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Massachusetts Historical Society

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1897–1899, Wheelwright and Haven; 1972 addition, Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott; 1996–2004 renovation, Ann Beha Architects. 1154 Boylston St.
  • Massachusetts Historical Society (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

Founded in 1797 as the first such organization in the nation, the Massachusetts Historical Society moved to its current building in 1899, establishing a pattern of institutional development along the Fenway. Wheelwright and Haven designed this limestone and beige Roman brick building at the corner of Boylston Street and the Back Bay Fens (FL1), its Federal Revival neoclassical restraint setting the standard for nearby buildings. Both the original building and a 1972 addition for storage have been modernized over the past decade. Next door, the Boston Medical Library (18 The Fenway) rose in 1900 to similar designs by Shaw and Hunnewell. Both institutions were leaving the central city in search of more expansive and prestigious quarters. On the other side of the Historical Society, Arthur Bowditch designed the beige brick and terra-cotta Carleton Chambers Bostonian Hotel (1136–1150 Boylston Street) in 1901. This residential hotel inspired an even grander version at 56 The Fenway, the southern end of the block overlooking the Back Bay Fens as it intersects Hemenway Street and Wheatland Avenue. Here Guy Lowell provided the design for the Henry Bigelow Williams House (1906), a luxurious apartment building with the top-floor suite reserved for its owner and namesake. These large institutional and apartment buildings anchored this distinguished block of development; the architects were all at work on other institutional commissions elsewhere in the emerging Fenway district in these years.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan



  • 1897

  • 1972

  • 1996


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Massachusetts Historical Society", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 183-183.

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