Monday, February 28, 2011

Blog Post No. 2011-3: Four Green Fields at One Boston Place...

Because really incremental improvements are sometimes worth looking at if the baseline was really bad.






Photos: Taken with my new Droid Incredible by HTC (yes, I know it's already a couple of steps behind the newest-latest, but that's how it's done here at RTUF) smart phone, so the pix aren't quite as nice as they could be: (1) Looking at the front of the public house from the sidewalk on Washington Street; (2) A bit longer view, from across Washington Street; (3) The edge of the pub and the main building entrance for One Boston Place (aka, 201 Washington Street); (4) Looking toward the end of Washington Street, with the Ames Building and the Washington Place pedestrian mall and the Old State House; (5) Main entrance from across Washington Street; and (6) A view up Court Street with the Court Street entrance and the Boston School Committee building beyond.

Location: One Boston Place (201 Washington Street), Boston, MA.

Year of Urban Fabric Restoration: 2011.

The Story: So, in the interest of full disclosure, this is where your faithful RTUF correspondent works (not in the pub, but in the building above). This building -- which I refer to as the "big black building with the black box on top across the street from the Old State House" whenever asked -- had to, in its original configuration, have been one of the most uninviting buildings anywhere in Boston. Designed by Pietro Brulleschi and developed by Cabot Cabot & Forbes as the new headquarters for The Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company in 1970, the old street level exterior resembled nothing so much as a crypt or a bunker. It was one forbidding building, let me tell you, and it sent out the message that no one need come near it who didn't have some serious business to transact inside. The buidling entrances on both Washington and Court streets were set within low-slung, horizontal brown granite blocks with no canopies and almost no way to see inside the building and afterthought planters and benches on the residual space between the building and street on both sides. Bad, bad, bad, and especially so considering that the Old State House across Washington Street has a rich history as the oldest public building in Boston, the seat of the old colonial government, the new state's seat of government until Bulfinch's New State House was built on Beacon  Hill in the early 19th century, and the site of the Boston Massacre in March of 1771.

Perhaps the acquisition of The Boston Company by Mellon and Mellon's merger with BNY in the 1990s and early 2000s led to a renewed look at the buidling and its potential to draw tenants on its own as the headquarters footprint was reduced. Whatever the cause, in the early 2000s, the building's owners started a program of making the ground level more transparent and comfortable (hence the glass walls and canopy) and improving the public space between the building and the adjoining streets. The final step in that rethinking and reimagining is the restaurant space simply by putting windows where formerly there were blank walls and seeding a patio where none was really considered before. This part of the plan has finally borne fruit in the opening of Four Green Fields, an Irish pub and restaurant, just this month. So far, the pub is drwaing crowds and come spring and summer after this classic New England winter, it seems reasonable to expect patio seating in what is a shady spot given its northeast exposure. With the restoration of the Ames Buidling at the end of Washington Street and the installation of a decidedly upscale patio area there, it is fair to say that this end of Washington Street hasn't had so much to recommend it to the casual visitor in a long, long time.

RTUF Sketch of the Restored Urban Fabric: The hatched area here is the street level extension of the building outside of the footprint of the office tower above. We'll report back in the spring/summer on whether the patio scene actually develops.

FINAL RTUF Note: Over the weekend, we went over the 2,000 visit mark! Many thanks to everyone out there in RTUF Nation who has come and taken a look and, even better, commented. - MJL

1 comment:

  1. Matt-
    I agree with your comment that "it sent out the message that no one need come near it who didn't have some serious business to transact inside." A friend of mine once saw the building and asked why I had to work in the most "evil" looking building. Not ugly, he reassured, just "evil" looking. I do wonder whether that was intentional.

    - Karl Baker