by Rick Winterson
Thursday morning was a busy, bustling day in South Boston’s prime industrial area, its Marine Industrial Park, now entitled the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park. Promptly at 11 a.m., Flynn Marine Park became even busier. J.C. Cannistraro LLC, a two-generation, family-owned firm engaged in mechanical contracting, formally and officially opened the doors to “The FID”.
“The FID” is a highly evocative name that Cannistraro gave to the BPDA-owned building they now occupy at 25 Fid Kennedy Avenue. Thomas “FID” Kennedy was a longshoreman; he was also an uncle of John F. Kennedy – think “Uncle TFK and Nephew JFK”. A fid is actually a marine hand tool-of-the-trade used for splicing rope. It resembles a piece of thin, tapered, sharpened doweling. Cannistraro uses the word “FID” as an acronym for their business plan: “F” for Fabrication, “I” for Industry, “D” for Design. What better, more fitting name could there be for a sophisticated mechanical contracting operation on the South Boston Waterfront, on the peninsula formed by the Reserved Channel and Boston Harbor’s waters?
“The FID” building, now a completely refurbished shop for skilled workmanship and design, began its existence in 1941. Built for the U.S. Navy and called “Building 16”, it was a cavernous metal fabricator and ship repair facility. It sat idle for more than two decades after the Boston Naval Annex closed in 1974, and was once again used by Boston Sand & Gravel during the Big Dig. In 2016, J.C. Cannistraro submitted a proposal to design and install a facility there, which suited the site so well that it won out over four other responders. Industrial design capability, skilled job creation, and a good fit with historic uses of the site – call it “Industrial Art Deco” if you’d like – all served to win the day for Cannistraro’s “The FID”.
Its figures are very impressive: square footage under roof in “The FID” is 160,000 – that’s four acres, and about as large as four Gillette Stadium football fields. At this time, Cannistraro employs 700 people. A hundred craftspeople and their managers work at “The FID” right now, with 400 more to come there eventually. “The FID” will consolidate operations located in Watertown, Wilmington, and Stoughton. “The FID’s” lease with the BPDA is for 50 years; the site also offers added space in the industrially dedicated Flynn Marine Park, more skilled workers, and accessibility to Downtown, major highways, and Logan Airport.
The opening ceremony for Cannistraro’s “The FID” last Thursday was warm and impressive. President John Cannistraro (a son of the founder) spoke very eloquently of how grateful he is for the cooperation and friendship he has found on South Boston’s Waterfront and with the BPDA. He rendered heartfelt compliments to his employees for their efforts leading up to this memorable opening event. Mayor Walsh followed him, bearing thanks from the City, union locals, and everyone involved with “The FID”. Joseph and David Cannistraro gave out several awards. These awardees included Mayor Walsh himself for his support of “the FID” project, the architects of “The FID” – Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc. – and Superintendent Pierre Joas. All of the speeches were brief, sincere, and very well spoken. The program flew by, followed by a sumptuous lunch
One of the most unique touches in the Opening Porgram was the symbolic ‘ribbon-cutting”, which actually involved cutting a piece of two-inch copper pipe with the appropriate hand tool. Alexis Jones, from the Sprinkler Fitters Local 550, set up the tool (yes, she was wearing her safety equipment!). Mayor Walsh twisted the tool until the copper pipe separated into two parts. And “The FID” was well and truly open for business. This part of the program was quite nicely done.
There were many other memorable touches as well. “The FID” building itself is a remodeling that reflects great credit on the architects, who received one of the event’s awards (we’ve mentioned “Industrial Art Deco” already). The views are magnificent – of the Boston Harbor skyline, the Airport, and (by chance) the departure of the Portuguese Tall Ship “Sagres” at mid-day last Thursday. And the awards were designed locally by members of South Boston’s Artists for Humanity, now expanding their own facility at A and Second Streets. Simple, tasteful Japanese flower arrangements were emplaced in real, threaded, cast iron pipe fittings to decorate the lunch tables. And for a humorous note, floral arrangements were emplaced around the speakers’ podium, using that most well-known bathroom fixture as the planters.