By Seth Daniel
It was a patient exercise for the former medical professional, but one by one over the last two years Charlestown’s Rob Dinsmore was able to compile a digital record of the oldest and most historic homes in the Town.
At a gala event in Boston at the Old Station House, an event that kicked off Preservation Month in Boston, Dinsmore was recognized for his effort by The Bostonian Society and the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC). It was the one of the first Citizen Preservation Awards ever given by the BLC to a resident volunteer, said Joe Cornish of the BLC.
Dinsmore lives on Main Street and, though he was a radiologist at Mass General for years, he said he had a keen interest in architecture and preservation.
“I had this long time interest in architectural beauty even thought it’s not my profession,” he said after collecting his away on Monday night. “A few years ago, I learned from my neighbor that she and her late husband had done a lot of work in Charlestown years ago on preservation. Their project had been done in the 1980s and it was a survey of Charlestown architecture. Another researcher, Dick Gordon, an architectural historian, had gone house by house in great detail, but the existing materials were handwritten and weren’t very accessible. What I thought is that these should be digitized and edited to make the narrative better and overall made more accessible. I decided to do that. I’m not a technology person, but I upgraded my computer and got some (dictation) software…It’s been a real slog, but I’ve enjoyed doing it.”
Dinsmore, since retiring two years ago, ventured into the BLC offices at Boston City Hall every Wednesday to digitize the records and edit the narratives on the homes and buildings.
In the spring and fall, when the leaves were off the trees, he went out to the various homes and buildings and re-photographed them in order to update the visual record as well.
Dinsmore said it was an enormous amount of material that he sifted through, updated and digitized. There is information on the buildings themselves, the architects, the builders, descriptions of streets, who owned the area when it was pasture, who laid out the streets and when, and other pertinent historic information.
Now, after his patient efforts, they are all accessible and incorporated into one record.
Dinsmore said Charlestown is a great place for someone who has more than a passing interest in architecture. That, he said, is because things are preserved – not only by human hands, but simply by the nature of when things were built.
“Charlestown is an amazing place,” he said. “Things were built up between the 1800s and up to 1900 and the architecture endured through many styles. Around 1900 the building ended and stopped…We have left here a perfect Century of architectural evolution, which is wonderful. I hope to do some more with that material.”
For his part, Dinsmore knows a little bit about restoration and preservation himself.
Having moved to Charlestown’s Thompson Square in 1973, he had a home that needed a lot of work, much like the other homes in the Town back then.
“I bought an old house, learned a little bit about plumbing and learned how to sand a wooden floor,” he said. “I already knew painting and carpentry, so I started to work on it until I finished.”
Dinsmore said he hopes the information he’s digitized can help other researchers and his own future projects.
He was accompanied to the event by other Charlestown preservationists, including Rosemary Kverek and former Charlestown Preservation Society President (now living in the Back Bay) Nick Kraman.