Ames Building, Boston
The Ames Building was constructed in 1889, but the interior of the building was still under construction until 1893. The building is 196 feet tall and stood as the tallest building in Boston until 1915. This title is sometimes questioned by those who point out that the steeple of the Church of the Covenant extended far beyond the roof of the Ames Building. Regardless of whether one considers steeples and other ornamental features in their calculations, the Ames Building holds the distinction as the second tallest load-bearing masonry structure in the country as the building is supported almost uniquely by concrete rather than by metal. The Ames Building was designed and constructed as the headquarters of the Ames Company. The interior of the building was modernized in 2009, when it became home to the Ames Boston Hotel. Despite the modernization of the interior, the hotel's exterior was not altered giving the building the architectural duality of a modern interior within a historic .
Backstory and Context
The story of the Ames Building can be traced back to earliest years of the American colonies. Captain John Ames was a blacksmith in Massachusetts Colony who produced iron. However, in 1773 Britain outlawed the manufacture of iron in the American colonies, Ames changed his business from iron production to making shovels and working as a gunsmith. He supported the rebels in the American Revolution, and event that helped his business as he created guns and shovels for the revolutionaries.
His son, Oliver Ames Sr., took over the family business and created the Ames Shovel Shops. This company produced shovels for the construction of canals and railroads. Increased demand during the California Gold Rush and the construction of many railroads leading up the Civil War led to the company's growth over the years. Oliver Ames gave his company to his sons: Oakes and Oliver Jr., who changed its name to Oliver Ames & Sons. The new company not only supplied shovels for the construction of railroads (including the Transcontinental Railroad), but also for the Union during the American Civil War.
The son of Oliver, Frederick Lothrop Ames, became the new head of the company and planned the construction of this building. Ames became the wealthiest person in the state as he invested his inherited wealth in railroads and a variety of other businesses. This building was one of the twelve buildings commissioned by Frederick Ames.
Ames commissioned architect Henry Hobson Richardson to produce this building as the headquarters of his agricultural supply company. Richardson passed away before the plans were complete and signed a will saying he wanted Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge to finish this and several other buildings that Ames had commissioned. respecting this advice, Ames commissioned the firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge to build the Ames Building. The firm contracted the Norcross Brothers Company for construction of the concrete structure thich features granite slate and marble pieces throughout the exterior and first floor interior spaces.
Before the construction of the Ames building, this site had been home to Harvard’s first President: Reverend Henry Dunster and was also located at the site of Boston’s first well. The streets surrounding the Ames Building were originally known as Council Street, King Street, and Queen Street. These street names later changed to Washington Street, State Court, and Court Street, demonstrating the rejection of Great Britain.
With the exception of the steeple of the Church of the Covenant, this was known as the tallest building in Boston for many years owing to laws which made it illegal to construct taller buildings for a number of years. Another important feature of this building is its Romanesque Byzantine architecture. The building includes arched structures, mosaics, and many tall windows that provided natural light.
The Ames family was in charge of the management of many companies and eventually moved the corporate headquarters to Pennsylvania. Ames continues to produce shovels in addition to modern tools for the construction industry. The building is now home to a boutique hotel with a redesigned interior. One of the signature suites is named after legendary Boston hockey star Bobby Orr who was so moved by the honor that he donated some personal items which can be found on the 14th floor of the hotel.
Dupont, Kevin Paul. For a roomful of memories, book the new Bobby Orr Suite. The Boston Globe. June 13, 2017. https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/bruins/2017/06/13/for-roomful-memories-book-new-bobby-orr-suite/T....
Ames Boston Hotel History. YouTube. March 24, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELD817RzB3g.