The Architecture of Boston and Eastern MA: A Chronological Tour

This list of over 200 buildings in Boston and Eastern Massachusetts is not a typical “Make Lists,, Not War” list.  It is not a meta-list, although it does contain buildings on several meta-lists.  It is not a “best buildings” list, although it does contain buildings on some “best buildings” lists.

One of the precursors of this list was a meta-list I made in 2015 of the best buildings in Boston and Cambridge.  (You can find it HERE.)  I also created a post of modernist architecture in Cambridge, MA (see it HERE.)  Several Boston buildings also showed up on my lists of the best architects and their best buildings (HERE).

In 2021, I started collecting lists of the best buildings in Boston and eastern Massachusetts.  The best list I found was a July 25, 2018 article in Boston Magazine titled, “The 100 Best Buildings in Boston.”  But instead of creating a meta-list in the usual way and finding photos of the buildings on the Internet, I set out to visit and photograph as many of the buildings as I could.  Along  the way, I came across interesting buildings that weren’t on any of the lists, and I photographed them too.

The resulting list is a bit of a mix of well-known and more obscure buildings.  It is not meant to be all-inclusive, particularly for locations outside Boston. I tended to focus on the cities and towns I live in, work in, or visit frequently. By placing the buildings in chronological order, I hope to create a narrative about the development of various styles of architecture (and architects) over time. Please note that many buildings have complicated histories of renovations, additions, and restorations.  I’ve tried to include as much information as I could find in the “History” portion of the entry.

NOTE: I took all the photos but I have not copyrighted them. feel free to use or share.  It would be nice if you could credit or link to Make Lists, Not War: The Meta-Lists Website.

  1.  James Blake House

    735 Columbia Rd., Dorchester, Boston, MA
    Built: 1661
    Architect: James Blake
    History: Originally built as part of a large agrarian estate by James Blake, the Blake House is the oldest existing house in Boston.  It was sold to the City of Boston in 1895. The Dorchester Historical Society restored the house and had it moved to Richardson Park in 1896. Another restoration project was completed in 2007.
    Style: Western English

  2. Paul Revere House

    19 North Square, Boston, MA
    Built: 1680
    Architect: John Jeffs
    History: This home’s first owner was Robert Howard, a slave merchant. The building was renovated in the Georgian style in the mid-18th Century. Paul Revere owned the house from 1770 to 1800. The rear chimney was added c. 1790.  Architect Joseph Everett Chandler oversaw restoration efforts in 1907-1908. The building opened as house museum in 1908 and is now a stop on the Freedom Trail of Boston’s historic sites.
    Style: Elizabethan Tudor; Georgian

  3. Captain William Smith House

    126 North Great Rd, Lincoln, MA
    Built: 1692
    Architect: Unknown
    History: This building was the home of Benjamin Whittemore (d. 1734) and, later, Captain William Smith (1746–1787), commanding officer of the Lincoln minutemen and brother of Abigail Adams. It was incorporated in Minute Man National Historical Park in 1975. The house was restored to is 1775 appearance in 1983-1985.
    Style: Colonial

  4. Union Oyster House

    41-43 Union Street, Boston, MA
    Built: c. 1704-1713
    Architect: Unknown
    History: The building began as a commercial establishment.  Hopestill Capen’s dry goods business occupied the space from c. 1742 to 1826. Printer Isaiah Thomas published a newspaper “The Massachusetts Spy,” from the third floor beginning in 1771. In 1775, the store was the headquarters of Ebenezer Hancock, the first paymaster of the Continental Army. In 1796, exiled French noble Louis Phillippe (later King of France) lived on the 2nd floor. The building was renovated and opened as a restaurant in 1826 by Atwood & Bacon, and has been operating continuously since then.
    Style: Georgian

  5. Old State House

    206 Washington Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1712-1713
    Architect: Robert Twelves (possibly)
    History: The building served seat of Massachusetts colonial government from 1713-1776, and of Massachusetts state government from 1776-1798. The Interior was rebuilt after a fire in 1748. Occupying British troops used the building as a military barracks from 1768-1772.  Renovated by Thomas Dawes c. 1772.  Alterations by Isaiah Rogers, 1830. Restored by George Albert Clough, 1881-1882. Renovated by Goody, Clancy & Associates, 1991. Water-damaged masonry repaired, 2006. Tower restored and weather vane re-gilded, 2008.
    Style: Georgian

  6. Old Corner Bookstore

    283 Washington St., Boston, MA
    Built: 1718
    History: Built as a residence by Thomas Crease. Renovated to become a bookstore in 1828. Home to Ticknor and Fields book publishers from 1832 to 1865. Renovations by Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, 1964. Renovations by William Rawn, 1985.
    Style: Colonial

  7. Old North Church

    193 Salem St., Boston
    Built: 1723
    Architect: William Price
    History: The oldest standing church in Boston, the steeple was used to signal the British approach at the beginning of American Revolution, April 1775. Original steeple destroyed by a hurricane, 1804.  Replacement steeple by Charles Bulfinch, 1807. Replacement steeple destroyed by a hurricane, 1954. New steeple built, 1955(?).
    Style: Georgian

  8. Old South Meeting House

    Corner of Washington and Milk street, Boston
    Built: 1729
    Architect: Robert Twelves (possibly)
    History: Served as a Congregational Church from 1729-1872. Site of gathering before Boston Tea Party, December 16, 1773. Interior destroyed by British troops, 1775. Interior renovations by Thomas Dawes. Established as museum in 1877.
    Style: Georgian

  9. Codman House

    34 Codman Road, Lincoln, MA
    Built: 1735
    Architect: Unknown
    History: Original house built by Chambers Russell was Georgian in style.  A major 1798-1799 enlargement and renovation converted the house to the Federal style.  Charles Bulfinch may have been involved in the 1798-1799 redesign.
    Styles: Georgian; Federal

  10. Faneuil Hall

    1 South Market Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1740-1742
    Architects: John Smibert
    History: Grasshopper weather vane by Deacon Shem Drowne, 1742. Interior rebuilt after fire, 1762. Expansion by Charles Bulfinch, doubling height and width and adding third floor, 1806. Rebuilt of noncombustible materials, 1898–1899. Ground floor and basement remodeled, 1979.  Restoration, 1992.
    Style: Georgian

  11. Henry Vassall House

    94 Brattle Street, Cambridge MA
    Built: c. 1746
    History: The original building on the site may date to the 1630s, but few traces remain.  The building was confiscated during the American Revolution and used as an army hospital.
    Style: Colonial

  12. King’s Chapel

    Corner of Tremont and School streets, Boston, MA
    Built: 1749-1754
    Architect: Peter Harrison
    History: Home of first Anglican Church congregation in Boston. Many members were Loyalists who fled the Revolution. It remained empty during the war and was reopened in 1782.
    Style: Georgian

  13. Longfellow House and Washington’s Headquarters

    105 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA
    Built: 1759
    Architect: Unknown follower of James Gibb.
    History: Originally owned by Tory John Vassall. Used by George Washington as headquarters 1775-1776.  Expanded by owner Andrew Craigie (adding side porches and ell in rear, expanding library into a ballroom), 1791. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived there from 1844 to his death in 1882.
    Style: Georgian

  14. First Harrison Gray Otis House

    141 Cambridge Street, Boston
    Built: 1795-1796
    Architect: Charles Bulfinch
    History: Current entrance added after 1801. Restored by Abbott Lowell Cummings, 1960.
    Style: Federal

  15. Lyman Estate

    185 Lyman Street, Waltham, MA
    Built: 1793-1798
    Architect: Samuel McIntire
    History: Expanded by Richardson, Hartwell & Driver, 1882.
    Styles: Colonial Revival; Federal

  16. Massachusetts State House

    24 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1795-1798
    Architect: Charles Bulfinch
    History; The wood dome was covered with with copper by Paul Revere’s Revere Copper Company in 1802 and gilded in 1874. Expansion of building by Charles Brigham, 1895-1899. Wings added by Sturgis, Bryant, Chapman & Andrews, 1917. The Great Hall (Hall of Flags) was created in 1990 to designs by Shepley, Bullfinch, Richardson & Abbott. The dome was re-gilded, 1997.
    Style: Federal

  17. Phillips-Winthrop House

    One Walnut Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1804
    Architect: Charles Bulfinch
    History: Home of Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Thomas Lindall Winthrop (1760-1841). Home of John Phillips (1770-1823), first major of Boston. Home of abolitionist Wendell Phillips (1811-1884).
    Styles: Federal; Adamesque

  18. Jonathan Mason Houses

    51-57 Mt. Vernon Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1804
    Architect: Charles Bulfinch
    History: Daniel Webster lived here in 1817–1819. Revised and renovated by Cornelius Coolidge, 1837-1838.
    Style: Federal

  19. Gore Place

    52 Gore Street, Waltham, MA
    Built: 1805-1806
    Architect: jacques-Guillaume Legrand (possibly)
    History: Summer home of Massachusetts governor and senator Christopher Gore. After an earlier building burned, Christopher’s wife Rebecca Gore drew sketches for a new home. Gore sent the sketches to Rufus King and asked Jacques-Guillaume Legrand to draw up plans, although it is not clear if the house is based on plans of Legrand.
    Style: Federal

  20. Old West Church

    131 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1806
    Architect: Asher Benjamin
    HIstory: The building has served as a church except for the period between 1894 and 1960, when it was a branch of the Boston Public Library.
    Style: Federal

  21. Charles Street Meeting House

    70 Charles Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1804-1807
    Architect: Asher Benjamin
    History: Many abolitionists spoke here in the years before the Civil War. Purchased by The  First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1876.  Exterior restored and interior renovated for mixed use by John Sharratt Associates, 1981-1982.
    Styles: Georgian; Colonial

  22. William Hickling Prescott House

    54-55 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1808
    Architect: Asher Benjamin
    History: Benjamin designed the twin houses at 54-55 Beacon Street for original owner James Smith Colburn. Boston historian William Hickling Prescott lived at 55 Beacon Street from 1845-1859.
    Style: Federal

  23. Park Street Church

    1 Park Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1809
    Architect: Peter Banner
    History: The building is 217 feet tall and was the tallest building in the United States from 1810 to 1828.  Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison gave his first speech here in 1829.
    Styles: English Baroque; Neoclassical

  24. Union Club

    7-8 Park Street Place, Boston
    Built: 1809 (original); 1838 (revision)
    Architect: Charles Bulfinch (original); Gridley J.F. Bryant (renovations)
    History: The original owner of both houses was John Gore (nephew of Christopher Gore). Gore lived at No. 8 and leased or sold No. 7 to Dr. John Colllins Warren. Abbott Lawrence bought No 8 in 1836. In 1838, architect Gridley J.F. Bryant revised the house in the Greek Revival style with Regency-style wrought iron balconies. In 1863, the Union Club of Boston acquired No. 8.  Bryant and John Hubbard Sturgis oversaw the transformation into a clubhouse.  A fifth floor was added in the early 1880s by Peabody & Stearns, replacing the gable roof. The Club acquired No. 7 in 1896, gave it a 5th floor and matching façade, and incorporated it into the club.
    Styles: Greek Revival; Regency

  25. Boston Manufacturing Company (Francis Cabot Lowell Apartments)

    144-190 Moody Street
    Built: 1813-1814
    Architect: Paul Moody
    History: First integrated spinning and weaving factory in the world, owned by Francis Cabot Lowell and associates, using water power and a power loom. Largest factory in the U.S., with a workforce of about 300. A second, larger mill was built in 1816. First and second mills connected, 1843. In the late 19th Century, the original mills were connected, the gable roofs removed, and additional floors were added with flat roofs.
    Style: Industrial

  26. Salem Custom House

    176 Derby Street, Salem, MA
    Built: 1819
    Architect: Perley Putnam
    History: A wooden eagle carved by Joseph True was placed on the roof in 1826.  Nathaniel Hawthorne worked in the Customs House as a surveyor from 1846-1848. The original eagle was replaced by a fiberglass replica in 2004.
    Style: Federal

  27. Somerset Club (Sears House and Crowninshield-Amory House)

    42-43 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1819 (Sears House); 1832 (Crowninshield-Amory House)
    Architect: Alexander Parris (Sears House)
    History:  Parris designed the original home for David Sears at 42 Beacon Street. In 1832, Sears expanded the house and had the Crowninshield-Amory House built for his daughter. In 1872, the private Somerset Club bought the Sears House and added the third floor. The Club also bought 43 Beacon and combined the two homes into one clubhouse.
    Style: Federal, with French elements

  28. Nathan Appleton Residence

    39-40 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1818 or 1821 (sources differ)
    Architect: Alexander Parris
    History: The Nathan Appleton home is at 39 Beacon Street. The home at 40 Beacon Street, which was originally identical, was owned by Daniel Parker.  A fourth floor was added to both homes in the 1870s or in 1888 (sources differ). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Fanny Appleton were married in the house in 1843. In the 1870s a fourth floor was added; the original balustrades were retained. The buildings were the home of the Women’s City Club of Boston from 1914 to the 1990s.
    Style: mix of Federal and Greek Revival

  29. Quincy Market

    206 South Market Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1824-1826
    Architects: Alexander Parris
    History: Restored to 1826 appearance by Architectural Heritage Inc., Roger Webb; Stahl/Bennett Architects. Frederic A. Stahl, Principal in Charge; Roger Lang, Project Manager; James H. Ballou, Consulting Architect; and William LeMessurier, Structural Engineer in 1969. Remodeled as part of Faneuil Hall Marketplace by Benjamin Thompson & Associates, architects, and Rouse Company, developer, 1976.
    Style: Greek Revival

  30. Church of St. John the Evangelist

    35 Bowdoin St, Boston, MA
    Built: 1831
    Architect: Solomon Willard (attrib.)
    Style: Gothic Revival

  31. Oliver Hastings House

    101 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA
    Built: 1844
    History: Builder Oliver Hastings was the original owner. William Lawrence, professor and Dean of the Episcopal Theological School and Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, also lived there and made additions in the rear. The building is now owned by the Episcopal Divinity School.
    Style: Greek Revival

  32. Boston Athenaeum

    10 1/2 Beacon Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1847-1849
    Architect: Edward Clarke Cabot
    History: The building was renovated and expanded, adding the fourth and fifth floors, by Henry Forbes Bigelow in 1913-1914.
    Styles: Neoclassical; Renaissance Revival

  33. Boston Custom House

    3 McKinley Square, Boston, MA
    Built: 1847-1849
    Architect; Ammi Burnham Young
    History: The Custom House Tower was added in 1913-1915 (see separate entry).
    Styles: Neoclassical; Greek Revival

  34. The Liberty Hotel (former Charles Street Jail)

    215 Charles St., Boston
    Built: 1848-1851
    Architect: Gridley J.F, Bryant, with advice of prison reformer Rev. Louis Dwight
    History: The cupola was removed in 1949. In 1975, a Federal court found that the overcrowding of the jail violated prisoners’ constitutional rights. The jail closed in 1990. In 2007, the jail reopened as a hotel after renovations by Cambridge Seven Associates and Ann Beha Architects.  The renovations included: recreating the original cupola; removing the 18-foot prison wall; and building a 16-story guest room addition using contemporary materials.
    Style: Boston Granite; Renaissance Revival

  35. Tremont Street Methodist Episcopal Church

    740 Tremont Street, Boston
    Built; 1862
    Architect: Hammatt Billings
    History:  The original Methodist Episcopal congregation left in the late 1960s, when the church became the New Hope Baptist Church. During a 1940 renovation, a large number of stained glass windows were installed. In 2011, the building was sold to private developers, who converted it to housing.
    Style: Gothic Revival

  36. 234 Berkeley St (former Natural History Museum)

    Back Bay, Boston
    Built: 1863-1864
    Architect: William Gibbons Preston
    History: Built for the Boston Society of Natural History, which operated a natural history museum at the site until 1945, when the Society established the Museum of Science and moved to Science Park, Cambridge. More recent occupants have included: Bonwit Teller (1947-1989), Louis, Boston (1990-2010), and Restoration Hardware (2013-Present), after significant renovations by Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects.
    Style: Beaux-Arts; French Academic

  37. Old City Hall

    45 School Street, Boston
    Built: 1862-1865
    Architects: Gridley J.F. Bryant and A.D. Gilman
    History: Built on the site of the Boston Latin School, which operated there from 1704 to 1748,  One of the first French Second Empire buildings in the U.S., it housed the Boston City Council from 1865-1969.  Architectural Heritage Foundation, Inc. (now AHF Boston) and Finegold Alexander + Associates Inc. renovated the building for private use in 1969-1971. Home of the restaurant Maison Robert from the early 1970s to 2004.
    Style: French Second Empire

  38. Church of the Covenant

    67 Newbury Street, Boston
    Built: 1865-1867
    Architect: Richard M. Upjohn
    History: Formerly known as Central Church. In the 1890s the sanctuary was redecorated by Tiffany & Co. with stained-glass windows and mosaics and an electric-light chandelier designed by Jacob Adolphus Holzer.
    Style: Gothic Revival

  39.  St. John’s Memorial Chapel

    99 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA
    Built: 1867-1868
    Architects: Ware & Van Brunt
    History: Major renovations took place in 1930 and 1966-1967.  The building, formerly part of the Episcopal Divinity School, was purchased by Lesley University in 2018.
    Style: Gothic Revival

  40. St. Mary’s Parish

    133 School Street, Waltham, MA
    Built: 1858-1872
    Architect: Unknown
    History: The church was enlarged in 1875. The steeple was added between c. 1876-1919.
    Style: Romanesque Revival

  41. Wigglesworth Building

    89-93 Franklin Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1873
    Architect: Nathaniel Bradlee (Bradlee, Winslow & Wetherell)
    History: After an 1884 fire, the building was repaired and restored by Peabody & Stearns, who added the top floor in 1885.
    Style: Gothic Revival

  42. Morse Institute Library

    14 East Central Street, Natick, MA
    Built: 1873
    Architect: George B. Thayer
    History:  Additions were built in 1927 and 1964. These were razed to make way for a new, much larger addition in 1997.
    Styles: Gothic Revival; High Victorian Gothic

  43. Clark’s Block

    2 Summer Street, Natick, MA
    Built: 1874
    Architect: Unknown
    History: The original building was built in 1872, but burned in the Great Fire of 1874 and was rebuilt that year in the same style and dimensions. There is a large concert hall on the third floor.
    Style: Victorian Italianate

  44. Old South Church (New Old South Church)

    645 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1872-1875 (sources differ on completion date: 1873, 1874, or 1875)
    Architects: Cummings & Sears
    History: Tiffany & Co. redecorated the sanctuary in 1905. In the 1920s, the campanile began to list. In the early 1930s, it was dismantled and rebuilt. The church was expanded by Allen & Collens in 1935–1937. In the early 1950s, the sanctuary was renovated in a minimalist style. A restoration began in 1984 that restored the church to its 1875 appearance.
    Style: Venetian Gothic; Gothic Revival

  45. Our Lady Help of Christians

    573 Washington Street, Newton, MA
    Built: 1873-1875
    Architect: James Murphy
    History: The façade was added in 1900.
    Style: Gothic Revival

  46. Joseph K. Manning House

    35-37 Forest Street, Medford, MA
    Built: 1875
    Architect: Unknown
    Style: French Second Empire, Stick/Eastlake

  47. The Bedford Block

    99 Bedford Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1875
    Architects: Cummings & Sears
    History:  The building was originally created as a retail shoe center for Henry and Francis Lee. Iron balconets and a short corner tower that faced the intersections of Bedford and Church Green streets were removed during 1983 renovations by the Bay-Bedford Company. Later renovations by The Architectural Team restored original details and design elements while adding a retail atrium.
    Style: Venetian Gothic; Ruskinian Gothic

  48. Modern Theatre

    525 Washington Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1876; demolished and rebuilt with original façade, 2010
    Architects: Levi Newcomb (original)
    History: Originally named the Dobson Building. Clarence Blackall the building’s renovation into a movie theater in 1914.  In the 1970s, it was the Mayflower Theater, which showed X-rated films. In 2010, the building was demolished and rebuilt, retaining the original façade. for Suffolk University.
    Style: High Victorian Gothic

  49. First Congregational Church

    2 East Central Street, Natick, MA
    Built: 1875-1877
    Architect: J.B. Goodall (attrib.)
    History: The auditorium was completed in 1881. Expanded on the south side in 1891. Renovations to add classroom and office space and make the building accessible to people with disabilities was completed in 2001.
    Style: Neo-Gothic; High Victorian Gothic

  50. Trinity Church

    206 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA
    Built: 1872-1877
    Architect: Henry Hobson Richardson
    History: This is the first building designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in the style that would become known as Richardsonian Romanesque. Interior murals and several stained glass windows by John LaFarge. The West Porch, added in 1897, was designed by Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge.
    Style: Richardsonian Romanesque

  51. Memorial Hall

    Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
    Built: 1870-1877
    Architects: Ware & Van Brunt
    History:  The building was designed as a memorial to Harvard graduates who died fighting for the Union in the American Civil War.  The hall and transept were completed in 1874.  Sanders Theatre was completed in 1876.  The tower was completed in 1877.  The clock tower was added in 1897. The tower was destroyed in a 1956 fire but was rebuilt in 1996 to its 1877–1897 appearance.
    Style: Gothic Revival