Q & A Series: Meet Amanda Zettle of the Charlestown Historic Preservation Society

Amanda is a fabulous interior designer and huge supporter of Charlestown. Her love of the neighborhood has made her an integral part of the fabric of the community here. As a board member of the Charlestown Historic Preservation Society, Amanda’s working hard to maintain the integrity of Charlestown’s history. Let’s hear what she has to say:

How did you first get involved in the Charlestown Preservation Society? I am an interior designer by trade, my Neighbor Ellen (who was the President of CPS at the time) recruited me after seeing the preservation work I have done around town. She appreciated my modern / relevant design and respect for historic interiors of the buildings.

We had the best time walking through the house tour last year. When’s the next one? How do houses get selected to be on it? Our Historic Neighborhood House Tour is held every other year. This fall we will start planning for the next September, 2020 tour!

We have a house selection committee (seeking volunteers!) Most of the houses come by word of mouth – typically someone on the committee knows someone with an amazing house, but we also ask our membership and advertise in the paper for volunteer houses. We tour house options around Charlestown in the winter and early spring.

We’ve seen the Master Plan signs all over town. Can you tell us a little bit about what you are spearheading? How can residents get involved? Yes! ‘Master Plan’ is a concept that represents a comprehensive plan for a city. We organized a group of Charlestown neighbors, businesses, organizations and groups into what we call 02129 Neighbor Alliance. This alliance asked Mayor Walsh and the BPDA (the agency that plans for the City of Boston) to solve some of our current infrastructure issues and to plan for the 34% population increase in Charlestown in the next 10 years. They said yes – and have already begun meetings in our community in order to understand the issues that the community faces.

The study covers all of Charlestown, we are essentially a one-square mile island with 3 access points. The year long study will produce a ‘PLAN: Charlestown’ that will illustrate our community goals and values and provide solutions and planning for things like open space, sports and school facilities, traffic and parking, affordable and workforce housing, and strategies for economic development and the health of our small businesses and protections for our historic heritage and buildings.

It’s a lot! It will be a lot of work and we need the community to get involved in the process to ensure that the PLAN reflects a true cross-section of the neighborhood. This is our chance to guide the future of Charlestown as residents and business owners! Send us an email at hello@02129NeighborAlliance.org and we will make sure that you know how to participate and add your issues and ideas to the conversation, both virtually through text, survey or email and in person at community meetings.

 The Charlestown Preservation Society started a self guided walking tour, which was such a great idea! What’s it all about and how do we access it? Thanks! We created the walking tour for the neighborhood. We wanted everyone to have access to a mobile-friendly, self-guided walking tour that highlights the history of the neighborhood’s built environment and offers access through photography inside these beautiful buildings. It’s a great tool for when a friend comes to town and wants a tour of the neighborhood.

The tour can be found on our website under Neighborhood Tours here: https://cps-ris.org/walking-tours/historic-charlestown/

What other projects does the Charlestown Historic Preservation Society have going on? We are in the research phase for our Historic Building Marker program. These are the beautiful bronze date markers that you see on over 200 buildings in Charlestown. Before we install a marker we verify the history of the house and research the building and its owners back to the original build date. Applications are accepted every June and installations happen every fall.

Our Design Review Committee is very busy. They review development and building plans for projects in our neighborhood with an eye on appropriateness of style and scale to the neighborhood. They are also helping oversee the preservation efforts at Memorial Hall. Construction starts this spring and we’re super excited!

Our Protect Historic Charlestown Committee is working hard on PLAN: Charlestown. We also attend development meetings for projects like Hood Park, 40 Warren, Rutherford Ave and One Charlestown. We keep an eye on how these proposed developments will affect not only the historic neighborhood but quality of life and infrastructure. We actively advocate for and against elements in these proposals and rally our membership as needed.  

Now that Memorial Hall’s preservation is underway, we are scouting the neighborhood for our next preservation target! We hope to advocate for and guide a historic building’s owner through the preservation process, and secure grants and funding for the restoration.

Anything else you want us to know? We are an all-volunteer organization and have been a 501c3 since 1967. Support from our community in volunteer hours, dues and donations is critical to the support of our historic neighborhood. Membership and donations are tax deductible as allowed by law – and we could really use all of the volunteer help we can get, we have a lot of fun doing it! Experience in preservation is not required, we need help with everything from party planning to finance and letter writing. 

Finally, what are your top 3 favorite things about living here? I love living in a small village that is so close to a big city! Our community is really something special – we are kind to each other and come together for the good of our neighborhood and each other. We are so lucky to live here, our charming historic neighborhood inspires me everyday to ensure that future generations have a chance to enjoy it as we do.

Q&A Series: Meet April May, owner of Smudge Ink

April is the owner of Smudge Ink, a letterpress and stationery studio right here in Charlestown! We have been carrying Smudge Ink greeting cards in the shop for a while now and love being able to run over to their studio to pick up the latest batch of cards. But we had no idea what went into running a letterpress studio so April filled us in!

You bought Smudge Ink a few years ago, can you tell us a little bit about how that came about? In 2009 I was unemployed and bored so I started my own greeting card company. I knew I wanted to learn more about the stationery industry and wholesale and the next year I was truly lucky to be hired as the Office Manager at Smudge Ink! Three years later, I left Smudge to focus on my own business and my growing family. In late-2015, the co-owners of Smudge Ink approached me to see if I was interested in buying the company because they were ready for new challenges after 13 years. I was so surprised, but they thought I'd be a good fit since I knew a lot about Smudge Ink as well as the industry. A few months later, I bought Smudge Ink and brought my popular line of city and state map cards into the Smudge Ink catalog. It was a really challenging decision because I had to say goodbye to the company I'd been building for years in order to take on this bigger challenge; it has been a wild ride!

Many people don't know that Smudge Ink's studio is located here in Charlestown, what do you love most about being in this neighborhood? It's true! We are located in Charlestown! But, we're a working studio rather than a retail space, so most people don't really know we're here. We're in a big, industrial warehouse building; not glamorous in the least. The best thing about our location is easy access to The Bacon Truck Cafe! We're all regulars there. :)

Can you tell us about the letterpress process and how it makes your cards unique? Letterpress is a printing process that literally presses a design and/or text into the paper using a special printing press and plates. Each color of of the design requires its own plate, so if a piece has more than one color that means it has been run through the printing press multiple times. It's fairly labor intensive, which is why our letterpress-printed cards are only two colors. It's a really fun design challenge to think of creative ways to make designs pop with a limited palette.

What does your day to day look like? I spend a lot of my day driving to and from work because I actually live in Central MA. To keep my driving time to a minimum, I usually arrive around 10:30 and I leave at 3:15. Otherwise I might not be home in time to pick my kids up from school or daycare by 5:30! While I'm in the office, my time is spent responding to emails, meeting with staff, or dealing with those unexpected things that always seem to arise in small businesses. I also work from home in the mornings and evenings putting together our wholesale catalogs, social media schedule, newsletters and other stuff that can be done remotely. My favorite part of my job is working with our designer, Ally, to come up with fun new ideas for cards and working through designs until they're just right. We meet on Wednesday afternoons, but we check-in daily to make sure things stay on track.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Honestly, everywhere! I can't tell you how many times I've been walking down the road or listening to music or changing into pajamas and something silly just pops into my head. I always immediately grab my phone and send Ally a strange email like "is a monkey wearing a fanny pack funny? I don't know! Maybe?" Sometimes I just start playing a word associate game -usually inspired by something I've heard in a song or on TV - send her lists of random words. It gives us something to start with when we're in the brainstorming phase. Ally is also always coming up with excellent ideas! When we're together in the office we hash things out until they make sense.

Any projects in your pipeline that you can share with our readers? The bulk of our business is wholesale, so we're on a bit of a strange schedule. In June, we wrapped up design for Spring 2020 holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Graduation. The new designs will finish being printed in early August. We're about to start calendar designs for 2021. Crazy, right?! The other big thing we've got going on is the National Stationery Show (NSS) which takes place in New York City August 10 - 13. NSS is an industry trade show and it's a pretty big deal for us. We're in the midst of planning our booth design. There are gnomes so you know it's gonna be super cute!