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Mapping Boston's 10 Most Iconic Buildings as the City Changes

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'Tis no secret that Boston is changing in profound ways due to new development, whether that development be tall (for Boston anyway) residential towers or a mess of new hotels. Yet there are physical constants amid the streetscape and skyline—lots of them, in fact, for Boston is America's oldest major city. Among those constants are 10 we think capture the city better than any others, especially for outsiders. These range from relatively modest colonial-era creations to late-20th-century exclamation points craning for the clouds. Agree with these? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section.


· Our Updated Map of the Many New Hotels Going Up in Boston [Curbed Boston]
· The Biggest Greater Boston Apartment Openings in 2015 [Curbed Boston]
· Our Curbed Maps archive [Curbed Boston]

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1. The Pru

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800 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199

The 52-story, 749-foot skyscraper was completed in 1964, and is New England's second-tallest building. Boxy and nondescript, it has its critics; but it's unmistakable against the city's skyline.

2. 200 Clarendon

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200 Clarendon Street
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 spire was finished in 1976. It's often the first thing you see from a distance when approaching Boston on the ground.

3. Massachusetts State House

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24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02133

Finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned, the State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch, the starchitect of his day and a pioneer in the Federal style. Wood shingles originally comprised its famous dome. Those gave way to copper and then to a 23-karat gold coating (which looks neat, yes, but was also practical: to prevent leaks).

4. Park Street Church

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1 Park Street
Boston, MA 02108

The Congregational church dates from 1810 and is an unmistakable part of the Freedom Trail: It's right there toward the start and next to the cemetery containing the graves of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and other luminaries. When its 217-foot steeple was completed, the Park Street Church became for a time the tallest building in America.

5. Custom House Tower

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3 McKinley Square
Boston, MA 02109

The 496-foot Neoclassical building, built in stages from the 1830s through the early 1910s, was once the tallest spire in Boston (until the Pru surpassed it in 1964). It is currently an extended-stay Marriott.

6. Harrison Gray Otis House

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141 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

Charles Bulfinch designed this mansion for Harrison Gray Otis, a congressman, senator and Boston mayor (whose political affiliation was—what else?—Federalist). It was completed in 1796, and its flat facade positively drips of the Federal style. It was later used as a clinic and a middle-class boarding house.

7. Boston City Hall

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1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02108

Since its completion in the late 1960s, the Brutalist behemoth has been the cause of countless head-scratches and "holy sh*ts," not to mention the odd effort here and there to tear the thing down and start anew. Like it or loathe it, Boston's municipal hub is arguably the nation's most famous city hall (save maybe San Francisco's—maybe).

8. Johnson Building at the Boston Public Library

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700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

This wing of the Boston Public Library's central branch opened in December 1972, and was primarily designed by postmodernist Philip Johnson (hence the name). It is 10 levels and yet deliberately harmonizes height-wise with the older McKim Building on Copley Square.

9. Trinity Church

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206 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116

Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in the late 1870s, the current Episcopal church replaced one nearby that burned down (the parish dates from 1733). Other municipal buildings locally and nationwide have imitated its Romanesque style.

10. Faneuil Hall

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1 Faneuil Hall Square
Boston, MA 02109

A hot spot since the mid-1700s (how many American buildings can say that?), the Georgian-style Faneuil Hall is currently a tourist-clogged shopping destination. The area surrounding it is set to undergo a major renovation.

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1. The Pru

800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199

The 52-story, 749-foot skyscraper was completed in 1964, and is New England's second-tallest building. Boxy and nondescript, it has its critics; but it's unmistakable against the city's skyline.

800 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199

2. 200 Clarendon

200 Clarendon Street, 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 spire was finished in 1976. It's often the first thing you see from a distance when approaching Boston on the ground.

200 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116

3. Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02133

Finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned, the State House was designed by Charles Bulfinch, the starchitect of his day and a pioneer in the Federal style. Wood shingles originally comprised its famous dome. Those gave way to copper and then to a 23-karat gold coating (which looks neat, yes, but was also practical: to prevent leaks).

24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02133

4. Park Street Church

1 Park Street, Boston, MA 02108

The Congregational church dates from 1810 and is an unmistakable part of the Freedom Trail: It's right there toward the start and next to the cemetery containing the graves of John Hancock, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams and other luminaries. When its 217-foot steeple was completed, the Park Street Church became for a time the tallest building in America.

1 Park Street
Boston, MA 02108

5. Custom House Tower

3 McKinley Square, Boston, MA 02109

The 496-foot Neoclassical building, built in stages from the 1830s through the early 1910s, was once the tallest spire in Boston (until the Pru surpassed it in 1964). It is currently an extended-stay Marriott.

3 McKinley Square
Boston, MA 02109

6. Harrison Gray Otis House

141 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114

Charles Bulfinch designed this mansion for Harrison Gray Otis, a congressman, senator and Boston mayor (whose political affiliation was—what else?—Federalist). It was completed in 1796, and its flat facade positively drips of the Federal style. It was later used as a clinic and a middle-class boarding house.

141 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

7. Boston City Hall

1 City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02108

Since its completion in the late 1960s, the Brutalist behemoth has been the cause of countless head-scratches and "holy sh*ts," not to mention the odd effort here and there to tear the thing down and start anew. Like it or loathe it, Boston's municipal hub is arguably the nation's most famous city hall (save maybe San Francisco's—maybe).

1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02108

8. Johnson Building at the Boston Public Library

700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116

This wing of the Boston Public Library's central branch opened in December 1972, and was primarily designed by postmodernist Philip Johnson (hence the name). It is 10 levels and yet deliberately harmonizes height-wise with the older McKim Building on Copley Square.

700 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02116

9. Trinity Church

206 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA 02116

Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in the late 1870s, the current Episcopal church replaced one nearby that burned down (the parish dates from 1733). Other municipal buildings locally and nationwide have imitated its Romanesque style.

206 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116

10. Faneuil Hall

1 Faneuil Hall Square, Boston, MA 02109

A hot spot since the mid-1700s (how many American buildings can say that?), the Georgian-style Faneuil Hall is currently a tourist-clogged shopping destination. The area surrounding it is set to undergo a major renovation.

1 Faneuil Hall Square
Boston, MA 02109