Most of the commercial buildings constructed with cast-iron facades were built prior to the Great Boston Fire of 1872, at which time many were destroyed. The Richards Block provides one of the oldest surviving examples of a cast-iron facade. Constructed in 1858 for the Shaw Estate, it was designed by Edward C. Cabot. As originally constructed, the building was five stories with a small mansard roof. An additional two stories with projecting rectangular corner turrets were added about 1889 by Calvin Richards. Despite the additional floors, the original arcaded facade, which utilizes a mixture of single and paired columns, survives. Smith and Felton manufactured the cast iron in East Boston. From 1870 to 1873, the building served as the headquarters for Atlantic Boiler Company of East Boston (EB8).
Adjoining this structure at 116 State Street is the Cunard Building (NRD). Designed in 1902 by Peabody and Stearns, this structure is important primarily for its historical associations with the famous shipping line.