ABOUT THE HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS "Those flat, shiny things on the plaza at Harbor Towers are neither solar panels nor tracking devices for the ‘star wars` program. They`re stainless-steel sculptures done in 1972 by artist David von Schlegell. When you stand among them, they create a strangeness of space and reflection that is mildly interesting for a few moments. But their real function – intended or not – is to signal that this plaza is private turf. Barren, chilly, and abstract, they say louder than words: ‘Not for the general public. For art appreciators only.` The art appreciators, one assumes, live in the Harbor Towers apartments you can see behind Schlegell`s sculpture in the newer of these two photos, made in 1986. Designed by Henry Cobb of I. M. Pei and Partners (who also created the Hancock Tower and the Portland Museum of Art), the two towers weren`t very successful at attracting occupants in their early years. For that reason, a proposed third tower was never built – nor were other towers planned for the end of nearby Lewis Wharf. Judging by Harbor Towers, Boston is lucky that the tower-building stopped when it did and that a busy, public, low-rise waterfront began to evolve instead. Harbor Towers` greatest insult to the community, however, isn`t visible in the photo. It`s a swimming pool surrounded by a high wood picket fence – an outrageous grab of precious waterfront land for a private use · that can`t even be indulged during seven months of the year. The older photo, made in the 1860s, shows the same view when the site was known as India Wharf. Designed in the Federal style by the great architect Charles Bulfinch (who did the State House and Faneuil Hall) and built of brick in 1807, the wharf contained 33 warehouses for merchants trading in the West Indies and in Southern cotton. The tall end pavilion, topped by a pediment that was split by a chimney, gave the building a grandeur equaled by few mercantile buildings. Parts of India Wharf survived into the 1960s, when they finally came down for a parking lot and for Harbor Towers." -Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker, "CITYSCAPES - Ocean views: Life before Harbor Towers," Boston Globe, 23 November 1986

Constructed, 1971


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