Visitors to the Boston Seafood Festival on Sunday can savor the lobster bake, watch fish-cutting demonstrations, or throw one back at the beer garden. Most will be unaware the place where they’re standing — the Boston Fish Pier — has become a touchstone in the struggle to hold on to the city’s historic character.
The pier just landed on the National Register of Historic Places. The decision was expected: The Massachusetts Historical Commission had voted to endorse the listing, and the National Park Service typically adheres to this kind of recommendation.
Local politicians — such as Nick Collins and Michael Flaherty, both of South Boston — pushed for this, in part as a way to help reassure the pier’s seafood businesses of their future on a rapidly changing waterfront.
The designation has its pluses and minuses for the landlord, the Massachusetts Port Authority. It can open the door for tax credits to help with renovations. But it also adds another layer of review for significant exterior changes to the century-old pier’s three buildings.
Massport officials downplay the need for concern, despite the property’s rapidly rising value. They say they’re committed to the blue-collar jobs that remain amid all the tech firms crowding into the waterfront.
Then there’s the symbolism. This is another reminder of the more colorful and authentic aspects of Boston that frequently get overshadowed by the city’s current boom. It’s great that our economy is roaring along. But we shouldn’t lose sight of where we came from, even as we head to someplace new.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jonchesto.