Located on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, Boston, you’ll find this charming Tudor style commercial building, which appears as if it was plucked from the England! The Studio Building was built in 1914, and replaced a livery stable on the site (not really necessary with the growing popularity of the automobile). The building was designed by the architectural firm of Loring & Leland for William Coombs Codman of the Brahmin Boston family as an investment. The building was constructed on a prominent corner lot with commercial/retail use at the ground floor and artist studios above. Just six years after the building was complete, Charles Street was widened, and the building was shaved back over 10′ with all new openings seen here.
Unlike the historically more fashionable South Slope that has always defined Beacon Hill’s character, the steeper, less accessible North Slope began with a 19th-century free black population and an integrated working-class community, but the architecture still stands out! In the 1840s, before massive land-making projects resulting in the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods, Boston-area developers had to think of creative ways to develop housing in the dense blocks of Boston. One solution was to purchase a larger parcel and lay out smaller house lots bordering narrow, dead-end ways, similar to this little enclave in Beacon Hill. Sentry Hill Place (originally named May Street Place) was so named in the 1910s by the residents in honor to the wooden sentry post that stood atop Beacon Hill
prior to the 1780s. Sentry Hill Place is comprised of seven near-identical brick rowhouses, all built in 1844 when the alley was laid out. At the terminus of the alley is a wood-frame structure which encloses the block and provides access to the two end units, an addition from the 1880s, to obscure what was once the rear of a barn which was accessed off the street to the north. Today, the once working-class enclave of homes is one of the more desirable in the neighborhood, for obvious reasons!
Located on Arlington Street between St. James and Stuart streets in Boston’s Back Bay, this gorgeous masonry commercial block stands as a testament to the amazing architecture built in Boston in the early 20th century. The Paine Furniture Building was constructed in 1914 to house the extensive showroom, offices, and manufacturing operations of the Paine Furniture Company. Founded in 1835, the company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company, a name which stuck until the company closed in 2000. The architects for the building, Densmore & LeClear, were very busy in the early decades of the 20th century and designed many iconic buildings nearby and in towns surrounding Boston through the 1940s.
Founded in 1835, Paine’s Furniture Company was at one time the largest furniture manufacturer and dealer in New England and had a nationwide business. The company was founded by Leonard Baker Shearer, who was joined in business in 1845 by John S. Paine, his son-in-law. Upon the death of Shearer in 1864, the name of the firm was changed to Paine’s Furniture Company. The company occupied a couple wooden and metal buildings on this site in the Bulfinch Triangle until a fire destroyed the complex. The growing firm took this opportunity to hire one of the most successful architect Gridley J. F. Bryant who worked with a colleague, Louis P. Rogers, to design the fire-proof building. The Second Empire style building with mansard roof was split into three sections with the rear two rented out to other companies, while Paine’s occupied the south-facing (main) facade. When Paine’s moved to their new building in the Back Bay, they sold this building and later alterations severely diminished the original design of the building. The current hodgepodge of alterations creates a mess of what was once an undeniable architectural landmark.
Replacing a vacant lot bordering I-93 at Kneeland Street, the One Greenway development provides much needed housing and design as one of the gateways into the Chinatown neighborhood of Boston. A result of community engagement, One Greenway is one of the largest new affordable housing projects in recent memory. The project restores the urban fabric that was lost half a century ago to the construction of major highways, which cut through the community and provides much-needed affordable housing in one of the nation’s oldest and largest immigrant communities. When the elevated highway was moved underground and the Rose Kennedy Greenway was laid out, parcels adjacent were available for reuse, and this was one of the last to be redeveloped. The building mixes 217 market-rate apartments and 95 affordable apartments, to create a mixed-income development, hopefully the future, as to not segregate affordable housing to less-desirable parts of cities. Designed by the firm Stantec, the building creates a solid street wall at the corner, and provides amazing open space at the rear in the form of a well-designed park designed by Crosby, Schlessinger, and Smallridge. The use of beige terracotta panels makes the large building more inviting, compared to the cold and sterile new apartment buildings going up all over the city and region.
Located on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, the Hooper Mansion represents one of the most elegant examples of Second Empire architecture style in the city. This home was actually constructed as a double-house for Samuel Hooper and his wife Anne, with a separate, semi-detached home for his son and his own family. The double-mansion was designed by esteemed architect Arthur Gilman, who used pressed brick contrasted with the tan sandstone on the home. Additionally, he designed the dentillated cornice, lavish door and window surrounds, and octagonal bays, all capped with a mansard roof with many windows laid inset to the roof, a stunning feature. The house was designed symmetrically, with entrances on each side elevation. In the early 1890s, later owners extended the eastern half of the façade so that it would be on the same plane as the western half, with an entrance at street level (seen in the right of this photo). Today, the double house is broken up into four large condominium units. When the conversion was approved, the developer wrote into the deed that the open space at the corner, used as a garden, would remain open space in perpetuity.
Boston’s iconic Hood Milk Bottle has been an iconic fixture in the city’s built environment for decades, but do you know about the history behind it? The architectural oddity was born in 1933-4 in Taunton, Massachusetts, the brainchild of Arthur Gagner who created it as roadside attraction in which he could sell his homemade ice cream. The Milk Bottle beckoned to local families with its impressive size (the structure is 40 feet tall, 18 feet wide, weighs 15,000 pounds, and would hold 58,620 gallons of milk, if it were a real milk bottle)! As car ownership became commonplace, giant donuts, coffee pots, hot dogs, and other surreal shapes rose up on roadsides across the country, enticing motorists to pull over from the busy, new freeways. Gagner peddled sweet treats from his whimsical wooden stand for a decade before selling the building to the Sankey family, who also used it to sell ice cream. But by 1967, the bottle had been abandoned. In 1974, photographer Walker Evans took a Polaroid of the forlorn building, which brought Hood Milk, native to Charlestown, to the table. With a quote of $25,000 to repair it, Hood agreed to cover that cost if the Bottle could be renamed The Hood Milk Bottle, and the structure was to be located on City Hall Plaza, until the architect of the plaza called the Mayor’s Office stating their displeasure with that idea. They then contacted the newly relocated Boston Children’s Museum, who agreed to locate the bottle on their property. The Hood Milk Bottle was delivered to the Museum in 1977 from Quincy (where the repairs were made) on a barge with two fire boats steaming alongside, on a voyage the Hood Company dubbed the “Great Bottle Sail”, where it has remained to this day. It recently underwent a $350,000 renovation, restoring it to its former glory. So no crying over spilled milk!
These two townhomes on the end of the iconic Louisburg Square in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood were built in 1846 and stand as excellent examples of the Greek Revival style of architecture. Louisburg Square is a private park, maintained by the owners which overlook it, and the enclave of homes has become the most exclusive in the already swank Beacon Hill neighborhood; with townhouses listing for over $15,000,000! No.1 Louisburg Square was built for George R. Russell, of Russell & Co., East India Merchants. The home stayed in the family for nearly 100 years and changed hands later to other well-connected Bostonians. The adjacent house was acquired in 1849 by Joseph Iasigi, an affluent Turkish-born merchant as well as the Turkish Consul in Boston. He donated the statues of Christopher Columbus and Aristedes that still grace the northern and southern ends of the Square. When the marble statue of Aristedes arrived in Boston, Iasigi announced his intentions to locate the statue in the park to his neighbors. The neighbors hemmed and hawed about placing a Greek statue in their revered Louisburg Square and appointed a committee of three to think it over. When Joseph added that he would also import a statue of Christopher Columbus, they wholeheartedly agreed to both. Iasigi later relocated to a larger Second Empire style house in the neighborhood a decade later (featured on here previously). When he moved, Elijah Williams occupied the house, later constructing a stunning horse stable in the Beacon Hill flats (featured previously). Together, the two homes provide a stunning entrance to a luxurious and well-preserved corner of Boston.
This brick Federal home was built in 1802 for John Callender (1772-1833). He attended Harvard and after graduation, was admitted to practice before the Suffolk County Court of Common Pleas. Callender would go on to serve as clerk of the Supreme Judicial Court from 1815 until his death in 1833. When he was just a Clerk working at the Supreme Judicial Court, he purchased a small parcel of land from for $2,000. Callender subsequently built “a small house finished for little money $5,000-$7,000.” Callender lived here until at least the early 1820s. In the 1820s, the grade of Walnut Street was lowered and a basement facade with heavy granite blocks was added to the home, with a new front door, shifted from Mount Vernon Street. It is then that the home was likely added onto with the 3 1/2-story look we see today. The house is constructed of wood with brick end walls and flushboard siding on the Mount Vernon facade to replicate masonry.The home was acquired by members of the illustrious Lyman Family of Boston, who resided there until the early 20th century.
The home was purchased by Ellery Sedgwick, the long-time editor of the Atlantic Monthly (now The Atlantic), and he enjoyed celebrity status during his tenure in the 1920s. His first wife, Mabel Cabot Sedgwick, was a well-known horticulturist, writing the The Garden Month by Month, which still graces gardeners’ bookshelves today. Not long after they moved into this mansion on Beacon Hill, the Sedgwicks built a summer home called Long Hill in Beverly, MA, which is now owned by the Trustees (and was featured on here previously). The home was renovated in recent years and is listed for sale for a cool $12.7 million!
While Boston doesn’t have as many iconic Art Deco buildings as New York or Chicago, we do have some that pack a punch! Located at the southern end of Downtown Boston, the Western Union building at the corner of Congress and High streets served as a headquarters for the third district in Western Union’s eastern division. Western Union was founded in 1851, and ten years later, built the first transcontinental telegraph line. The company made a brief foray into the telephone field but lost a legal battle with Bell Telephone in 1879 and thereafter concentrated solely on telegraphy. In the 20th century, Western Union diversified its operations to include: leased private-line circuitry, a money order service, as well as telegrams and mailgrams. The company’s Boston building was designed at the same time as their New York City headquarters, designed by Ralph Thomas Walker, and the buildings are strikingly similar, just with the Boston building on a smaller scale. The building in New York is among my favorite Art Deco buildings ever, as the use of red brick in varied patterns creates such a stunning composition. Amazingly, in 2004, water infiltration behind the original brick façade of the Boston building necessitated the removal and replacement in-kind of the entire brick façade. The existing signage and light fixtures, designed in the Art Deco style were added at that time.