|Custom House Tower /McKinley Square
||[Oct. 5th, 2006|06:58 pm]
New England Structures and Buildings
The Custom House Tower is a turn of the century skyscraper in the Financial District neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
The original Custom House was commissioned in 1837 and completed in 1849, It cost about $1,076,000, including the site, foundations, etc. (1840 dollars) It was designed in a neoclassical greek revival style by architect Ammi Burnham Young. This building was a cruciform (cross shaped) Greek Revival structure that combined a Greek Doric portico with a Roman dome design resembled a four-faced Greek temple, topped with a dome. It had 36 fluted Doric columns, of Quincy granite, weighing some 42 tons; each cost about $5200. Only half these are engaged in supporting the structure, the others are free standing. Each column was carved from a single piece from Quincy granite. They measured 5 foot 4 inches in diameter and stand 32 feet high. Its interior rotunda was capped with a skylight dome. It's The entire structure sits on filled land and is supported by 3,000 wooden piles driven through fill to bedrock.
Before land reclamation was done in the mid-1800s, Boston's waterfront had extended to this building. The Custom House was built at the end of the City docks, to facilitate inspection and registration of cargo. The building was used by the federal government to collect maritime duties in the age of Boston clipper ships. The wealth of Boston's seaport flowed through its lavish lobby in the form of tariff payments borne in the pockets of sea captains, who ascended its mighty steps to the marble piano nobile, open like a doughnut to the service level below.
The following is quoted from the 1850 Boston Almanac, with a historic description of the original Custom House building:
"Situated at the head of the dock between Long and Central Wharves, fronts east on the dock, west on India Street, and is in the form of a Greek Cross, [with] the opposite sides and ends being alike. It is 140 feet long north and south, 75 feet wide at the ends, and 95 feet through the centre. It is built on about 3,000 piles, fully secured against decay; the construction throughout is fire proof and of the very best kind.
The exterior of the building is purely Grecian Doric, not a copy, but adapted to the exigencies and peculiarities of the structure, and consists of a portico [overhang] of 6 columns on each side, on a high flight of steps, and an order of engaged columns around the walls, 20 in number, on a high stybolate or basement; the order of engaged columns terminating with 4 andae [pilasters] at their intersection with the porticos. The columns are 5 feet 4 inches in diameter and 32 feet high, the shaft being in one place, each weighing about 42 tons.
The cellar, which is 10 feet 6 inches high to the crown of the arches, is principally used for the storage of goods, which are conveyed to it through the basement story. The steam apparatus for warming the whole building (which it does effectively) is situated in the cellar, having easy access to the coal vaults under the sidewalk outside of the building.
The principal entrances to the basement story are at each end. They are for the receipt of goods for storage. Near the northwest corner, on the west side, is the entrance to the Night Inspectors' apartments, also to the private staircase leading to the Collector's room and the attic. South of the west portico is the entrance to the heating apparatus room, and on the south end is the entrance to the Custom House Truckmen's room. This story consists of rooms for the Night Inspectors, Custom House Truckmen, and Engineer of the Heating Apparatus, also three sets of Water Closets: the remainder is used for storage of goods, weigher's tabs, etc.
The principal ingress to the entrance story is through the porticos, but it can be entered from the Collector's private staircase, and from two other private staircases in the basement. This story contains apartments and offices for the Assistant Treasurer, the Weighers and Guagers, the Measurers, Inspectors, Markers, Superintendent of Building, etc. In the centre is a large vestibule, from which two broad flights of steps lead to the principal story, landing in two smaller vestibules therein, lighted by skylights in the roof, and these vestibules communicate with all the apartments in this story. The several rooms are for the Collector, Assistant Collector, Naval Officer, Surveyor, Public Store Keeper, their Deputies and Clerks; and for the facilities of doing business this arrangement is not surpassed. The grand-cross shaped Rotunda, for the general business of the Collector's department, in the centre of this story, is finished in the Grecian Corinthian order; it is 63 feet in its greatest length, 59 feed wide, and 62 feet in the skylight.
In one of the panels of the Rotunda is inserted a tablet of marble (Dedication Tablet 1847), containing the following inscription: Boston Custom House Building. Authorized by the 23d Congress, A.D. 1835. Andrew Jackson, President U.S.A.; Levi Woodbury, Sec'y of the Treasury.—Opened August 1st, A.D. 1847, James K. Polk, President U.S.A.; Robert J. Walker Sec'y of the Treasury; Marcus Morton, Collector of the Port; Samuel S. Lewis, Robert G. Shaw, Commissioners; Ammi Burnham Young, Architect."
The tower was built as an addition to this existing base between 1913 and 1915 by the architecture firm of Peabody and Stearns. Although Boston at that time had a 125-foot height restriction, the Custom House was federally-owned and not subject to these restrictions. It was the tallest building the 1964 construction of the Prudential Tower. The clock on the upper tower of the building measures 22 feet in diameter.
Boston's signature landmark, The Custom House Tower, stood unoccupied and inaccessible for 14 years. Working with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, The Landmarks Commission and Massachusetts Historical Society, The Beal Companies and Jung/Brannen Associates, Inc. were instrumental in keeping the project alive throughout this period, proposing concepts ranging from museums to offices to residential developments. In 1995, The Beal Companies and Marriott Ownership Resorts International announced plans to develop it into a time-share resort, with Jung/Brannen retained as Architect. It is a now a timeshare owned by Marriott Vacations. The building has luxurious rooms, harbor and city views, a full-service concierge, and an open observation deck on the 25th floor.
One of the greatest challenges facing the design team was the limited square footage of usable space on each of the tower floors, and one of the primary reasons that redevelopment into modern use had posed such a problem. In order to transform the Custom House into a financially viable real estate asset for Marriott, the team had to maximize the size and number of suites that could be located in the building. Working around the tower's structural constraints, the project team devised ways to fit four to five suites with custom-designed built-in cabinetry and furnishings, on each floor. This resulted in the creation of 87 one-bedroom suites with 26 different floorplan designs. A private owner's lounge, an exercise area and a game room are a few of the other amenities designed into the project. Also designed into the project was significant public access: a new ground floor and rotunda-level maritime museum and exhibit space, and guided tours of the refurbished observation deck on the tower's 26th floor. However, the fear of terrorist attack bar access to the landmark Custom House tower whose once-public balcony offered a splendid view of the city's wraparound world of water.
Pressley Associates, Inc. is the landscape architecture that redesigned the front plaza in 1999 "It provides a new urban linkage space that provides a sense of cohesion between Custom House Tower, Faneuil Hall and Marketplace Center." "As part of the current rehabilitation of the Tower to hotel use, the mandate of the landscape architectural design was to unify and revitalize the urban environment while respecting the buildings' historical importance. A one acre plaza has been designed to encourage pedestrian access and use, and to relate contextually to the adjacent Faneuil Hall Markets and Marketplace Center through the extensive use of large caliper shade trees, brick and granite pavements, and high quality site furnishings. The scope of work provided includes site design, construction documents, approvals process, presentations, resident engineering and construction support services. "
3 McKinley Square
Boston, Massachusetts 02109