A favorite practice of corrupt mayors the world over is to finagle free work on their private residences in exchange for city contracts. The most grandiose local example can be found at 350 Jamaicaway near Jamaica Pond, where legendary Boston Mayor James Michael Curley (1874-1958) built a 21-room, neo-Georgian mansion almost a century ago. The place is spectacular. And it’s absurd that city officials past and present haven’t figured out a way to share it with the public.
Bostonians have been around this block many times since the property was bought at auction in 1988 by the city’s George Robert White Fund to block a proposed condominium project. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into the renovation and maintenance of the property. Yet efforts to turn the property into a museum, conference center, inn, reception hall, and other uses have sputtered along the way. A few years ago, the Boston Finance Commission urged the city to sell the property with the distinctive shamrock shutters. That’s the same fiscal watchdog group, incidentally, that conducted the initial investigation of how Curley got his hands on the property in the first place.