When I give tours around Boston, I sometimes hear people express surprise that the city is modern and evolving, as though they expected its history to stop cold in 1776. But, no, Boston constantly grows and changes. Most times, it’s for the better.
Here are some of the changes that have taken place in Boston since I wrote three earlier posts.
The Ames Boston Hotel Changes Residents
In March of this year, I described the bright orange front doors of the Ames Hotel. At that time, the luxury hotel had taken over an historic structure, the Ames Building, that had been unoccupied for eight years. The Ames Boston Hotel was open from 2009 until just a few months ago.
I recently read a report that Suffolk University had purchased the Ames Hotel for $63.5 million and will turn it into dormitory space. Lucky students, to live in an historic building and a luxury hotel.
On recent bus tours up Court Street, I noticed that the beautiful orange doors, while still there, are closed and construction is clearly underway. Suffolk plans to open the new dorm next fall.
The Ames Building, now 126 years old, abides but it is no longer open to the public. I wonder how many tax dollars this conversion from commercial hotel to university residence hall is costing the city of Boston.
The Little Building Renovation Completed
In 2017, I wrote about the arcade murals in the Little Building on Boylston Street. Emerson College owns the building and in 2018, they stripped the structure down to its iron framework. Talk about a complete renovation, they rebuilt the Little Building from the inside out and the ground up.
When scaffolding went up and the building disappeared behind tarps, I feared for the murals. It seemed like the arcade had been preserved but I couldn’t be certain and there was no way to get inside to check.
The Little Building, an Emerson College dormitory, re-opened this fall. When the scaffolding finally came down from the façade, I went inside the lobby to see if the demilune murals had survived the turmoil.
I’m happy to report that Emerson College not only preserved the murals, they appear to have cleaned them as well. If you want to see these little snippets of Boston history, follow the directions in my original post. You still need an escort to get past the security desk but you can easily see the arcade murals before you reach the desk. They are one of Boston’s hidden gems and worth popping in to see.
Emerson College also installed new lighting that highlights the Little Building’s cleaner, brighter exterior and illuminates the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets. It’s a big improvement!
The St. Francis Garden is Green Again
Going way back to 2015, I wrote about Trinity Church’s St. Francis Garden as part of the series on Boston’s Hidden Gems. This little gem of peace and serenity was taken over by construction in the last few years. The fountain was turned off; the statue of St. Francis stored away.
Perennial plantings disappeared beneath construction materials as the garden became a storage space. It was disheartening to see such beauty turned to ugliness, if only on a temporary basis.
In another happy turn of events, construction has ended and the garden returned to its beautiful self. It will take a few years for the old plantings to recover and new ones to thrive. By next summer, the St. Francis Garden should once again provide a lovely hidden gem in Boston’s Back Bay.
Watching the Cranes Around Boston
Keeping up with the new construction in Boston, especially the Seaport area, is tough to do. It seems like old structures are coming down and new ones going up so quickly it looks like one of those fast-forward videos. Sometimes I check our Cranewatch Boston to see what the new buildings are: residential, commercial, or mixed use.
Having just checked it out, I’m shocked by how much high-end residential construction is going up. How many people can afford a multi-million-dollar condominium with a four-figure monthly maintenance fee? Can there be that many people with that much money in Boston? Even taking into account the retiring empty nesters in swanky suburbs like Weston and Wellesley who want to move into the city?
Boston certainly doesn’t stand still. Our past is still with us but the future pushes forward as insistently as the city’s Puritan settlers pushed new land into being. Now, however, it’s going up instead of out. Stay tuned for more developments.