Mayor Menino will lead a groundbreaking today for the resuscitation of the Hayden Building at 681-683 Washington Street in the old Combat Zone (now called rather optimistically the Midtown Cultural District). It's an exclamation point on a decades-long campaign to preserve and to restore the building, which was designed by 19th-century architecture giant Henry Hobson Richardson (think Sever Hall at Harvard or, more prominently, Trinity Church in downtown Boston). The Hayden was marked for demolition at one point, along with much of the rest of the Combat Zone but the efforts of Harvard historian Cynthia Zaitzevsky saved it just in time. A fire in 1985 nearly destroyed it when it housed a porno peepshow and a bathhouse (those were the days); and eight years later Historic Boston Inc. bought it for what was the sizable sum of $425,000, spearheading the campaign to raise millions for its restoration.
And what will the Hayden be restored as? An apartment building (yup, another one in Boston). The first floor will be retail, and the upper four floors will by early next year be floor-through, 2-BR, 1.5-BA apartments renting for at least $3,500 a month. It's a rather ironic 180 for the Hayden: Though just 66 feet tall, it was considered a prototype for the modern commercial skyscraper when it was completed in 1885.