Outlier Lofts in Charlestown Has the Neighborhood in Its Bones

Designed by French 2D, the three floor-through lofts were built in the husk of a legendary Boston bar.

In Outlier Lofts, a recent revamp of a Boston town house, local studio French 2D inserted three open-plan loft apartments, relocated the structure’s original entryway, and added a new top level. Courtesy John Horner Photography

“We never meet the people who live in our spaces,” says Anda French, cofounder, with sister Jenny, of French 2D, an architectural studio based in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood that specializes in adaptive reuse. “Just like we won’t meet the people who once lived there, but they are always present.”

French 2D kept inhabitants past, present, and future in mind at Outlier Lofts, its latest project. The 19th-century structure, originally a two-family town house facing a row of potato-storage sheds along Charlestown’s now-filled-in central canal, lost its third floor in the 1960s to a fire that also consumed the adjacent sheds. It later housed Old Sully’s, a legendary neighborhood bar where local politicians held court for decades. The owners also ran a rooming house upstairs.

Old Sully’s closed in 2017, and later that year the new owner, a local developer, asked French 2D what it might do with the site. Charlestown natives Anda and Jenny steeped themselves in local lore and consulted archival drawings and photographs to channel the building’s history.

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The result: three floor-through lofts with an array of windows that offer views of busy highway ramps, train lines, the Zakim Bridge, and Rutherford Avenue, the area’s main thoroughfare. Relocating the structure’s principal entrance, French 2D created three facades—a sign of welcome in a sometimes-hermetic neighborhood. A new sawtooth-roofed third floor, replacing the one destroyed by fire, echoes the area’s signature gabled roofs.

“It’s almost like a time-lapse comic strip, both inside and out,” says Jenny, who also teaches at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. “The people who live here will be able to mark the real passage of time. We don’t want to simply re-create an idealized past.”

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