His old Army house: Curator restoring Fort Revere officers' quarters
By LANE LAMBERT | The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass. | Published: June 17, 2017
HULL, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — Larry Seaboyer would be the first to say the century-old officers' quarters house at Fort Revere is in bad shape. When the property's new curator moved into the state-owned house a couple of weeks ago, he and his son had to remove a raccoon family from the attic. They had to sweep years of dust from the rooms and off the unused furniture. He's still fixing leaks in the out-of-date plumbing.
But Seaboyer, a National Park Service preservationist, sees the 1903 Army residence as it was when the first officers and their families moved in. He aims to have it fully restored to its original appearance – right down to architecturally accurate wallpaper, stairwell balusters and window frames – in a few years.
"It will look like it did on day one," he said.
The state Department of Conservation and Recreation chose Seaboyer, a longtime Hull resident, earlier this year.
He is one of 24 curators statewide to have been granted leases for such projects. Most of the other leases are also for residences.
Seaboyer won't get any state funding for his work, but he does have the lease, which runs for 25 years. He will live in the house for free.
He's also counting on private donations and volunteers, and he can rent out the other side of the two-family house to help cover the costs. For now, his son, who's a carpenter, is living there.
Seaboyer will continue to work full time as a National Park Service facilities manager and preservationist, so he'll be tending to the Fort Revere house on evenings and weekends.
"I have two full-time jobs," he said, only half-joking.
The state hopes to reopen the house and a small museum inside to visitors. Unsafe conditions prompted the state to close the building in 2013.
Per the lease, Seaboyer will open the house to visitors at least a couple of times a year, even while work is underway.
Seaboyer's restoration won't include the adjoining town-owned park acreage. Hull has been pursuing a land swap with the state for years – the Department of Conservation and Recreation would take Fort Revere in exchange for a Nantasket Beach parcel – but the state says the town must first make an expensive set of improvements to the entrance road and old concrete artillery emplacements.
As unsettled as things are inside the house, Seaboyer pointed to an array of original features – from untouched tin ceilings to original steam radiators. A pair of tiled fireplaces sit at a 45-degree angle at the corner of the dining room and front room. Elegant cabinets have sliding panels that allow food to be passed in and out. One of the silver steam heaters opens up to warming trays.
"This is high-end stuff," Seaboyer said of the carpentry and fixtures.
He has the original building plans to guide his work, as well as photos and documents from an identical former Army residence of the same era. (That house, in Seattle, was converted to condos.)
Like Fort Revere, the Hull house has been something of a stepchild since the Army decommissioned the entire site in 1947 and sold the house to a private developer. Seaboyer said two other residences once stood on either side of the house. Now there's no trace of them.
A subdivision sprouted around the former fort, and the house was rented out to a succession of tenant families until the state bought it in 1990. The former Metropolitan District Commission and then the Department of Conservation and Recreation used it as a sometimes-residence, catch-all office space and museum.
The house has functional kitchens and usable upstairs rooms, but the extent of repair and restoration would be daunting to a typical carpenter. Not to Seaboyer, though.
"This is my passion," he said. "I'm energized by this."
Now 67, the Dorchester native was a contractor for decades. He bought and renovated what he called "distressed properties," in addition to doing more typical house jobs. He has worked for the National Park Service for the past 10 years. Along with supervising preservation at Boston-area sites, he leads historical workshops for National Park Service personnel and volunteers across the country. Now he has brought his expertise to an attraction everyone agrees is neglected.
"It's about the fort and the town enjoying it," Seaboyer said. "It's going to be a sweet place."
©2017 The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.
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