That architecture includes striking interiors. Herewith, then, the 15 most beautiful interiors in the Boston region. Use them as you see fit—maybe you’ll find some inspiration for your own interior?Read More
Boston’s 15 most beautiful building interiors, mapped
Get inspired with these selections, including ones in Cambridge and several that are open to the public
1. Bapst Library
Chestnut Hill, MA
Charles Donagh Maginnis designed this library in the English Collegiate Gothic style. For real: The tower at the northern end is based on Oxford’s Merton Tower.
The Bapst opened in 1922, and was majorly renovated in the mid-1980s.
2. Widener Library
Horace Trumbauer designed Harvard’s flagship library, which opened in 1915 (and which was named for a young bibliophile who died three years earlier on the Titanic).
The Beaux Arts building’s interior includes a number of flourishes, including murals by John Singer Sargent in the Memorial Rotunda and a main reading room with a barrel ceiling 44 feet at its peak.
3. Harvard Memorial Hall
Harvard alumni William Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt won a blind competition to design this planned memorial to the 136 students who died fighting for the United States during the Civil War.
The hall was completed in 1877, and done in the High Gothic Victorian style.
Its Memorial Transept—one of three main parts—includes a 60-foot vaulted ceiling and 28 white tablets with the names of the dead soldiers, including two of Paul Revere’s grandsons and Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the 54th Massachusetts (think Glory).
4. Harvard Art Museums
Renzo Piano’s design pivots around an interior atrium that soars through four floors from the courtyard of the original Fogg Museum to a cupola that, to Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell, “looks like a glass explosion.”
There is a ton of natural light from that and other glass throughout.
The museum, a combination of the existing Fogg, Sackler, and Busch-Reisinger institutions, opened in late 2014.
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5. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The prime interior attraction of the Willard T. Sears-designed complex dating from 1901 is actually an exterior of sorts—namely, it’s a walled-in courtyard meant to reflect the love of horticulture of the museum’s namesake.
There are also other gardens at the Gardner and the rest of its interior—done as if a Venetian palace—is worth checking out.
6. Boston Public Library—McKim Building
Charles Follen McKim designed the building, which opened in 1895.
Its interior includes numerous gorgeous features, including carvings and sculpture by Domingo Mora and Augustus Saint-Gaudens and bronze doors by Daniel Chester French.
The coup de grace, though, for the library’s McKim Building might be the Bates Reading Room with its barrel ceiling.
7. Boston Public Library—Johnson Building
Philip Johnson designed this modern addition to the library’s much older McKim Building. It opened in 1972, and underwent a three-year restoration that wrapped in 2016.
As one might expect from a modern design, its interior is all about the clean lines and the airiness.
As one Curbed Boston reader noted, there is a lot of Louis Kahn influence in Johnson’s design, which the restoration did a solid job of preserving.
8. Trinity Church
Finished in 1877, the church is perhaps the best-known work of 19th-century architect Henry Hobson Richardson—indeed, it spawned what came to be called the Richardson Romanesque style.
The interior includes more than 21,500 square feet of murals, all of which American artists designed. John La Farge and Edward Burne-Jones designed some of the most striking stained-glass windows in the church.
9. The Liberty Hotel
The Liberty’s building began life as the Charles Street Jail.
Boston architect Gridley James Fox designed the 220-cell jail in the form of a cross, its four wings shooting off from a central, octagonal rotunda with a 90-foot atrium. The jail’s 30 arched windows were meant to provide plenty of ventilation and natural light.
Though both the cross design and the windows were supposed to render the facility more humane than the average 19th-century jail, it became notorious for overcrowding. Still, it would be nearly a century and a half before federal authorities forced its closure.
As for the Liberty Hotel there now, its design from Cambridge Seven Associates and Ann Beha Architects retains the soaring rotunda and other original details—including some cell bars.
10. Boston Athenaeum
Edward Clark Abbot designed this space for the now-210-year-old, members-only library in the late 1840s.
The Renaissance Revival architecture houses not only more than 480,000 volumes, but exhibits and other bookish draws (including regular architectural tours of the place).
11. Cutler Majestic Theatre
John Galen Howard designed the approximately 1,200-seat theater in the Beaux Arts style, though subsequent renovations a half-century later to accommodate movie-goers covered up a lot of that elegance.
Emerson College purchased the Cutler Majestic in 1983, and set about restoring some of its past grandeur (as well as bringing it up to code).
12. Wang Theatre
The interior of the 3,500-seat venue has shown up in the movies American Hustle and The Witches of Eastwick (part of Jack Nicholson’s house in the film).
13. Massachusetts State House
Charles Bulfinch designed the original portion of what’s now the fourth-oldest state capitol in the union. Finished in 1798 and built on land that John Hancock donated, it’s a grand example of the federal style.
The 10-column Doric Hall and the Hall of Flags dominate the interior as does stained glass toward the peak of the State House’s golden dome. Edward Brodney won a competition in the 1930s to design the main murals.
Also notable? The Sacred Cod suspended over the House chamber as a reminder of the importance of fishing to Massachusetts (and, really, for yuks, too).
14. 75 State Street
The 31-story building, which a collaboration of Boston’s Graham Gund Architects and New York’s Skidmore Owings and Merrill designed, contains perhaps the grandest office lobby in New England.
The tower was completed in 1988.
15. Custom House Tower
Now a Marriott vacation property, the tower was the result of an addition in the 1910s to the existing federal custom house.
The 495-foot spire, which architect Richard Peabody based on the campanile in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square, was Boston’s tallest building from its completion in 1915 to the Pru in 1964 (this photo shows it looming over Boston in 1956).
In 1960, a painting of the U.S. seal went up in the tower’s interior, on the underside of the original dome.