The Quick 10: 10 Buildings by the Prolific Charles Bulfinch


My trip to Boston last week was pretty educational. I learned that I love squid ink pasta; I learned that 2:03:02 is the fastest marathon ever run; I learned that the Boston cream pie was invented at the Parker House Hotel and I learned that Charles Bulfinch was a crazy-prolific architect. Seriously, everywhere I turned, the building was designed by Bulfinch. It makes you wonder what Boston would have looked like if he hadn’t been around. Beantown isn’t the only place resplendent with his creations, though - read on to see what famous landmarks he was responsible for.

1. The U.S. Capitol Building.

As the third Architect of the Capitol, Bulfinch was charged with continuing the restoration of two wings that were badly damaged when the British burned the building (among other things) in 1814. He also designed the domed center building, the Capitol Grounds and the west terraces. But Bulfinch’s Capitol isn’t the Capitol we know today. His successor, Thomas Walter, had Bulfinch’s original dome replaced by one that was larger and grander - the one that currently stands.

2. Faneuil Hall. It’s been around since 1742, but in 1806, Bulfinch expanded the hall and added a third floor.

3. Harvard’s University Hall. Bulfinch was probably proud to contribute to his alma mater what is now a National Historic Landmark.

4. The Massachusetts State House. Though it’s famous for the 23-karat gold dome, Bulfinch’s original was wooden, and in 1802, Paul Revere had copper laid over the dome. The gold leaf wasn’t added until 1872 but was painted grey during WWII to disguise the building. The latest 23k gold coat is a relative newcomer - it was just added in 1997 at the cost of $300,000.

5. Boylston Market. John Quincy Adams served as the first president of the Boylston Market Association, which oversaw the construction and maintenance of the building. The building itself housed vendors of food and other goods; the second and third floors were meeting and performance spaces. Although it was demolished about 77 years after it was built in 1810, the original belfry was relocated to the Calvary Methodist Church in Arlington, Massachusetts.

6. The Massachusetts State Prison. Ironically, he was able to admire his own handiwork when he spent some time here in 1811 for failing to pay a debt.

7. Massachusetts General Hospital.

Since it opened in 1811, the third-oldest general hospital in the U.S. has grown quite a bit. What was once the whole hospital is now known as the Bulfinch Building; it’s where one of the earliest successful uses of ether as anesthesia occurred.

8. New North Church. Bulfinch was responsible for several churches in Boston (man, this guy was busy), but this is the only one that’s still standing today. These days it’s called St. Stephen’s Church. Rose Kennedy was baptized at St. Stephen’s in 1890, so it’s only fitting that it was also the setting for her 1995 funeral.

9. The Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut. This one is significant because we think it was Bulfinch’s first public building. With a pedigree dating back to 1796, it’s no wonder that the Old State House is widely considered to be quite haunted.

10. Franklin Place, an area of Boston that included 16 townhouses and a garden. It’s considered to be the first urban housing in the U.S. Though the area was mostly destroyed in the Great Boston Fire of 1872, Franklin Place had already been acquired by the city for “the public convenience.” They demolished the townhouses to make way for warehouses.