Special Report: Curley House
This historic Boston estate is beautiful with gorgeous, well-trimmed grounds, a classic brick facade and an elegant, chandelier-graced interior.
Who owns this mansion? The City of Boston.
It’s the "James Michael Curley House" and it was once home to the legendary and controversial Boston mayor.
Boston bought the house in 1988.
"This home will be used as a cultural and ethnic center,” said former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn back then.
Bill Sullivan, Boston Resident: "I think anything with any historic significance is important and I think Mayor Curley has a tremendous amount of history tied in with the city,” said Boston resident Bill Sullivan.
But on most days, this Jamaica Plain property sits empty. We found in the last few years, it’s only been used 7 times.
While the home goes unused, the cost of upkeep keeps going up.
According to expense records: From 2007 through 2009, Boston spent more than $70,000 of taxpayer money maintaining the place.
Last year alone, Boston’s tax dollars paid a $23,000 gas bill.
Cleaning and minor repairs cost residents $12,000.
And $3500 in taxpayers’ money went to cover the electric bills.
In addition, during those three years, the city spent almost a quarter million dollars from a charitable trust on the mansion.
"It’s almost become a void for money because they don't really use it,” said Matthew Cahill, Executive Director of the City of Boston Finance Commission.
The man who heads the city's finance commission, responsible for monitoring the city's expenses, worries the Curley House is a financial drain the city can't afford anymore.
"When we start talking about layoffs and cuts to departments and services to the city, it doesn't make sense to have this type of an asset in the city rolls, and especially when it's costing so much money every year,” said Cahill.
Richard Dennis, Curley’s stepson, lived in the home for almost two decades.
"The main feature of it is this beautiful, beautiful oval dining room and huge hall, which rises all three levels, right up, with a beautiful chandelier hanging in it. I was always very happy here,” said Dennis.
He remembers when the house went up for sale 30 years ago.
"A young man who was a city councilor from Hyde Park named Tom Menino thought it would be too bad if this house was sold and became condos or was demolished and something else was built. And so he launched a campaign to see if the city would acquire it as a historic monument. Raymond Flynn was mayor at the time and, using a trust, agreed to buy it,” said Dennis.
Mayor Menino says he's proud of the property and will continue to protect it.
"That’s a part of Boston’s history and I’m not going to destroy part of Boston’s history,” Menino said.
As far as spending taxpayers’ money to maintain it, he says: "Most of that money is coming out of a trust fund, so I think it's worthwhile for us to do that. Now to maintain it, we use it occasionally for meetings and we'll continue to do that."
Richard is working with city officials and the Friends of the James Michael Curley House committee to try to start a non-profit organization to help offset some of the home’s expenses. He would like to create electronic exhibits and other kinds of exhibits, showing the history of James Michael Curley, and of the house, and what they meant to the city.
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