Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2014 Preservation Award Winners
Photo of Hayden Building

Hayden Building • Boston (Downtown)

Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Hayden Building, located in downtown Boston, is the city’s only surviving example of commercial architecture by preeminent American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, whose Richardsonian Romanesque style influenced generations of architects. He designed the narrow, five-story structure for his father-in-law John C. Hayden in 1875. Over its history, the building housed a variety of establishments, including a tailor shop, dental office, jewelers, an Army/Navy store, a record shop, and an adult peepshow venue. Falling into obscurity during the Combat Zone’s heyday, the building was rediscovered as Richardson’s work in 1973. Despite being designated a City of Boston Landmark in 1977, the Hayden Building experienced a ten-year period of vacancy in the 1980s and early 1990s, and a fire destroyed its interior, leaving it structurally unsound and open to the elements. After the fire, the building was threatened with condemnation, at which point Historic Boston Incorporated (HBI) intervened by purchasing it and the adjacent building. HBI then accomplished structural stabilization, exterior envelope repairs, and preparation of the first floor for commercial activity, aided by a grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund. While HBI saved the Hayden Building from demolition in 1993, they could not complete the upper floors, as the neighborhood’s reputation made funding such a project challenging. By 2010, however, the neighborhood’s revitalization allowed HBI to sell its interests in the nonhistoric adjacent building and reinvest the funds in the Hayden’s long-empty upper stories.

The rehabilitation of the four upper floors not only completed a preservation effort nearly two decades in the making, but also created four rental apartments that will provide ongoing revenue for HBI’s future preservation activities. The project was supported by Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. The recently completed project included cleaning interior brick, reinforcing roof framing, and reconfiguring and reinforcing interior lateral bracing to accommodate useable space and meet code. Floor joists and subfloors were replaced, while joists that were not fire damaged or structurally deficient were kept on lower floors. The design team planned luxury rental units that acknowledge and complement the building’s historic character with 21st-century design and amenities. Exterior rehabilitation included thorough masonry work, a new roof membrane and perimeter coping, new secondary egress off the south wall to bring the building up to code, and a reopened original entry on LaGrange Street. Windows were rebalanced and repaired as needed, and painted to match samples at the Boston Landmarks Commission. Achieving LEED Platinum certification, this project demonstrates that historic preservation can go hand in hand with sustainability and energy efficiency. Finally, after decades of perseverance, HBI has shown that the Hayden Building, the only remaining commercial design in Boston by master H. H. Richardson, and a building that many now consider the prototype for the modern skyscraper, is truly a preservation success story.

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