The Neighborhood

The Charlesgate is one of the most historic and architecturally significant neighborhoods of Boston. A  diversity of architectural styles, from Romanesesque to Neo-Classicism to  Gothic Revival to Art Nouveau to Early Modernism,  can all be found in the Charlesgate neighborhood, making it one of the most interesting sections of Boston. The following are examples of the beautiful homes and structures to be found in the Charlesgate. (NOTE: All but one building shown are either on the park or within a one   block radius of the park.)

Come take a walking tour of our neighborhood and you will discover another important reason why the Charlesgate Park should be restored.

Click on each photo for a larger view.

461-463 Commonwealth Ave. (at Charlesgate) The Thompson Mansion 

Designed by Samuel D. Kelley, one of the most popular “fin de siecle” architects of Boston mansions, this  Neo- Romanesque style house built in 1891 exhibits exquisite attention to detail in its beautiful turrets and sculptured brownstone walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detail, 461 Commonwealth Avenue (Thompson Mansion)

 

477 & 479 Commonwealth Avenue 

Two very different approaches to late 19th c. Boston architecture.  479 Commonwealth, designed by Winslow & Wetherell for George Witcomb in 1895, is a fine example of the simplicity and visual strength of Neo-Classicism. On the other hand, 477 Commonwealth, designed by Stephenson, Ballantine for W. B. Allen in 1892, is a fanciful, highly detailed example of the French Academic architecture of the “Belle Epoque”

 

 

Detail, 477 Commonwealth Avenue

 

495-497 Commonwealth Avenue (The Carpenter/Rollins Mansions)

Designed by Walker, Kimball in 1895, these contiguous homes are two of the most grandiose & flamboyant examples of Neo-Romanesque  architecture (with uniquely  Federal “touches”)  to be found anywhere in Boston.

495-497 Commonwealth Avenue (different angle)

 

476, 478, & 480 Commonwealth Avenue

These three buildings are wonderful examples of the variety and eclecticism of the architecture to be found in the Charlesgate neighborhood.  476 is a fine example of neo-Federal architecture; 478 is a lovely example of the French Academic (“Belle Epoque”); and 480 is a wonderful example of English-style Gothic Revival.

 

 

 

 

 

478 Commonwealth Ave., Detail. Note the French baroque quality to the embellishments

 

The Commonwealth Hotel

One of the most recent additions to the Charlesgate neighborhood is the elegant Commonwealth Hotel. Constructed in 2001, the structure borrows freely from its neighboring French Academic buildings. Its mansard roofed, bay windowed façade gives the hotel a uniquely different look from the quotidian, “boxy” Modernist design of such Boston hotels as the Mandarin and Four Seasons.

Detail,  Commonwealth Hotel

 

660 Beacon St. & the CITGO sign

The Barnes & Noble/Boston University Bookstore building is a landmark office building in Kenmore Square. Built around 1900, the structure features interesting wrought iron window work with fanciful baroque cornices in the “Chicago” style. Above the building is the world-famous CITGO sign, Boston’s only homage to neon-art. Constructed in 1940 and reconfigured to its present appearance in 1965, the sign was turned off permanently  in 1979 as a conservation move. But because fans of the sign were so upset, the sign was finally turned on again in 1983 and has been a beacon over Fenway ball park ever since.

 

 

490 Commonwealth Avenue, The Kenmore Hotel

The Kenmore Hotel (now subsidized housing) is a fine example of early 20th c. “eclecticism”. Designed by Blackall, Clapp, & Whittemore in 1915, it meshes “Chicago style” high rise with Bloomsbury ornamentation and even a touch of Dutch Revival.

 

 

 

 

 

52 Bay State Road

This wonderfully eccentric house is shaped like a wedge of cheese to fit a narrow to wide lot. Designed by Murdock Boyle in 1913, it is a handsome example of neo-Federal styling.

 

17-19 Bay State Road

Two more fine examples of the architectural mastery of Samuel D. Kelley. These buildings, constructed in 1889, exude the strength, grandeur and character of the better neo-Romanesque Boston architecture.

 

4 &10 Charlesgate East/535 Beacon St. The Barnes Mansion/Charlesgate Hotel

Built in 1891 by architect John Pickering Putnam, this spectacular Gothic Revival structure on the Charlesgate Park is truly one of the most striking edifices in all of Boston. The building combined what was at the time the largest single family home in Boston (the Barnes Mansion) with the most luxurious residential hotel  in the Northeast. The building is also internationally known for its “hauntings” and paranormal activities, similar to “The Dakota” in NYC.

 

 

 

 

 

Charlesgate Hotel/ Barnes Mansion. View from the park

 

415-19 Commonwealth Avenue, “The Meads”

This mansion, directly on the park, was designed by arguably the greatest American architects of the “Fin de Siecle”, McKim, Mead and White (the architects of the Boston Public Library; Rhode Island State House; Penn Station, NYC; Rosecliff, Newport, R.I.; the American Academy in Rome; and the East & West Wings of the White House.) A perfect example of the architects’ simple but powerful neo-Classicism, a precursor of 20th c. Modernism.

 

 

 

419 Commonwealth Avenue. Side view from the park.

 

413 Commonwealth Avenue, “The Meads”

The “other” portion of “The Meads” mansion.  Again designed by McKim, Mead & White but in a more Bostonian Federal style.

 

409 Commonwealth Avenue, The Bradley Mansion.

Designed by Peabody & Stearns in 1898, The Bradley Mansion is a beautiful and monumental example of Neo-Classicism in domestic architecture

 

395 Commonwealth Avenue, “The Ayers Mansion”

The Ayers Mansion, built in 1899, has the unique claim of being the only residence extant in the U.S. today designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the great Art Nouveau artist. The building is also unique in Boston in that it is a highly unusual hybrid of Neo-Classicism and Art Nouveau styling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

395 Commonwealth Avenue, Detail.  Some of the beautiful and intricate art nouveau tile and glass-work of Tiffany on the Ayer Mansion exterior

 

393 Commonwealth Avenue, “The Banks Mansion”

Designed by the prominent architects Little & Browne in 1899, the Banks Mansion is a lovely, understated example of classic Federal style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leif Erikson Statue, Commonwealth Mall at Charlesgate East

Interesting tribute to the Norse explorer sculpted by Anne Whitney in 1887. Legend had it that Erikson may have visited Massachusetts in an early attempt at settlement around Hull; thus this “homage. “  Alas, this theory has been largely disproved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leif Erikson Statue, Commonwealth Mall. Close-up.

 

 

400 Commonwealth Avenue, the Somerset Hotel.

Designed by A. Bowditch in 1897, The Somerset is an elegant, stately blending of Neo-Classicism and Italianate architecture. The Somerset, now high-end condos, was considered one of the most elegant residence hotels in the U.S. during the first 40 years of its existence.

400 Commonwealth  Avenue, The Somerset. Entrance : Beautiful  Italianate  rounded entrance to the hotel

 

466 Commonwealth Avenue, The Braemore Hotel

This interesting “Chicago” style structure (now condos) was designed by Blackall, Clapp & Whitemore in 1916. Its simple  brick exterior design is highlighted by fanciful  baroque touches such as the urn rooftop ornaments and window details.

 

 

 

Photos taken by: Selena Jakupovic

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