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In the foreground is a tall glass building. In the background is a tan and orange building with arched doorways and columns. Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Boston’s 15 most iconic buildings, mapped

Three centuries of development has left New England’s most prominent city with some particularly prominent buildings

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With its age and its history, never mind its place as New England’s most populous city, Boston is one of America’s most iconic cities.

And, within Boston, are a handful of iconic buildings that represent the city to the rest of the world.

When people think of Boston and its physical landscape and architecture, they think of these 15.

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1. Fenway Park

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4 Yawkey Way Ext
Boston, MA 02215
(877) 733-7699
Visit Website

The home of the Red Sox opened in early 1912, and that makes it the oldest ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

The arena, which seats just over 37,000, is also one of MLB's smallest.

But that's part of the charm that's made Fenway an icon not just for Boston, but for sports in general.

An empty ballpark with lots of rows of seats. Eugene Buchko/Shutterstock

2. The Pru

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Prudential Tower, 800 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02199

The 52-story, 749-foot skyscraper was completed in 1964, and is New England's second-tallest building.

Boxy and somewhat nondescript, the Charles Luckman & Associates design has its critics; but the tower unmistakable against the city's skyline, and it ushered in Boston’s so-called High Spine of skyscrapers.

In the foreground is a body of water with sailboats. In the background is a city skyline with buildings of varying heights and architecture. ESB Professional/Shutterstock

3. Johnson Building of the Boston Public Library

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700 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-5400
Visit Website

Modern giant (and possible Nazi spy) Philip Johnson was the architectural force behind this wing of the Boston Public Library's central branch. It opened in December 1972.

Even at 10 levels, it harmonizes height-wise with the older McKim Building on Copley Square.

The interior of the Johnson Building at the Boston Public Library. The walls are red. There is a dome shaped window. There are many tables and chairs. UIG via Getty Images

4. McKim Building of the Boston Public Library

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700 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-5400
Visit Website

The formidable Charles Follen McKim designed the Beaux Arts-Renaissance Revival hybrid, which was completed in 1895.

It contains much of the library's research archives and administrative offices.

5. Trinity Church

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206 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-0944
Visit Website

Henry Hobson Richardson designed this iteration of the Episcopal church, which was completed in the late 1870s (the parish dates from 1733).

Other municipal buildings locally and nationwide have imitated its Romanesque style.

In the foreground is a tall glass building. In the background is a tan and orange building with arched doorways and columns. Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

6. 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 spire was finished in 1976.

It's often the first thing one sees from a distance when approaching Boston on the ground.

A tall skyscraper with many windows. Pascal Vosicki/Shutterstock

7. Massachusetts State House

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24 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02133

Charles Bulfinch designed the State House, which was finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned.

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).

Inside also happens to be one of the Boston area’s most beautiful building interiors.

The exterior of the Massachusetts State House. The building is red brick and there is a gold dome. There are white columns on the facade. Glenn Leblanc/Getty Images

8. Park Street Church

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1 Park St
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 523-3383
Visit Website

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.

A large red brick church building with a white bell tower. f11photo/Shutterstock

9. Bunker Hill Monument

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Monument Sq
Charlestown, MA 02129
(617) 242-5641
Visit Website

The monument commemorates the first major battle of the Revolutionary War on June 17, 1775.

Solomon Willard designed the 221-foot obelisk, which dates from 1842. Its interior is open most days for climbing.

An aerial view of a large monument surrounded by park space. The park space is surrounded by various city buildings in Boston. Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock

10. City Hall

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1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
(617) 635-4500
Visit Website

The brutalist creation has been an architectural punching bag since its completion in 1968, though it seems to finally be getting some positive recognition of late.

Gerhard Kallmann and Michael McKinnell, then professors at Columbia, won an international competition to design the civic hub.

They chose to pivot from more traditional city-hall fare as well as from sleek glassiness to a modern design that still perplexes the masses—but that also, in its way, reflects Boston’s desire to be different and bold.

A large building with a concrete facade and a red pedestrian plaza in front. Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

11. South Station

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700 Atlantic Ave #2
Boston, MA 02110
(800) 872-7245
Visit Website

Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge designed the Classical revival structure in the late 1890s. 

South Station, of course, serves as the busiest train and bus hub in New England

A giant brown building. There is a street intersection in the foreground with people. Abdullah Al-Eisa/Getty Images

12. Faneuil Hall

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4 S Market St
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 523-1300
Visit Website

Originally Georgian in design, the market and assembly hall went up in the early 1740s and had to be rebuilt 20 years later after a fire destroyed most of it.

Charles Bulfinch designed the federal-style expansion of Faneuil Hall at the start of the 19th century.

The exterior of Faneuil Hall in Boston. The facade is red brick and there is a tower. ArtifyAnalog/Shutterstock

13. Old North Church

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The building dates from the early 1720s and is Boston's oldest church.

What makes it iconic, though, is that it was from its 191-foot steeple that Paul Revere learned the British were coming by sea, not land.

Robert Newman, the church's sexton, provided Revere the two-lantern signal.

Old North Church’s steeple over the North End. Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

14. Custom House Tower

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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—and still includes one of the most beautiful building interiors in the Boston area.

15. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

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Columbia Point
Boston, MA 02125
(617) 514-1600
Visit Website

I.M. Pei designed the Columbia Point library and museum, which is a repository for all things JFK-related, including a permanent exhibit on his family.

The complex opened in 1979 and was rededicated in 1993.

The starkly geometric design made Pei's reputation; and the building is probably the most famous in Boston south of Columbus Avenue.

1. Fenway Park

4 Yawkey Way Ext, Boston, MA 02215
An empty ballpark with lots of rows of seats. Eugene Buchko/Shutterstock

The home of the Red Sox opened in early 1912, and that makes it the oldest ballpark in all of Major League Baseball.

The arena, which seats just over 37,000, is also one of MLB's smallest.

But that's part of the charm that's made Fenway an icon not just for Boston, but for sports in general.

4 Yawkey Way Ext
Boston, MA 02215

2. The Pru

Prudential Tower, 800 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02199
In the foreground is a body of water with sailboats. In the background is a city skyline with buildings of varying heights and architecture. ESB Professional/Shutterstock

The 52-story, 749-foot skyscraper was completed in 1964, and is New England's second-tallest building.

Boxy and somewhat nondescript, the Charles Luckman & Associates design has its critics; but the tower unmistakable against the city's skyline, and it ushered in Boston’s so-called High Spine of skyscrapers.

Prudential Tower, 800 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02199

3. Johnson Building of the Boston Public Library

700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116
The interior of the Johnson Building at the Boston Public Library. The walls are red. There is a dome shaped window. There are many tables and chairs. UIG via Getty Images

Modern giant (and possible Nazi spy) Philip Johnson was the architectural force behind this wing of the Boston Public Library's central branch. It opened in December 1972.

Even at 10 levels, it harmonizes height-wise with the older McKim Building on Copley Square.

700 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02116

4. McKim Building of the Boston Public Library

700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

The formidable Charles Follen McKim designed the Beaux Arts-Renaissance Revival hybrid, which was completed in 1895.

It contains much of the library's research archives and administrative offices.

700 Boylston St
Boston, MA 02116

5. Trinity Church

206 Clarendon St, Boston, MA 02116
In the foreground is a tall glass building. In the background is a tan and orange building with arched doorways and columns. Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Henry Hobson Richardson designed this iteration of the Episcopal church, which was completed in the late 1870s (the parish dates from 1733).

Other municipal buildings locally and nationwide have imitated its Romanesque style.

206 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

6. 200 Clarendon

200 Clarendon St, Boston, MA 02116
A tall skyscraper with many windows. Pascal Vosicki/Shutterstock

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 one sees from a distance when approaching Boston on the ground.

200 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

7. Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133
The exterior of the Massachusetts State House. The building is red brick and there is a gold dome. There are white columns on the facade. Glenn Leblanc/Getty Images

Charles Bulfinch designed the State House, which was finished in early 1798 and built on a cow pasture John Hancock once owned.

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).

Inside also happens to be one of the Boston area’s most beautiful building interiors.

24 Beacon St
Boston, MA 02133

8. Park Street Church

1 Park St, Boston, MA 02108
A large red brick church building with a white bell tower. f11photo/Shutterstock

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 St
Boston, MA 02108

9. Bunker Hill Monument

Monument Sq, Charlestown, MA 02129
An aerial view of a large monument surrounded by park space. The park space is surrounded by various city buildings in Boston. Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock

The monument commemorates the first major battle of the Revolutionary War on June 17, 1775.

Solomon Willard designed the 221-foot obelisk, which dates from 1842. Its interior is open most days for climbing.

Monument Sq
Charlestown, MA 02129

10. City Hall

1 City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201
A large building with a concrete facade and a red pedestrian plaza in front. Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

The brutalist creation has been an architectural punching bag since its completion in 1968, though it seems to finally be getting some positive recognition of late.

Gerhard Kallmann and Michael McKinnell, then professors at Columbia, won an international competition to design the civic hub.

They chose to pivot from more traditional city-hall fare as well as from sleek glassiness to a modern design that still perplexes the masses—but that also, in its way, reflects Boston’s desire to be different and bold.

1 City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201

11. South Station

700 Atlantic Ave #2, Boston, MA 02110
A giant brown building. There is a street intersection in the foreground with people. Abdullah Al-Eisa/Getty Images

Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge designed the Classical revival structure in the late 1890s. 

South Station, of course, serves as the busiest train and bus hub in New England

700 Atlantic Ave #2
Boston, MA 02110

12. Faneuil Hall

4 S Market St, Boston, MA 02109
The exterior of Faneuil Hall in Boston. The facade is red brick and there is a tower. ArtifyAnalog/Shutterstock

Originally Georgian in design, the market and assembly hall went up in the early 1740s and had to be rebuilt 20 years later after a fire destroyed most of it.

Charles Bulfinch designed the federal-style expansion of Faneuil Hall at the start of the 19th century.

4 S Market St
Boston, MA 02109

13. Old North Church

Boston, MA 02113
Old North Church’s steeple over the North End. Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock

The building dates from the early 1720s and is Boston's oldest church.

What makes it iconic, though, is that it was from its 191-foot steeple that Paul Revere learned the British were coming by sea, not land.

Robert Newman, the church's sexton, provided Revere the two-lantern signal.

14. Custom House Tower

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—and still includes one of the most beautiful building interiors in the Boston area.

Custom House Tower, 3 McKinley Square
Boston, MA 02109

15. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125

I.M. Pei designed the Columbia Point library and museum, which is a repository for all things JFK-related, including a permanent exhibit on his family.

The complex opened in 1979 and was rededicated in 1993.

The starkly geometric design made Pei's reputation; and the building is probably the most famous in Boston south of Columbus Avenue.

Columbia Point
Boston, MA 02125