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Old State House (Second Boston Town House)

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Second Boston Town House
1712–1713, William Payne, builder; 1748 interior rebuilt; 1830 remodeled, Isaiah Rogers; 1881–1882 restored, George A. Clough, city architect; 1909–1910 restoration, Joseph Everett Chandler; 1942–1943 council chamber restored, Perry, Shaw and Hepburn; 1975, Stahl/Bennett Associates; 1993–1995, Goody, Clancy and Associates. 206 Washington St.
  • Old State House (Second Boston Town House) (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)
  • Alternate shot (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)
  • Old State House (Second Boston Town House) (Richard W. Longstreth)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Robert S. Salzar)
  • (Photograph by Robert S. Salzar)
  • (Photograph by Robert S. Salzar)

Built to replace the timber-framed First Boston Town House (1658) destroyed in the 1711 fire, this three-story brick civic building was gutted by a 1747 fire and the interior rebuilt within its brick walls for local, county, and provincial courts; government offices; and meeting rooms. With its tower and gable end visible at the head of State Street directly in line with Long Wharf, it was the most prominent landmark of the provincial urban center. In 1776 it became the first State House for the new commonwealth, until the legislature moved to the new Bulfinch state capitol in 1798.

In 1803 the state and Suffolk County sold their interest to the city and the building was leased for the next twenty-five years for offices, shops, and a Masonic meeting hall. In 1830 its upper floors were remodeled for the city hall, and over the next fifty years, classical porticoes were added to its east and west entrances. Although it was nearly condemned for demolition in 1880, preservation efforts led to George A. Clough's restoration, during which evidence of an 1830 circular staircase was mistakenly identified and rebuilt as colonial. The main floors were then leased to the Bostonian Society for their museum and library (the museum remains, the library is now opposite at 15 State Street, above the Visitors' Center of the National Park Service). Subsequent restoration efforts have improved on the city's earliest efforts. In 1909–1910, Joseph Everett Chandler provided new pedimented entrances over fluted Doric columns, the balcony and doors above Devonshire Street, and, despite modern evidence of exterior paint since the colonial period, cleaned it to create conventional “red and white work” of British Queen Anne and early Georgian domestic buildings.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Old State House (Second Boston Town House)", [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, 50-50.

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