Old Corner Bookstore


ABOUT THE BUILDING In 1828 a bookstore and printing shop was opened, and flourished through 1903 under various proprietors. It peaked under the management of publisher Ticknor and Fields which became the national leading publisher between From 1833 and 1864 this building was home to Ticknor and Fields “at that time the national leading publisher. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Greenleaf Whittier, and many other notable authors had their work produced by the firm and were frequent visitors. The building was constructed in 1711, on property that had belonged to Anne Hutchinson. She made her home at this site when she rose to notoriety as a controversial religious leader. Charged with heresy for her unlicensed preaching, she was exiled to Rhode Island in 1638 and founded the town of Portsmouth. ABOUT THE HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS It's hard to decide which of these views to prefer - the old one, with its lively parade of bold signs, or the new one, handsomer and cleaner but also tamer and less evocative. The old photo isn't really very old. The year is 1960, the month, October. Perhaps it's a weekend; there aren't many people around. But even in the absence of people, life is provided by the signs. The big Boston Five billboard, obscuring windows, is a bit too much, but many other signs are engaging and give the scene a sort of surrogate population; especially charming is the bold, elegantly corner turning "15¢ Sliced Crispy Pizza." But the little pizza building isn't what it seems. -It's an antique. Built as a house in 1711, it's older, for example, than any surviving building at Harvard, and it's now one of only three 18th century houses remaining in downtown Boston. In the 19th century it gained a further claim to fame as a center of literary Boston when it served as the premises of the famous Ticknor & Fields, publishers of The Atlantic Monthly and of the works of Emerson, Thoreau, Dickens , and others. In the early 1960s the house was threatened by urban renewal. An organization called Historic Boston Inc. was formed to save it. Historic Boston restored the building to approximately what it had looked like in 1828, the year Timothy Carter remodeled it as a print shop and bookstore. This restoration is what we see in the new photo, made in 1986. The restored house is now the in-town offices of The Boston Globe and is known as the Old Comer Bookstore building. Certainly the Old Comer should have been saved, but perhaps it would have been better to save it without recolonializing it. Today it looks a little theatrical, a little bland. Next-door to it, on the right in both pictures, is a house almost as old, the Andrew Cunningham House, dating from the 1720s, also reconstructed by Historic Boston and now a stationery store. Beyond both houses in the new photo, the big parking garage trivializes the older buildings, making them look too small, like stage-sets or dollhouses. -Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker, "CITYSCAPES - Publish or Perish", Boston Globe, 1986

Constructed, 1711