United States Hotel, Boston // 1839-1930

On August 18, 1929, the United States Hotel in Downtown Boston closed its doors for good. Once housing and feeding over 700 guests per night, the hotel saw severely declining numbers by the time of the Great Depression. Construction on the hotel commenced in 1837, and it was completed two years later in 1839. The hotel was operated by the Messrs. Holman and Clark, who saw an immediate success due to the hotel’s location central to Boston’s major train stations. The hotel (which first contained 300 rooms) did so well that the building was expanded numerous times with undulating additions to maximize light and air into the many rooms. At the hotel, over 150 employees served the guests at their rooms, the dining halls, bathing facilities or the stables which had drivers ready at a moments notice. The United States Hotel was one of the finest establishments in Boston and was thought to be the largest in the country by the middle of the 19th century. The size and amenities however was the downfall of the iconic hotel as Boston’s train stations saw fewer passengers in the early decades of the 20th century. Owners of the hotel sought to squeeze out every last dollar from the complex before they locked her up for good, hosting an auction on everything from beds to a chair said to have been sat on by Charles Dickens during his stay. The hotel was razed in 1930.

Downe-Tremere House // c.1674-1896

Image c.1896 courtesy of Boston Public Library.

One of the finest First Period Houses to have been built in New England was this brick mansion, formerly on North Street in Boston’s North End. On December 29, 1674, John Paine conveyed his property including a dwelling house to William Downe his new son-in-law. It is unclear when the house was built, but it was completed by the time of sale to William. Luckily, the house was constructed of brick, which likely saved it from the Fire of 1676. In later centuries, the building was converted to commercial use, at times housing a feather store. After the Civil War, the property was owned by the Tremere Family, who rented out commercial space and held tenements in the floors above (the third floor was added, filling in the space between the two end chimneys which were added in the early-19th century. The property was razed in 1896 for the present tenement building on the site.

Bauckman House // 1915

The Arts & Crafts movement in architecture provided some of the most stunning and well-designed properties of the early 20th century but sadly, there are not too many examples here in New England. When I find some, I always get excited and pull over to snap a photo! This home on busy Beacon Street in Waban, Newton, was built in 1915 for Harry W. Bauckman a salesman in Boston. The designs are credited to architect James G. Hutchinson, who specialized in Arts & Crafts and Tudor style buildings in the area. The Bauckman House is Foursquare in form which basically segments the house into four, large rooms on each floor with a stairhall in the center. The home is clad with banded shingles which extend to the piers at the porch, a subtle nod to Shingle style architecture. SWOON! I was later informed by a follower that this was also the home of landscape historian and author Judith Tankard for some time.

New England Telephone Building, Providence // 1917

This towering Georgian Revival building in Providence is definitely one of my favorites downtown. The 8-story building was constructed in 1917 for the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company, who outgrew their other facility just blocks away. The design is credited to the firm of Clarke & Howe, local architects. The two-story arcaded marble base is surmounted by a six-story brick tower, which is an architectural landmark in Downtown Providence. The building appears to retain its original windows and looks much as it did when built over 100 years ago. At the rear, a larger 1970s wing was added and shares little in terms of architectural detailing with the original structure.

Burdett Building // 1928

In 1921, Stuart Street was widened and extended between Boston’s Back Bay and Bay Village neighborhoods, which necessitated razing of all buildings along the route. From this, new lots were platted along the street where once thriving businesses were. Some relocated and others rebuilt. In 1927, the Park Square Corporation purchased seven contiguous lots at the corner of Stuart and Charles Streets and began construction of a large office building with storefronts on the ground floor. The Burdett Building opened in 1928. The building was built for Burdett College, which was founded in 1879 and focused on business and shorthand courses for students as a junior college. Architect Thomas H. James wanted the building to be like the new buildings at Princeton and Yale. The design featured Gothic inspired entrances and stone carvings of books and lions. Burdett College occupied the building until the 1950s and it was subsequently sold. By 1980, the building was acquired by the New England School of Law, who occupy it to this day as a place of learning.

Robert Gould Shaw Memorial // 1897

Commissioned from the celebrated American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the early 1880s and dedicated in 1897, The Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial (aka the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial) has been acclaimed as the greatest American sculpture of the 19th century. The memorial was designed by famed artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and it is a stop on the Boston Black Heritage Trail, commemorating the valiant efforts of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts, one of the first Civil War regiments of African Americans enlisted in the North. In July 1863, the regiment was sent to South Carolina where an assault was planned on Fort Wagner guarding Charleston harbor. Shaw had asked to have 54th Regiment lead the attack. Of the 600 men in the attack that day, there were 285 casualties, and Col. Shaw was killed, but the men never wavered in the battle and demonstrated great courage and determination. Following this display of valor, other black regiments were formed, and by the end of the war, 10% of the union army was made up of African American soldiers.

The monument in Boston shows the 25-year-old Shaw seated on his horse, with his regiment as it marched down Beacon Street on May 28, 1863 to depart the city to fight in the South. The concept of Shaw on horseback with marching soldiers was inspired, at least in part, from a painting Saint-Gaudens saw in France, Campagne de France 1814, by Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier, which depicts Napoleon on horseback with rows of infantry in the background.While Shaw is the centerpiece of the monument, the significance of the monument is the Shaw Memorial is the first civic monument to pay homage to the heroism of African American soldiers in the U.S.

Garcelon-Sears Stable // c.1860

Located in what historian Samuel Eliot Morison dubbed the “horsey end of town”, this stable in the Flat of Beacon Hill is built on 19th century-made land along the Charles River. The sub-area of Beacon Hill is best-known for the prevalence of old stables and carriage houses, converted to residential use. This stable dates to around 1860, when many of the Boston Brahmins of Beacon Hill either built their own private stables or rented space in a livery stable. By 1870, Alsom Garcelon was listed in city directories as a stablekeeper here, and he managed a number of others in the vicinity. After Garcelon’s death, the stable was owned by the wealthy Sears Family, who boarded some of their horses here. By the 1920s, the building was converted to a clubhouse, known as the Byron Street House. The clubhouse was largely rebuilt by architects Putnam & Cox, who also re-designed the interior space to a more social atmosphere. The former stable was later occupied as the Bishop-Lee School of Theater, run by Paul and Emily (Perry) Bishop. By 1970, it was converted again, but to a single-family home, which it remains to this day.

Boston Police Department Headquarters – Loews Boston // 1925

I love historic hotels, so when I decided that I was overdue for a “stay-cation” in Boston, spending time unwinding in an old building was mandatory. When walking around the Back Bay, I always loved the old Boston Police Department Headquarters building and used this as an opportunity to learn more about its history! The Boston Police Department Headquarters building on Berkeley Street was built in 1925, and was designed by the architectural firm of Ritchie, Parsons & Taylor, a firm that specialized in civic and institutional buildings. Prior to this building, the Boston Police Department was based out of an old townhouse in Pemberton Square. By the 1920s, such an out-dated and small building was not a good symbol for one of America’s premier police forces, so the City of Boston purchased a lot in the Back Bay and funded the new modern building. The structure is a late example of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture in the city, and is classically refined. The brick building is clad with limestone, which is rusticated on the ground two floors. The building housed police department offices for over 70 years until 1997, when they built a new, Modern building in Roxbury. This building was boarded up for years until it was sold to an Irish hotel chain, who added two additional floors at the roof. They quickly went out of business and sold the hotel. The hotel today is operated by Loews, and they do a great job of highlighting the history of the building, from the meeting rooms named after significant police department employees of the past, the appropriately named Precinct Bar, to the Police-blue lanterns flanking the main entrance.