Monday, November 21, 2016

The Buildings That Time Forgot

From Dave Brigham:

I haven't posted as much about the backside of downtown Boston as I could have over the years. Usually when I'm in the city it's on a subway trip with my son, Owen, and I have limited time to seek out the abandoned, forgotten and dilapidated. For a list of posts about the Hub, see the end of this post.

Recently, however, I was on the city's wonderful Rose Kennedy Greenway with Owen and a few of his friends, and was able to snap pictures of two old buildings, one that's in a tight squeeze, and one that's been knocked to its knees.

Built in 1899, this four-story Financial District building has an electricity substation right next door. I remember walking past this place 20 years ago when I worked in the area, and marveling at how out of place it looked even then. Now, with skyscrapers rising downtown and in the Seaport District, this place is even more of an anachronism.

To see what it looked like when I was a younger man, read this 2007 article (which is truncated unless you're a subscriber) and look at the photo, which indicates a hardware store closed in 2006 when the owner died.

The current owner of the building set a selling price of $16 million four years ago, according to a 2012 Boston Business Journal article. That mark represented more than 28 times what the owner paid just a year prior, the article indicated. To be sure, real estate in this area, close to the Greenway, the harbor and the Seaport District, has shot up in value in recent years. But what can you do with this building or its footprint?

I couldn't find any news or real estate updates about the place. Maybe a pencil tower will rise here one day.

This is the other building I photographed, which I also recall from my days working downtown. While the hardware store surely has some good memories tied up in it, and certainly once fit more seamlessly into its neighborhood, there's no doubt that the building above, on Broad Street, was an important part of this area.

Most recently this building and the one next to it were home to The Littlest Bar and The Times Irish Pub & Restaurant. I never went to either, although I did go to The Littlest Bar in its original location in Downtown Crossing many years ago. The Times is moving to 99 Broad Street, not too far from another well-known bar, Mr. Dooley's. The Littlest Bar may move to a new location, although that announcement hasn't been made.

Built in 1805 and located hard by the Greenway, the Bulfinch building was originally a warehouse for goods coming off nearby wharves (back before the city installed fill to make itself bigger), according to this Boston Globe article, which you should read. According to the article, the outside of the building was declared a landmark, but the interior wasn't, because it had been changed significantly over the years.

After negotiating with the city's Landmarks Commission, the developer, New Boston Ventures, agreed to keep the portion of the building that you see above, and to incorporate it into a 12-story condo development (read the Globe article to see an artist's rendering of the new building married to the old structure).

Boston used to be known for cool bars in old brick buildings, and there certainly are some of those left. But it's a new millennium and the city is thriving and growing and glass and metal are of course the favored mediums. I'm glad the Landmarks Commission made the developer keep at least a part of the city's history intact, but it will be nothing more than a mere curiosity for residents, visitors and tourists unaware of the building's importance to Boston's past.

As promised, here's a list of other downtown Boston posts from over the years:

August 30, 2010, "Going Underground," about a trip on the subway with my son.

January 25, 2014, "Last Building Standing," about a remnant of the old West End.

August 19, 2015, "Misfit Garage," about a municipal garage slated to be torn down soon and replaced with yet another high-rise condo building.

October 19, 2012, "Window Dressing," about the former Dainty Dot Hosiery building.

February 10, 2011, "Up From the Basement?," about the long-empty hole where Filene's Basement once stood, and which is now a high-rise.

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