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.
Significant as the last extant commercial building in the quaint Brookfield Village, this 1867 structure gives us a glimpse into village life in the latter half of the 19th century. The structure was constructed by Henry Smith Peck (1834-1884), who also constructed a home for his new family next door. Within a year of the store opening, Peck was joined by a partner and they opened Peck & Somers, a general store for the village, which sold local wares as well as imported goods. As is the history of many towns, in the 1960s, 100 years after the store was built, a developer purchased the building in order to demolish it for a “modern store”. The townspeople spoke out against the proposal, saving this charming building! The building is now occupied by a local real estate company.
This narrow, four-story commercial block is located near the Burlington City Hall, and fronts the park it sits on. Constructed in 1891 from local redstone in a unique Romanesque Revival style, the building stands out as one of the most unique in the commercial downtown area. The building was built for the Burlington Trust Company from plans by Clellan W. Fisher, an architect who soon after joined a firm with Stephen C. Earle in Worcester, MA. The design features an unusual checkerboard pattern of inlaid red and white ashlar paired with a stone cornice which similates dentils and brackets. The building is now home to a Burton snowboard retail store, a company started in Vermont in 1977, now the leading snowboard company in the country.
Following the granting of the royal charter in 1761, Newport, NH was incorporated and named after Henry Newport, a distinguished English soldier and statesman. With excellent soil for farming, and abundant water power from the Sugar River to run mills, Newport grew prosperous. The main street developed, leading to a proliferation of hotels and taverns that were soon situated along the length of Main Street to service the many travelers who stopped along the route, many such structures were wood frame construction. A fire devastated much of Main Street in Newport in 1885, leading to a massive rebuilding campaign by the town’s richest citizens. One of the earliest buildings constructed after the fire was the Lewis Block, developed by Frederick Lewis, who lived a block away, and his son Samuel DeWolf Lewis, who designed the block. The two-story building is broken up by brick pilasters with recessed corbelled detailing which give rise to buttresses capped by gablets (yes its a word), punctuating the flat roof profile.
One of my favorite buildings in Downtown Boston is the Richards Building on State Street for its rare and lavish cast-iron facade. Built in about 1859, the building was developed by Quincy A. Shaw and Gardiner H. Shaw (uncles of Robert Gould Shaw, who led the famed African American regiment that is the subject of St. Gaudens’ and Charles McKim’s Boston Common monument), merchants who then leased out commercial space in the building. The architect of the building is unknown; however, the sheet metal was supplied by E.B. Badger & Sons. The original design was a five-story, eight-bay cast iron front structure, in the Northern Italian mode of the Renaissance Revival style. The facade is only a screen attached to the front of the building. It is made of pieces of cast iron that were fabricated in Italy and bolted together in Boston. In 1889, the building was sold to Calvin A. Richards, a wealthy street railway tycoon and it is presumed that the two upper stories and corner oriels were added at that time. The building features one of a handful of extant cast-iron facades in Boston, which was restored in the 1980s.
Located in the Blackstone Block of Downtown Boston, this flatiron building encloses Marshall Street on the Freedom Trail, creating a tight, pedestrian-oriented street that once covered old Boston. The Union Block (c.1842) is a Greek Revival commercial block which typifies this network of short, narrow streets which somehow survived Urban Renewal and the coming of the highway in Boston. The longest running occupant of the building was Ward & Waldron Paper Hangings, which from my understanding, made wallpaper for the estates of Beacon Hill which were being built on the other side of town. After successive ownership, atlas maps show the ownership of the building in 1888 conveyed to Massachusetts General Hospital, which still held title to it past 1938. The building is now home to Bell in Hand, an iconic local pub that was founded in 1795 at another location.
One of the best-preserved commercial structures in the state of Rhode Island has to be at 146 Water Street in Warren. Built in about 1880, the Late Victorian-Stick style building was originally home to a local dry-goods store. The two-story symmetrical building features three bays with a central, recessed entry, round arched windows, brackets, and a decorative parapet with a segmental arch. The building was used by award-winning author and illustrator, David Macaulay as his studio for many years.