Historic Markers: Chinatown/Theater District

Boston Dispensary Site - Bennet and Ash Sts.

In 1796 a group of community-minded Bostonians formed the first permanent medical institution in New England, the Boston Dispensary, to provide free medical care to the poor. The Dispensary established its original clinic at this site in 1856. An innovative force in American medical history, the Dispensary was the first in the country to provide its patients with a visiting nurse association, dental clinic, rehabilitative clinic, and well-child services; it introduced the world's earliest food and nutrition clinic in 1918. The Dispensary merged with the Floating Hospital and Pratt Diagnostic Clinic in 1965 to form the New England Medical Center.

Boston Floating Hospital for Children – 800 Washington St.

Established in 1894 by Reverend Rufus Tobey, the Boston Floating Hospital combined the benefits of sea-air with medicine, offering sick children day trips from Boston Harbor. In 1905 a larger ship replaced the original barge and chemist Alfred Bosworth developed the infant formula Similac in the new research facilities. Destroyed by fire in 1927, the dispensary was rebuilt as an onshore facility. In 1965 it merged with New England Medical Center and moved to its present location in 1982. The ship-like characteristics of the building reflect the hospital's nautical roots.

Boston Young Men's Christian Union - 48 Boylston St.*

Nathaniel Bradlee designed this outstanding example of the High Gothic style in 1876. It was one of many buildings erected during the downtown building boom which followed the Great Fire of 1872. The BYMCU was founded by Harvard students in 1851 as a religious study group, and evolved into a social, intellectual, and religious organization for men.

Boylston Building/China Trade Center - 2 Boylston St.*

Carl Fehmer's 1887 Boylston Building is a transitional masonry and iron frame structure that preceded the advent of steel frame skyscrapers in Boston. It replaced Charles Bulfinch's Boylston Market on this site. The building has been rehabilitated and renamed the China Trade Building. A number of companies in the clothing industry relocated to this area following the Great Fire of 1872.

Community Bulletin Board Site - Oxford and Beach Streets

A central community bulletin board stood here until 1991. The bulletin board was a long-standing tradition in Chinatown, emulating the custom in China where announcements, job notices, news items, and cultural events were posted in a similar fashion. The bulletin board helped to foster community cohesiveness and served as a neighborhood resource center.

Emerson Majestic Theatre - 221 Tremont St.*

The Emerson Majestic Theatre is the only Boston building designed by nationally prominent architect John Galen Howard. Completed in 1903 for merchant and music patron Eben Jordan, it has been used for movies, opera and musical theater. Its monumental Beaux Arts design distinguishes the Emerson Majestic from other Boston theaters.

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Hayden Building - 691-693 or 681 Washington St.*

Henry Hobson Richardson, the renowned 19th century architect of Trinity Church, designed the Hayden Building in 1875. Built for the estate of John C. Hayden, Richardson's father-in-law, it is the architect's only remaining commercial structure in Boston. Constructed of rough-out brownstone and trimmed in sandstone, the Hayden Building exemplifies Richardson's interpretation of the Romanesque Revival style. Historic Boston, Inc., rehabilitated this fire damaged landmark in 1995.

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Jacob Wirth Buildings: 31-39 Stuart St.

German immigrant Jacob Wirth has been serving hearty food to Bostonians since 1868; he moved his restaurant to this location several years later. His family maintained the tradition, and the cuisine and atmosphere have changed little over the years. The late 19th century interior remains virtually intact. Built in 1845, the buildings are the only survivors of the bow-front Greek Revival rowhouses that once dominated the area. In 1889, Wirth expanded next door, adding the storefront that unites the properties today.

Josiah Quincy School - 90 Tyler St.

The Quincy School, opened in 1847, was a model public school  conceived by renowned educator Horace Mann. The innovative building was designed by architect Gridley J. F. Bryant. Each teacher had their own classroom and students were separated by grade, very progressive ideas at the time. In the late 19th century, the Quincy School also offered evening classes for the immigrants of South Cove. In 1976, the old public school closed and the building became the home of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England. Today it is a thriving community center, home to many Chinatown organizations.

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Liberty Tree Block - Boylston and Washington Streets*


Constructed in 1850 for Boston businessman David Sears, the Liberty Tree Block's transitional style weds Greek Revival architecture with Italianate style details. A ballroom with lavish drawing rooms was once located above street level shops. Ship carvers Winsor & Brother's third floor bas-relief commemorates the nearby elm tree that served as a rallying point for Boston's Sons of Liberty to protest British colonial taxation. The Liberty Tree was cut down by occupying British troops in 1775.

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Phillis Wheatley Landing Site - Tyler and Beach Streets
(Boston Women's Heritage Trail)


In 1761 at Griffin's Wharf, near this site, John Wheatley purchased eight year old African-American Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753-1784) to serve as a domestic slave. Only twelve years later, in 1773, Phillis Wheatley would become the first published African-American woman with her acclaimed book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
Boston Women's Heritage Trail.

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Ping On Alley - at Edinboro St.

In 1989 Oliver Place was renamed Ping On Alley, "Alley of Peace and Security," in honor of Boston's First Chinese immigrants. They pitched their tents here beginning in 1875, and since that time this site has been central to the lives of a growing Chinese community. Until the 1950s, a communal roasting oven, used by residents and restaurants, was located here.

Quong Kow School - 18-20 Oxford St.

From 1931 to 1984, this former garment factory was home to the Quong Kow (Chinese) School. The school was founded by Chinatown businessmen in 1919 to preserve Chinese language, history, and cultural traditions for the children of immigrants. The school shared the Hudson Street offices of the On Leong Merchants Association until it moved to this headquarters in 1931. In 1984, the Quong Kow relocated to its present quarters at the historic Quincy School on Tyler Street.

Wang Center - 268 Tremont St.*

Originally called the Metropolitan Theatre and later the Music Hall, this 1925 building designed by Clarence Blackall has been used for motion pictures, plays, concerts, and most recently as a performing arts center. New England's largest theatre holds more than 3800 seats. It was renamed the Wang Center in 1983 and has since been restored by architects Notter Finegold & Alexander.

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* Indicates Designated Boston Landmark