Exeter Chambers // 1889

One of the lesser-known historic hotels in Boston can be found at the corner of Exeter and Blagden Streets in the Back Bay neighborhood, tucked behind the Boston Public Library’s Johnson addition. Exeter Chambers (now Courtyard by Marriott Boston Copley Square), was built between 1889 and 1890 from plans by architect Theodore Minot Clark. Clark was a professor at MIT and the understudy of Boston’s famed Trinity Church architect, H. H. Richardson. Clark oversaw much of the construction of Trinity Church and his name is even engraved on the building. Exeter Chambers was constructed by the Guastavino Company, a very prominent contractor during the period noted for style and quality, known for the Guastavino tile. Cutting edge techniques such as compression arches and terracotta accents were featured throughout the structure. The hotel was vacant for many years and a renovation in 2004, which added three stories to the building, restored the ornate exterior to its former glory.

Pierce Building // 1887-1957

This gorgeous Richardsonian Romanesque building was formerly located at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Dartmouth Street in Back Bay, just south of the Boston Public Library McKim Building. The building was developed by Wallace L. Pierce, son of Samuel Stillman Pierce, who established the mega-successful S. S. Pierce Grocery Company in 1831. The grocery business thrived, due in part to “celebrity customers” John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. who once said: “I was brought up on S.S. Pierce’s groceries and I don’t dare change”.

Ca. 1890 image of the Pierce Building. Courtesy of Digital Commonwealth.

The company grew at its Downtown location and later relocated to the burgeoning Back Bay area. The Romanesque building was constructed of brick and brownstone and featured a prominent corner tower, which had an even taller conical tower at the center of the building. The new store and office building, completed in 1889, was designed by S. Edwin Tobey, an architect who specialized in residential designs.

One of the last available images of the Pierce Building, ca. 1956. Courtesy of MIT Libraries. Facing north on Dartmouth.

The building was eventually razed in 1957 for a 55-car parking lot. By the early 1980s, the present Westin Copley Place was built on the site.