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Mapping the 10 buildings that tell the story of Boston

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Boston is certainly chock-a-block with history. And one of the best ways to understand that history is through the city's buildings.

This map of 10 different addresses explains Boston's evolution during the past 250 years.

Their completions marked turning points still felt today. The map runs in chronological order, starting with the oldest, and includes only buildings still with us.

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1. Faneuil Hall

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1 Faneuil Hall Sq
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 635-3105
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The Georgian-style market and assembly hall originally went up in the early 1740s and had to be rebuilt 20 years later after a fire destroyed most of it. Federal-style pioneer Charles Bulfinch designed an expansion of Faneuil Hall at the start of the 19th century. The building marked Boston as a hub for colonial (and revolutionary) America, its interior and environs just as clogged in the 18th and 19th centuries as they are today.

2. Massachusetts State House

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1 Ashburton Pl
Boston, MA 02108
The State House was finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned. Federal-style pioneer Charles Bulfinch designed this as well. The building's construction signified Boston's permanence as the capital of the commonwealth, ensuring the city would remain a hub of governmental activity for generations to come. Yay?

3. Park Street Station

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Park St
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 222-3200
Visit Website
Ninety-nine years after the completion of the State House came the completion of Park Street Station. It is the oldest subway station in the Western Hemisphere (along with nearby Boylston) and remains the hub of the entire T, the station that gives "inbound" and "outbound" their meanings regionally. Its opening signaled the strongest linking-up yet of Boston with the surrounding region, ensuring for better or worse that the city would be the biggest fish in a small (and excruciatingly dense) geographic pond.

4. The First Triple-Decker

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10 Crowell St
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
No one knows where the first of this type of multi-family housing went up in Boston (we selected a triple-decker currently on sale in Dorchester and the photo is of triple-deckers in JP), but it proved immensely influential. The first one was probably constructed between 1870 and 1920. It and its progeny turned out to be a relatively affordable option for residents looking for light on three sides and a little bit of space in between. Plus, they were easy to build and cheap to replicate. One can argue whether such squat apartment housing was the best use of finite space in what has turned out to be one of America's most popular cities (i.e., bigger apartment buildings would probably have helped keep housing costs lower). Yet, the rise of the triple-decker was a part of the rise of Boston, a vehicle for increasing the city's population throughout the early 20th century.

5. The Custom House Tower

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3 McKinley Sq
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 310-6300
Visit Website
This building was essentially Boston's first skyscraper, the tallest sign that the city had pivoted decisively into the rapid urban growth that would define the first half of the 20th century. The lower part of the building, which Ammi Burnham Young designed in the Greek Revival style, dates from the 1840s and was built as a federal custom house. In the 1910s, when it came time to expand the building, that federal ownership allowed the custom house to bust through the city's 125-foot construction cap. The Classical Revival tower, which Robert Peabody designed, ran to 496 feet at its 1915 completion. That easily made it Boston's tallest building, a status it would maintain into the 1960s. It's now a Marriott hotel.

6. The Pru

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800 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02199
Designed by Charles Luckman Associates, the 52-story, 749-foot skyscraper was completed in 1964 and easily became Boston's tallest building, wresting the title from the 49-year-old Custom House Tower. Boxy and nondescript, it has its critics; but it's unmistakable against the city's skyline. It ushered in that modern Boston skyline and left the notion of a low-rise city core in the dustbin of history.

7. City Hall

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1 City Hall Sq.
Boston, MA 02201
(617) 635-4000
Visit Website
Gerhard Kallmann and Michael McKinnell won an international competition in 1962 to design a new city hall for Boston. The Brutalist behemoth they came up with and that opened in 1968 has been the cause of countless head-scratches and "holy sh*ts" ever since, not to mention the odd effort here and there to tear the thing down and start anew. Yet, its debut showed that Boston, then in the midst of what turned out to be a near-terminal decline, was willing to think outside of the box in a way other American cities were not, willing to take chances and to innovate.

8. Logan Air Traffic Control Tower

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Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
Boston, MA 02128
The 22-story, 285-foot control tower dates from 1973. At the time, according to Massport, it was the largest airport control tower in the world (now it's somewhere around No. 50). Its construction signaled Logan's growth, of course, as Boston boomed as a tourist destination, academic hub, and business center. The airport's Terminal E opened around the same time.

9. 200 Clarendon

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200 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116
The tower formerly known as the John Hancock is New England's tallest building at 790 feet, a distinction it has held since the Henry Cobb-designed, minimalist spire was finished in 1976. If the Pru kicked off the city's modern era, the Hancock accelerated it. The tower, too, was a bright spot of achievement in a Boston facing tough fiscal and demographic times, including a population slide from a 1950s peak of more than 800,000.

10. The Ritz-Carlton Residences

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10 Avery St
Boston, MA 02111
The Ritz-Carlton's 2000 opening upended the Boston housing market for (it looks like) all coming time. It was the city's first condo to offer luxury-hotel services and the first to regularly claim $1,000 a square foot for its homes. (The original Boston Ritz Carlton is now the Taj Boston.) It opened, too, on the edge of what until recently had been nicknamed the Combat Zone, an especially seedy and dangerous slice of downtown Boston. That area was gone and developments such as the Ritz-Carlton were in.

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1. Faneuil Hall

1 Faneuil Hall Sq, Boston, MA 02109
The Georgian-style market and assembly hall originally went up in the early 1740s and had to be rebuilt 20 years later after a fire destroyed most of it. Federal-style pioneer Charles Bulfinch designed an expansion of Faneuil Hall at the start of the 19th century. The building marked Boston as a hub for colonial (and revolutionary) America, its interior and environs just as clogged in the 18th and 19th centuries as they are today.
1 Faneuil Hall Sq
Boston, MA 02109

2. Massachusetts State House

1 Ashburton Pl, Boston, MA 02108
The State House was finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned. Federal-style pioneer Charles Bulfinch designed this as well. The building's construction signified Boston's permanence as the capital of the commonwealth, ensuring the city would remain a hub of governmental activity for generations to come. Yay?
1 Ashburton Pl
Boston, MA 02108

3. Park Street Station

Park St, Boston, MA 02108
Ninety-nine years after the completion of the State House came the completion of Park Street Station. It is the oldest subway station in the Western Hemisphere (along with nearby Boylston) and remains the hub of the entire T, the station that gives "inbound" and "outbound" their meanings regionally. Its opening signaled the strongest linking-up yet of Boston with the surrounding region, ensuring for better or worse that the city would be the biggest fish in a small (and excruciatingly dense) geographic pond.
Park St
Boston, MA 02108

4. The First Triple-Decker

10 Crowell St, Dorchester Center, MA 02124
No one knows where the first of this type of multi-family housing went up in Boston (we selected a triple-decker currently on sale in Dorchester and the photo is of triple-deckers in JP), but it proved immensely influential. The first one was probably constructed between 1870 and 1920. It and its progeny turned out to be a relatively affordable option for residents looking for light on three sides and a little bit of space in between. Plus, they were easy to build and cheap to replicate. One can argue whether such squat apartment housing was the best use of finite space in what has turned out to be one of America's most popular cities (i.e., bigger apartment buildings would probably have helped keep housing costs lower). Yet, the rise of the triple-decker was a part of the rise of Boston, a vehicle for increasing the city's population throughout the early 20th century.
10 Crowell St
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

5. The Custom House Tower

3 McKinley Sq, Boston, MA 02109
This building was essentially Boston's first skyscraper, the tallest sign that the city had pivoted decisively into the rapid urban growth that would define the first half of the 20th century. The lower part of the building, which Ammi Burnham Young designed in the Greek Revival style, dates from the 1840s and was built as a federal custom house. In the 1910s, when it came time to expand the building, that federal ownership allowed the custom house to bust through the city's 125-foot construction cap. The Classical Revival tower, which Robert Peabody designed, ran to 496 feet at its 1915 completion. That easily made it Boston's tallest building, a status it would maintain into the 1960s. It's now a Marriott hotel.
3 McKinley Sq
Boston, MA 02109

6. The Pru

800 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199
Designed by Charles Luckman Associates, the 52-story, 749-foot skyscraper was completed in 1964 and easily became Boston's tallest building, wresting the title from the 49-year-old Custom House Tower. Boxy and nondescript, it has its critics; but it's unmistakable against the city's skyline. It ushered in that modern Boston skyline and left the notion of a low-rise city core in the dustbin of history.
800 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02199

7. City Hall

1 City Hall Sq., Boston, MA 02201
Gerhard Kallmann and Michael McKinnell won an international competition in 1962 to design a new city hall for Boston. The Brutalist behemoth they came up with and that opened in 1968 has been the cause of countless head-scratches and "holy sh*ts" ever since, not to mention the odd effort here and there to tear the thing down and start anew. Yet, its debut showed that Boston, then in the midst of what turned out to be a near-terminal decline, was willing to think outside of the box in a way other American cities were not, willing to take chances and to innovate.
1 City Hall Sq.
Boston, MA 02201

8. Logan Air Traffic Control Tower

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Boston, MA 02128
The 22-story, 285-foot control tower dates from 1973. At the time, according to Massport, it was the largest airport control tower in the world (now it's somewhere around No. 50). Its construction signaled Logan's growth, of course, as Boston boomed as a tourist destination, academic hub, and business center. The airport's Terminal E opened around the same time.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
Boston, MA 02128

9. 200 Clarendon

200 Clarendon St, Boston, MA 02116
The tower formerly known as the John Hancock is New England's tallest building at 790 feet, a distinction it has held since the Henry Cobb-designed, minimalist spire was finished in 1976. If the Pru kicked off the city's modern era, the Hancock accelerated it. The tower, too, was a bright spot of achievement in a Boston facing tough fiscal and demographic times, including a population slide from a 1950s peak of more than 800,000.
200 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

10. The Ritz-Carlton Residences

10 Avery St, Boston, MA 02111
The Ritz-Carlton's 2000 opening upended the Boston housing market for (it looks like) all coming time. It was the city's first condo to offer luxury-hotel services and the first to regularly claim $1,000 a square foot for its homes. (The original Boston Ritz Carlton is now the Taj Boston.) It opened, too, on the edge of what until recently had been nicknamed the Combat Zone, an especially seedy and dangerous slice of downtown Boston. That area was gone and developments such as the Ritz-Carlton were in.
10 Avery St
Boston, MA 02111