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When Boston first went big: Considering one of our original skyscrapers

With the city in the midst of a building boom, a look back at the Batterymarch Building.

Hancock Tower. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/Getty
Batterymarch. Hilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall

165 feet — The height of the Batterymarch Building, Boston’s first Art Deco skyscraper, completed in 1928. Only the Custom House Tower was taller.

495 feet — Height of the Custom House Tower, completed in 1915; as a federal building, it was exempt from local zoning laws that governed the Batterymarch

790 feet — Height of the John Hancock Tower, Boston’s tallest building today

To create the illusion of even greater height, the Batterymarch Building is clad in 30 shades of brick that transition from dark at the bottom to light at the top.

“[A] new monument on Boston’s skyline, marking the beginning of a new century in her history.” — 1928 promotional brochure


About Art Deco — The term, coined in Paris just three years before the Batterymarch opened, describes an aesthetic that blends images of the natural and mechanical worlds. Decorations include a codfish, a bean pot, clipper ships, locomotives, and an airplane.

Current nameHilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall

First name — The Public Service Building, because many original tenants worked in the utility industry

Longest-standing name — The Batterymarch Building, for the Revolutionary War soldiers who marched by the site on the way to their garrison

Lot size — 24,125 square feet

Interior — 274,720 square feet

2014 assessed value — $57.4 million

In 1927, the Boston Evening Transcript declared the building “destined to become a landmark.” That’s proved true several times over.

1973 — The area it belongs to, the Custom House District, is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

1995 — The Batterymarch Building is made a landmark by the City of Boston.

2014 — The Hilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall is added to the prestigious Historic Hotels of America list.


Sources: Boston Landmarks Commission; Boston Redevelopment Authority; The Bostonian Society; City of Boston Assessing Department; Hilton Boston Downtown/Faneuil Hall