Design New England

Polishing an Architectural Gem

Hayden building[1].jpg

Photograph by Bruce Irving

The rusticated masonry and arched windows on the 1875 Hayden Building in Boston’s Chinatown is typical of the Richardson Romanesque style that put architect Henry Hobson Richardson on the map.

Historic Boston Incorporated has done it again. We featured the nonprofit, whose mission it is to rescue the city’s most endangered properties, in our March/April issue for the outstanding work they did on the 1859 Eustis Street Fire House in Roxbury. Now, we’d also like to give HBI a shout-out for another significant project it recently spearheaded and completed, the renovation of the Hayden Building in Chinatown.


After 30 years of inactivity, Boston’s only remaining commercial building by the renowned 19th-century architect Henry Hobson Richardson (designer of Trinity Church in Copley Square) has been pulled up by its rusticated brownstone bootstraps and launched into a new life.
Located on Washington Street, the five-story building had fallen on hard times when HBI got ahold of it in 1993. Home to a peep-show establishment during Boston’s “Combat Zone” years and subsequently damaged by fire, its illustrious heritage hadn’t even been known until 1973, when research revealed it had been built, off the architect’s books, for Richardson’s father-in-law.

Hayden kitchen.jpg

CUBE Design + Research LLC

A computer rendering of one of the apartments in the renovated Hayden Building.

Soon after acquiring the building, HBI worked with Cambridge, Massachusetts, architects Bruner/Cott and preservation carpentry students at Boston’s North Bennett Street School to stabilize and restore the exterior. Though the first-floor retail spaces were open for business, the upper floors had to wait until market conditions and funds (total project cost was about $5.6 million) warranted further renovations. Finally, in March 2011, it all came together and interior work began under the direction of CUBE Design + Research LLC of Boston with construction handled by Marc Truant & Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Historical placards hung in the stairwell show the original 1875 building permit as well as a handwritten sign explaining to peep-show customers what to do in the event of a police raid (“Turn on lights. REMAIN CALM.”)! The exquisitely rehabilitated building was dedicated by Mayor Thomas M. Menino in on-site ceremonies in February.
The ground-level retail space and four luxury apartments will generate funds for HBI’s ongoing projects. Each 2-bedroom, 1.5 bath apartment occupies a full floor; floor plans are adjustable and sizes range from 910 to 945 square feet. The rental agent, Maxwell Associates, anticipates monthly rents of around $4,000.

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