Old Corner Bookstore
The Old Corner Bookstore sits on the corner of School and Washington Streets in downtown Boston. It is a part of the Freedom Trail. Built in 1718, the structure is the oldest commercial building in Boston. However, the building is no longer used as a bookstore or publishing company. Leased to a number of retail establishments over the past century, the first floor of the building is now occupied by quick-service food chain.
Backstory and Context
In the mid-nineteenth century, the book publisher Ticknor and Fields operated out of the Old Corner Bookstore. Ticknor and Fields is well-known for producing works written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among others. These men and women were also frequent visitors to the bookstore and publishing company, so often that the corner was nicknamed "Parnassus Corner." In Greek mythology, Mount Parnassus was home to the nine muses of Greek mythology and a place full of poetry, music, and learning.
Ticknor and Fields operated out of the building until 1903. Two decades earlier (1880), they had merged with another publishing company, Houghton and Mifflin (now Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt) and soon needed more room for their expanding business. After their departure, a series of other small businesses occupied the real estate. In 1960, downtown Boston was undergoing significant revitalization. One of the projects included demolishing the old bookstore to turn the site into a parking garage. A group of leading Bostonians did not want to see the historic building destroyed, so they formed "Historic Boston Incorporated," lobbied to save the building, and eventually purchased it for preservation.
A green sign on the building's exterior reads:
“The Old Corner Bookstore
Thomas Crease built this structure as his apothecary and residence shortly after the great fire of 1711 destroyed Anne Hutchinson’s house on this site. Timothy Carter opened the Old Corner Bookstore here in 1829. Between 1845 and 1865, the booksellers Ticknor and Fields established the building’s lasting literacy significance as the publishers of Hawthorne, Longfellow, Stowe, Emerson, Thoreau and other prominent American and British authors, who often gathered here.
In 1960, civic leaders raised money and established Historic Boston Incorporated to acquire and preserve this site.”
Old Corner Bookstore. Boston Discovery Guide. Accessed February 08, 2017. http://www.boston-discovery-guide.com/old-corner-bookstore.html.