Old South Meeting House


ABOUT THE BUILDING On December 16, 1773, the Old South Meeting House hosted a meeting of more than 5,000 colonists which started the Boston Tea Party. Originally built as a Puritan meeting house, the building was the site of many events that led up to the American Revolution, including annual meetings held on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre, held until 1775. ABOUT THE HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS It is 1:43 by the bell tower clock on the Old South Meeting House in both these photographs, the first taken around 1900 and the second in 1985. Like T. S. Eliot's "still point of the turning world," Old South has remained pretty much unchanged, except for the loss of its ivy, while its surroundings have been transformed. Old South dated from 1730. Its architect, Robert Twelves, pushed its steeple high into the air as a symbol both of aspiration toward God and of the importance of the church in the city. Today, however, the steeple has lost its sense of tallness, dwarfed in a Boston where the dominant architectural symbols are no longer the steeples and domes of church and state, but the towers of commerce. Two such skyscrapers loom behind old South. They are Devonshire Towers, a luxury apartment tower, and Exchange Place, a mirror - glass office structure. Two fine older buildings, both by notable architects, are visible in both photos. To the left of Old South is the flat lidded Winthrop Building, designed in 1893 by Clarence Blackall, who also created most of Boston's theaters. The Winthrop is one of Boston's loveliest small buildings, richly clad in orange-brown brick and terra cotta, and is th ecity's earliest steel - framed structure. Just to the right of Old South is the Boston Transcript Building, built in 1873 by Gridley J. Fox Bryant, the master of granite who designed Old City Hall, the Charles Street Jail, and Mercantile Wharf. This was the home for 50 years of a newspaper, once Boston's largest, that inspired another memorable Eliot passage "The readers of the Boston Evening Transcript / Sway in the wind like a field of ripe corn." Despite the changes in its appearance, Washington Street is remarkably unchanged in use and character. It is still the main shopping street of Boston and retains its sense of cluttered vitality. The canvas awnings of 1900, at left, are closely mimicked by the glass canopy of today. The former sense of continuity has been breached in only one place, by the undignified little CVS pharmacy on the extreme right raw brick party wall that was never meant to be seen. One cause for regret is the loss of the lively commercial signs, never too bold that pepper the buildings in the old photo, making the city into a kind of text, and adding an extra layer of interest and meaning. But compared with most American cities, Boston can take much pride in the extent to which it has preserved the scale and character of its historic "main street". -Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker, "CITYSCAPES - As Time Goes By",Boston Globe, 1985

Constructed, 1729


Related Playlist