Historical Markers: Downtown

Ames Building - 1 Court St.*

The 13-story Ames Building was the tallest building in Boston when it was completed in 1889. Constructed before skyscrapers were built of steel, the Ames Building is supported by 9-foot thick masonry walls. The Romanesque style building was designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge. The Ames manufacturing company supplied shovels to build Civil War fortifications and The Transcontinental Railroad.

Click to view historic image.

Batterymarch Building - 89 Broad St.*

Hailed as Boston's first Art Deco skyscraper, this was the city's tallest downtown structure when it opened in 1928. Designed by Harold Field Kellogg, it features 30 different colors of brick and ornamental motifs indicative of the evolution of public utilities. The building's name refers to the path taken by colonial troops to the nearby Fort Hill garrison.

Click to view historic image.

Boston Globe Site – 244 Washington Street


Established in 1872 by a consortium of Boston businessmen, The Boston Globe occupied this Washington Street location, near other papers who made up the street’s "Newspaper Row." One of Boston’s original thoroughfares, Washington Street (then Cornhill) was the site of tenements as early as the 17th century, and this property passed through the hands of many prominent Bostonians including John Rowe, a merchant, smuggler and revolutionary and investor and philanthropist David Sears. The Globe moved to Dorchester in 1958, and the building was later demolished.

Click to view historic image.

Boston Pilot Site - 28 State St.

This was the original site of the first Catholic newspaper published in the United States, founded here in 1829 as the Catholic Sentinel. In 1835, publisher Patrick Donahoe changed the name to The Boston Pilot. By 1850, it had become the voice of Boston's Irish community, serving both the local and national interests of thousands of immigrants who fled famine in Ireland. The Pilot enjoyed a national circulation under the editorships of famed poet John Boyle O'Reilly and his successor Katherine Conway. In 1908, The Pilot became the official paper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

Click to view historic image.

Broad Street Association - 102 Broad St.*


The growth of Boston's early 19th century maritime trade led to a series of speculative building projects along the waterfront. In 1805, Charles Bulfinch created a plan for the Broad Street Association which unified the row of stores and warehouses at 5, 7-9, 64, 68-70, 72 and 102 Broad Street. This row replaced the decrepit wharves in the Custom House area and was one of several civic improvements Bulfinch undertook.

Click to view historic image.

Central Burying Ground - Boston Common

Central Burying Ground was established in 1756 as Boston's 4 graveyard. Most of the remaining markers date from 1790-1810 and feature a commemorative willow and urn design. The 1836 granite tomb holds those disturbed during the widening of Boylston Street and a mass grave holds hundreds exhumed during the construction of the subway in 1895. The cemetery serves as a final resting place for the painter Gilbert Stuart, America's first composer, revolutionary soldiers, and foreigners who died while in Boston.

Click to view historic image.

Church Green Building - Summer and Bedford Streets*

Following the Great Fire of 1872 the Church Green Building was built on the former site of Charles Bulfinch's New South Church. The design is attributed to architect Jonathan Preston. The building originally housed trade association offices and commercial stores for Boston's important shoe and leather industries.

Click to view historic image.

Custom House - McKinley Square*

For more than 30 years the tallest building on the Boston skyline, the Custom House is a tangible reminder of the importance of the sea in the city's economy and history. Here duties were collected and maritime business conducted as Boston clipper ships circled the world. The 1847 Greek revival structure with monolithic Quincy granite columns was designed by Ammi Burnham Young. In 1915, it was surmounted by Peabody & Stearns' 495-foot. Classical Revival-style tower.

Click to view historic image.  

Elizabeth Peabody Bookstore - 13-15 West St.
(Boston Women's Heritage Trail)

Elizabeth Peabody, the first woman publisher in Boston, maintained a home and business here in the 1840s. Her bookshop was the first in the city to offer works by foreign authors, and she published the periodical The Dial with Ralph Waldo Emerson. The shop was a meeting place for transcendentalists and intellectuals including Bronson Alcott, William Ellery Channing and Theodore Parker. Journalist Margaret Fuller gave lectures here, called Conversations, that are significant in the early history of American feminism. 
Boston Women's Heritage Trail

Click to view historic image.

Ebenezer Hancock House - 10 Marshall St.*

The Ebenezer Hancock House, built in 1767, is the only remaining house in Boston associated with John Hancock. He owned the house but it was inhabited by his brother Ebenezer, who was Deputy Paymaster General of the Continental Army. This is one of the few downtown residences surviving from the late 18th century. From 1798 to 1963 the country's oldest continuously run shoe store occupied the building's first floor.

Click to view historic image.

Faneuil Hall*

Known as America's "Cradle of Liberty," Faneuil Hall was a central location for organized protests against British tyranny prior to the American Revolution. Given to Boston in 1742 by Peter Faneuil and designed by painter John Smibert, it was enlarged by Charles Bulfinch in 1805. The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company has been headquartered on the top floor since 1746. Following English custom, a public meeting hall still sits atop the marketplace. Shem Drowne's grasshopper weathervane atop the building is derived from one at London's Royal Exchange.

Click to view historic image.

Federal Building - 5 Post Office Square

The 1933 Federal Building was built during the height of the Depression as the Boston home of the Federal Courts and the U.S. Post Office, and was the site of precedent-setting judicial decisions on New Deal legislation and civil rights. The granite and limestone tower, incorporating elements of both Art Deco and Stripped Classical styles, was designed by the nationally known Boston firm of Cram & Ferguson in collaboration with the U.S. Treasury. In 1972, it was renamed the John W. McCormack Post Office and Court House for the former Speaker of the House from Boston.

Click to view historic image.

Federal Reserve Bank - Post Office Square*

An interesting example of adaptive re-use, the Hotel Meridien now occupies the 1922 Boston Federal Reserve Bank Building, designed by R. Clipton Sturgis. A 1981 rehabilitation by Jung, Brannen & Associates preserved the Renaissance Revival building and replaced a 1953 addition with a new hotel tower.

Click to view historic image.

50-52 Broad St.*

Built in 1853 during the clipper ship era, this warehouse was occupied by marine-related commercial enterprises, including coffee merchants, grocers and import firms. It is the only granite building with a mansard roof remaining in downtown Boston. In 1988, the Boston Society of Architects purchased and rehabilitated the building for use as its headquarters.

Filene's - 426 Washington Street

Designed by Daniel Burnham in 1912 as the flagship store for William Filene and Sons' regional retail empire, this was the renowned Midwestern city planner's last major building. The decorative treatment of the cornices and window massing in Beaux Arts style reflect the influence of the Chicago School of Design. From a small shop begun in Salem in 1852, Polish-born William Filene brought his progressive retail ideas to Boston in 1881. The early department store created an atmosphere of fine specialty shops. Filene's has been known since for retailing innovations.

Click to view historic image.

Flour and Grain Exchange - 177 Milk St.*

Originally a meeting hall for the Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Exchange was built on land donated by streetcar magnate Henry M. Whitney and completed in 1892. Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge designed the rock-faced masonry and tiered arches which exemplify the Romanesque Revival style associated with H.H. Richardson. The sturdy walls and elaborate design reflect an expression of financial security appropriate to the city's commercial circles. The exterior was restored by Beal Companies in 1988.

Click to view historic image.

45 Milk St.*

In 1906, noted architect William Gibbons Preston modified his own 1893 design for this building by extending the Milk St. facade to its present location. The allegorical figures of commerce, fidelity, industry and security are by New York artist Max Bachman. The building's original owner, the International Trust Company, was founded in 1879 and grew to become one of the largest trust companies in New England in the early 20th century.

Click to view historic image.

Great Boston Fire Site - 87 Summer St.


November 9-11, 1872, saw much of downtown Boston destroyed by a fire that started here and reached Washington Street, Liberty Square and the waterfront before being contained. At its height, firefighters from five New England states fought the blaze. Damage was estimated at $75 million. A combination of wooden buildings, high winds, and a shortage of horses to pull fire equipment all contributed to the destruction.

Click to view historic image.

Ingersoll's Inn Site - Tremont Street at Court Street

In 1789, President George Washington stayed at Joseph Ingersoll's inn at this site while visiting Boston. Massachusetts Governor John Hancock's visit to meet Washington here is regarded as an early acceptance of federal sovereignty over that of individual states. Daniel Webster would later have law offices here, and Boston grocer S.S. Pierce started a thriving and long-lived provisions business in 1831.

Click to view historic image.

The Liberator Office Site - 12 Post Office Square


Boston's uncompromising anti-slavery paper The Liberator was founded on this site in 1831 by William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), a leader of the abolition movement in Boston. The Liberator was the voice of Boston's racially integrated anti-slavery community. It became the most influential abolitionist paper in America; contributors included Charles Sumner and Frederick Douglass. The journal moved to Cornhill in 1834; the building burned in the Great Fire of 1872.

Magoun Counting House Site - 60 State Street

Thatcher Magoun, a ship designer, builder and merchant, founded Thatcher Magoun & Son, a countinghouse that operated on this site in the 19th century. Magoun's fleet of sailing ships carried the house flag into ports around the world. The Magoun counting-house was one of many similar establishments of the time and reflects the 19th century predominance of Boston as a port, as well as the role of State Street in the financial history of Boston. An essential part of the business community since the colonial era, State Street remains a center of investment and commerce.

Manufactory House Site - 120 Tremont St.

In 1754 the Province of Massachusetts Bay erected here the Manufactory House, which housed the working poor in exchange for manufacturing linen. This early public housing program was unsuccessful, and the Province began leasing to private tenants. In 1768, led by Elisha Brown, the tenants opposed the quartering of British troops. They barricaded the building to prevent eviction; ultimately the soldiers withdrew. The building was a British Army hospital after the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill. In 1784 it became the Massachusetts Bank, Boston's first financial institution. The building was razed about 1806.

Old Corner Bookstore - 281-83 Washington St.

Thomas Crease built this structure as his apothecary and residence shortly after the great fire of 1711 destroyed Anne Hutchinson's house on this site. Timothy Carter opened the Old Corner Bookstore here in 1829. Between 1845 and 1865, the booksellers Ticknor and Fields inhabited the building as the publishers of Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, Emerson, Thoreau and other prominent American and British authors, who often gathered here. In 1960, civic leaders raised money and established Historic Boston, Inc., to acquire and preserve this site.

Click to view historic image.

Old South Meeting House - 308 Washington St.

Best remembered as the site of the tax protests that led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, Old South has been the site of religious, political and social debate for over 300 years. This brick meeting house was built in 1729 to replace the Cedar Meeting House, which its dissident Puritan congregation had outgrown. African-American poet Phillis Wheatley worshipped and Benjamin Franklin was baptized here. In 1876, the venerable structure was nearly demolished, but Bostonians rallied to rescue Old South. It was the first instance of successful historic preservation in New England.

Click to view historic image.

Old State House - Washington and State Streets*

The Old State House, Boston's oldest public building, was built in 1713 as the seat of British colonial government. Here the Royal Governor and the Massachusetts Assembly debated the Stamp Acts and the Writ of Assistance. The Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians from the east balcony on July 18, 1776. The building served as the State House until 1798, and was also Boston's City Hall from 1830 to 1841.

Click to view historic image.

Parker House - 60 School St.

One of Boston's luxury hotels, opened by innovative hosteler Harvey Parker, the Parker House has been operating on this site since 1856. Parker introduced the European Plan, started the practice of serving meals continuously, and coined the term "scrod" for the fresh white fish catch of the day. The fabled Parker House Roll and the Boston Cream Pie originated here. Among the illustrious patrons of the Parker House were Charles Dickens, Ulysses S. Grant and John F. Kennedy. The members of the Saturday Club, a group of leading 19th century authors including Emerson, Lowell and Longfellow, gathered here.

Click to view historic image.

Samuel Adams House Site - 24 Winter St.


The patriot and propagandist Samuel Adams (1722-1803) lived in a house on this site from 1784 until his death. A cousin of John Adams, Samuel Adams wrote many of the radical protests against the British rule, advocated separation from England, and masterminded the Boston Tea Party. Adams was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and served as the third governor of Massachusetts from 1794 to 1797. He was born on nearby Purchase Street.

South Station - Summer Street and Atlantic Avenue

This 1898 headhouse was designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, the successor firm to H.H. Richardson, and is the earliest and last remaining example of the Classical Revival style of railway architecture in Boston. Originally known as South Union Terminal, it marked an evolution in station planning, as small railroad companies consolidated their operations, eliminating individual stations. The train shed, once the largest in the world, was torn down in 1930, and the original wings were removed later. South Station was restored in the 1980s and is once again a vital part of Boston's transportation network.

Click to view historic image.

Transcript Building/Newspaper Row - 322-28 Washington St.

Washington Street was Boston's Newspaper Row, home to all the city dailies into the 1950s. The Boston Evening Transcript, founded in 1830, was the city's first afternoon daily. By 1870, the influential newspaper was the largest in New England and was the paper of Boston's financial and political elite, noted for being "always refined... staunchly Republican." When the Transcript offices burned in the Great Fire of 1872, prestigious Boston architect Gridley J.F. Bryant was commissioned to design this new site on the publishing corridor. It is typical of his refined large-scale commercial sites.

Click to view historic image.

20-30 Bromfield St.*

Three of the original five storefronts remain from this 1848 commercial row, which was built and occupied by the Ballard family. Its design reflects the Egyptian Revival entrance gate at the nearby Granary Burying Ground. Few Boston Granite Style commercial buildings still exist downtown.

Click to view historic image.

25-27 India St.*

This Federal-style building was one of several constructed circa 1805 by the Broad Street Association. The Association was established by several prominent Boston entrepreneurs as part of a scheme to upgrade Boston's decrepit waterfront and encourage maritime trade. Charles Bulfinch, architect of the Massachusetts State House, is credited with the plan for the Broad Street Association warehouses.

United Shoe Machinery Building - 160 Federal St.*

Built in 1930, the United Shoe Machinery Building is Boston's best example of the Art Deco style. This 24-story structure was the first building designed to comply with a 1928 zoning amendment which allowed taller buildings, but required setbacks to provide light and air to abutting structures. By 1919 the United Shoe Machinery Corp. controlled 98% of the shoe machinery production and distribution in the United States.

Click to view historic image.

Winthrop Building - 276-78 Washington St.

Built in 1883, this is the first steel frame skyscraper constructed in Boston. It was the work of innovative local architect Clarence Blackall, who modeled this building on the early steel commercial structure of Chicago. The office building received unprecedented attention in Boston, praised for its technological achievement as well as its graceful curved design and facade of colored brick and terra cotta. Originally built for businessman C. H. Carter, in 1899 the structure was renamed to recognize its location on the site of the home of the city's first colonial governor, John Winthrop.

Click to view historic image.

The Gerrymander - Arch St. at Summer St.

Near this site stood the home of state senator Israel Thorndike, a merchant and privateer. During a visit here in 1812 by Governor Elbridge Gerry, an electoral district was oddly redrawn to provide advantage to the party in office. Shaped by political intent rather than any natural boundaries, its appearance resembled a salamander. A frustrated member of the opposition party called it a gerrymander, a term still in use today.

Hull Mint

The Hull Mint was the first mint in the British colonies of North America. Prior to 1652, the Massachusetts financial system was based on bartering and foreign coinage. The scarcity of coin currency was a problem for the growth of the New England economy. On May 27, 1652, the Massachusetts General Court appointed John Hull, a local silversmith, to be Boston’s mint master without notifying or seeking permission from the British government. The Hull Mint produced several denominations of silver coinage, including the famous silver pine tree shilling, for over 30 years until the political and economic situation made operating the mint no longer practical.

* Indicates Designated Boston Landmark