Boston's Oldest Buildings and Where to Find Them—on Atlascope

ArticleOur Atlascope tool makes the perfect digital companion to a new book on Boston’s oldest buildings from the City Archaeologist

Rachel Mead
April 22, 2021
413 words

City Archaeologist Joe Bagley, who we interviewed a couple of months ago about his use of Atlascope for archaeology research, has just come out with a new book. It’s called Boston’s Oldest Buildings and Where to Find Them, and highlights Boston’s rich architectural history, focusing on buildings that are still present in the city today.

While Atlascope doesn’t go back to when these buildings were originally built (our earliest Atlascope layer is from 1861), you can get a picture of the way the city has changed around them over the centuries.

The Old Corner Bookstore

One example is the building at the corner of Washington and School Streets downtown at 283 Washington St. You can see it here in Atlascope in 1882—when it was actually a bookstore. In the background is a 1938 map. If you grab the little hand icon and drag it, you can see that by 1938 the building gets a name that we still use: the Old Corner Bookstore Building! Today, the building houses a Chipotle, but it has also been a cigar shop, a barbershop, and an apothecary, according to Bagley’s interview about the book in the Boston Globe.

Paul Revere House

The oldest building in downtown Boston is the Paul Revere House at 19 North Square in the North End. While the neighborhood has changed a lot since the house was built circa 1680, the wooden structure maintains 90% of its original structural elements. Here’s an Atlascope view of the house in 1898, which is the first year it is labeled as the Paul Revere House, ten years before it opened as a museum in 1908.

George Middleton House

This 1787 wooden structure is nestled between younger brick buildings at 5 Pinckney St. George Middleton was a Black community organizer, a militia leader during the American Revolution and Grand Master of the African Lodge of Masons. The wood buildings (yellow on atlases, the pink are brick) in the neighborhood are mostly outbuildings by the late 19th century, with the exception of the George Middleton House and a couple of other homes. In this Atlascope view, you can see a couple of differences between the house in 1882 and today. The building is labeled as 7 Pinckney St., for example, and while today it functions as a private home, the “S.” denotes that there was a shop in the building at the time.