Hull Street Medical Mission // 1901

Constructed for the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Church of New England, this building was associated with the Hull Street Medical Mission from the time of its construction, in 1901, to about 1950. The mission was one of a number of church-related social service programs established in the North End in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to address the needs of recent immigrants, namely the Russian Jews, Italians, and Portuguese residing in this area of the neighborhood. In 1909-1910 alone, 14,574 treatments were given in the clinic, providing a huge medical service to the widely low-income immigrant community of the North End [29th Annual Report, 154]. The Medical Mission closed in the early 1950s and the property was later sold and converted to apartments. It was designed by architect Walter Forbush, who utilized ogee arches and leaded glass windows, adding much flair to the building’s design.

Old North Church // 1723

One of the most visited buildings in New England is the stunning Old North Church in the North End of Boston. Old North Church (originally Christ Church in the City of Boston) was established when the cramped original King’s Chapel, then a small wooden structure near Boston Common, proved inadequate for the growing number of Anglicans in the former Puritan stronghold. Subscriptions for a new church were invited in 1722. The sea captains, merchants, and artisans who had settled in Boston’s North End contributed generously to the building fund, and construction began in April, 1723. The church was designed by William Price, though heavily influenced by Christopher Wren’s English churches.

Before the American Revolution, both Patriots and Tories were members of the church, and often sat near each-other in pews, clearly adding to bubbling tensions. The enduring fame of the Old North began on the evening of April 18, 1775, when the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Capt. John Pulling, Jr. climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea across the Charles River and not by land. This fateful event ignited the American Revolution.

A full scale restoration of Old North was carried out in 1912-14 under the direction of architect R. Clipson Sturgis and a number of 19th century alterations were then eliminated. In this work, floor timbers and gallery stairs were replaced, the original arched window in the apse at the east end was replaced, and the old square box pews and raised pulpit were reconstructed. Additionally, the interior woodwork was incorrectly repainted white rather than the rich variety of original colors described in the early documents of the church, clearly submitting to Colonial Revival sensibilities. The iconic white steeple is also not original. The original steeple of the Old North Church was destroyed by the 1804 Snow hurricane. A replacement steeple, designed by Charles Bulfinch, was toppled by a hurricane in 1954. The current steeple uses design elements from the original and the Bulfinch version. Even with all these differences, Old North lives up to her name and stands proudly as a symbol of freedom and revolution.

Lebowich Tenement House // 1895

One of the most photographed buildings in North End is arguably this tenement block, built in 1895 at the corner of Prince and Salem Streets. As the North End continued to redevelop into a diverse immigrant community, tenement houses were constructed by those with the means, providing housing at low cost to those who arrived to Boston in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Max and Etta “Ethel” Lebowich, Russian Jews, immigrated to Boston, settling in the Jewish quarter of the North End and opened up a dry goods store at the corner. The business did well, and the couple redeveloped their land and hired Swedish-born architect Charles A. Halstrom, to design the prominent apartment house. The Renaissance Revival building features massive pressed metal oriels and brick and stone construction. I am unsure if the oriels are truly copper, which would have been fairly expensive for a tenement building, or if they are pressed tin. Any insight would be much appreciated.

Lincoln Wharf Power Station // 1901

Back in the day, even power stations were gorgeous!

The Boston Elevated Railway Company, and its successor, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), operated Lincoln Wharf Power Station from 1901 to 1972. The Boston-based engineering firm of Sheaff & Jaastad, specialists in electric power and lighting plants, designed this 1901 power station to serve the Atlantic Avenue Line and provide supplementary
power for the Downtown Boston elevated and surface lines. Due to increased demand in 1907, a massive addition was constructed at the rear, facing Commercial Street, which now is the main orientation of the large structure. By 1971, all elevated tracks powered by this station were removed and the power station was sold by the MBTA to a private developer for housing. Eventually, San Marco Housing Corporation, hired the Boston Architectural Team, Inc., to renovate the power station in 1987 for low- to moderate-income housing. The result is an innovative and stunning example of adaptive reuse providing much-needed housing, while retaining historic fabric of old Boston.

1901 Power Station viewed from waterfront.

McLaughlin Tenements // c.1875

After the American Civil War, the North End of Boston saw a massive phase of redevelopment, replacing the dilapidated wooden dwellings with larger brick tenements to house the neighborhood’s growing immigrant population. Nearly all of the North End was replaced with these dwellings, which has now added so much to the appeal of the neighborhood. One of the earliest and notable examples is this building on Endicott Street. Built around 1875, the tenements were owned by George T. McLauthlin (also spelled McLaughlin), who owned the engineering and machinery company on Fulton Street, housed in one of the last remaining cast-iron facades in Boston. The tenement house was later owned by George’s son Daniel, likely providing housing for the company’s employees and/or providing additional income for the family. The building also appears to have always had commercial use on the ground floor, allowing merchants to also rent the space. The late-Italianate panel brick block is modest in design, but contributes to the diverse population and worker’s housing in the North End.

Eliot School // 1931

The Eliot School is a descendant of the first Eliot School in the North End, which opened in 1713 on the present North Bennet Street. Aside from Boston Latin, Eliot School is the oldest public school in Boston. Originally known as the North Latin School, it was renamed in 1821 likely after the former pastor of New North Congregational Church, Rev. Andrew Eliot. Constructed as an elementary school in 1931, this building occupies the site of the former Freeman School, one of the smaller 19th-century school buildings in the North End. This school building was designed in the Art Deco style by Cambridge-based architect Charles Greco. The building features decorative use of brick with stone incised pilasters and highly ornamental lintels over each entry, incorporating the name of the school,
carved foliate designs and shields, and the 1931 construction date.

Edmund Hartt House // c.1740

This gambrel-roofed home was likely built before the American Revolution by Alexander Baker, a caulker who worked on ships in the harbor just blocks from his home. His home would be located at 24 Hull Street in the North End neighborhood of Boston, adjacent to the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. The home was eventually bought by Edmund Hartt (1744-1824), a master carpenter who’s story is heavily overshadowed by his neighbor Paul Revere.

Ca. 1895 image of Hartt House courtesy of Boston Public Library. Note: Copp’s Hill Burying Ground fence in foreground.

Captain Edmund Hartt built a shipyard in the North End (there were no Government-owned navy yards at the time). At his shipyard, the USS Constitution was constructed in 1797, he later went on to build the USS Boston (1799), USS Argus (1803), and USS Independence (1814). Hartt died in 1824 and was buried across Hull Street in the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground. His family continued to own the home until the 1890s, adding the lean-to addition on the side in the mid-1800s, and the home was demolished (as with many historic wood-frame homes in the neighborhood) for a larger, brick apartment building to house the growing immigrant population in the city.

Ebenezer Clough House // 1711

One of the oldest residential buildings in the historic city of Boston, the Clough House at 22 Unity Street in the North End stands just behind the Old North Church. Built by and for Ebenezer Clough (1690-1723), a prominent mason who later laid the brick foundation of the Old North Church next-door. Clough died at just 32 years old, and the home was deeded to his family.

Until 1806, the home was lived in by individual families, the first two generations of the Clough family, and then Joseph and Sarah Pierce and their families.  The home was inherited by their daughters and their politically active husbands, including Moses Grant, a participant in the Boston Tea Party.  The two daughters moved out of the house and a third story was added before the Clough House was converted into apartments in 1806.  For the next century and a half, more than 150 individuals, predominantly European immigrants, passed through the home.

Ca. 1940 image of the Clough House before its restoration. Library of Congress HABS.

Before the current configuration, the home was a 2 1/2-story gambrel roof home. The additional floor and the raising of the roof was done to add additional residential units into the home. The home was barely saved by the creation of the Paul Revere Mall in the 1930s. In 1962, Reverend
Howard P. Kellett, vicar of Old North Church, raised money to save the house from urban renewal plans. Since that time, the Ebenezer Clough House has received appropriate exterior and interior restorative treatments, and served as a rectory for the vicar of Old North Church. The home has since been converted to interpretive spaces on the history of Boston, run by the Old North Founcdation.

McLauthlin Company Building // 1855

Incorporating what is believed to be the earliest example of a cast-iron façade in New England, this brick block on Fulton Street is Italianate in its detailing, and distinguished for its arcaded design. William Adams & Company, smiths and machinists, and served as headquarters of the Adams company until its bankruptcy in 1861. From 1863 to 1977, it was occupied by the George T. McLauthlin Company, machinists and manufacturers of water wheels, steam engines, and elevators.

Several secondary sources describe the cast-iron facade of the McLauthlin Building as possibly the work of iron manufacturer and cast iron builder Daniel Badger (1806-1884). A native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Badger was trained as a blacksmith and known to be in Boston by 1830, making decorative wrought ironwork. Badger moved to New York City in 1846, where his manufacture of ironfronts evolved into a new form of building in cast iron, predominantly in Soho and Tribeca.

The building was rehabilitated in 1977-1978 and converted to condominiums and offices. It remains an extremely significant example of Italianate architecture in the city of Boston, and one of a handful remaining cast-iron facades in the region.

Seaman’s Bethel // 1833

Located in North Square in the North End of Boston, the Seaman’s Bethel, now Sacred Heart, is one of the oldest and historic places of worship in the city. The church was run by the Port Society of the City of Boston, a missionary group associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Founded in 1828 to provide moral and religious instruction to seamen, the society established the nonsectarian Seamen’s Bethel with the Rev. Edward Thompson Taylor (1793-1871) as minister. Reverend Taylor was raised by a foster mother in Virginia, and he later ran away from home at the age of seven to begin a career as a sailor, settling in Boston. As a young man, he heard a sermon at the Park Street Church and wished to become a preacher. He sailed around the coast, delivering sermons to various port towns until he settled in Boston again and established the Seaman’s Bethel alongside the Port Society. Father Taylor drew admiration from esteemed scholars and academics and always filled the pews in the church, until his death in 1871. The Seaman’s Bethel later fell unto hard economic times and sold their church building to the Catholic Church by 1884.

The architect of the church is unknown, but some accounts list Gridley J. F. Bryant as responsible. It would have been among his first professional works in Boston. Bryant went on to design iconic buildings including the Massachusetts State House and Boston’s Old City Hall. The Federal style church is four bays across and seven bays deep, this 1½-story gabled building on a raised basement features a pedimented facade with square center tower that was remodeled, apparently ca. 1898, with the addition of arched parapet walls at the roofline ornamented with cartouches. The building retains most of its original full-height round-arched window openings in brick surrounds.

Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Companion clipping showing Seaman’s Bethel and Father Taylor. Courtesy of Historic New England.
Seaman’s Bethel ca. 1860. Courtesy of Boston Public Library.