort to celebrate the rich architectural heritage of Dorchester and Mattapan, the Society has set up a historic marker program for older homes in the community.

If a property meets the criteria for recognition and its documentation has been confirmed, the homeowner can purchase an attractive oval marker to affix to the house that will include the year of construction, the DHS name, and – if desired – the name of the architect, the original owner, or a resident of historic significance.

“Markers like these spark interest in local history and can call attention to historic preservation efforts,” said DHS President Earl Taylor. “Easily visible to the public, they reflect the importance a community places on its heritage,” he added.

To be considered for a marker, a house must have been built at least 100 years ago and must have essentially retained the integrity of its original design and construction, though additions and alterations would not necessarily be cause for exclusion.

A house built less than 100 years ago would also be considered if it embodied the distinctive characteristics of a particular architectural style, or if a past occupant made a significant contribution to local, regional, or national history, culture, or the arts.

Marti Glynn, a DHS board member, told the Reporter that a program of this kind has been in the works for years. “This has been something that people have discussed on the board for some time, and to me it always seemed like a really good idea,” she said. “I have an old house, many of us in Dorchester have old houses, but people don’t know a lot about their old houses. We thought this would be a good way to acknowledge the history here in the neighborhood and get people interested in learning more about where they live.”

Glynn added that the program is designed to be open to all residents, regardless of what type of home they live in – as long as it’s old enough.

“We wanted to make it affordable, and we wanted to be sure that those qualifications were not so rigid that only pristine, lavish Victorian houses would qualify. The iconic three-decker is absolutely a house we want to reach out to the homeowners about and illuminate some of its history. As long as you can identify the original design, we would consider it for a marker.”

Homeowners may submit their own research on their houses to DHS for consideration. Primary sources such as deeds, building permits, and architectural drawings are required in order to establish the history of a house and qualify it for a marker. Photos, letters, diaries, and other memorabilia relating to the house or its occupants can expand on its history but don’t replace the key documents.

DHS also offers research to homeowners to assist in the documentation of a property’s history. For $60, a trained volunteer will provide two hours of research that will focus on determining the date of construction and the original owner and may also yield other interesting information.

Additional research, at $30 an hour, may be arranged to probe more deeply into the history of the house for details such as previous occupants, the architect, or changes made to the house or the property over time. A written report will be provided to the homeowner to document the research and its findings.

The house markers, which are being offered at $130, measure 9 inches high by 14.75 inches wide, with a graceful cove molding at the edge. Made of weather-resistant PVC and painted a cream color with black lettering, the design is compatible with every style of house.

Proceeds from the marker program will support the Society’s programming and conservation efforts.

“In the last few weeks, we have done a lot of testing, researching houses, and the homeowner is always excited by what we find,” said Glynn. “Every house is different, every story is different.”

The marker program is completely voluntary and does not imply or impose any restrictions on the property. Detailed information about the program and house research services is available on the DHS website, dorchesterhistoricalsociety.org, or by calling 617-293-3052.