October 29, 2021 HBI begins upgrades to the Old Corner Bookstore
When Historic Boston (HBI) moved its headquarters back to our original office space at the Old Corner Bookstore a little over a year ago, we took advantage of the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the site, which had been HBI’s headquarters from its founding in 1960 until 2011 when we moved to the Eustis Street Fire House.
What we typically refer to as the Old Corner Bookstore (OCB for short) is really a complex of four contiguous brick structures. The oldest of the four is the actual Old Corner Bookstore, which sits on the corner of School and Washington Streets and was built in 1718. It started out as a residence and apothecary shop, and later housed a bookstore and the publishing company Ticknor & Fields. It has operated continuously as commercial and retail space and is now home to a street level Chipotle restaurant with offices above. Adjacent to the Bookstore to the north is 277 Washington Street; built in 1728, it’s the second oldest structure of the complex and now houses Dig restaurant and offices above, including HBI’s office on the top floor. Attached to the west side of the Bookstore are 7 and 11 School Street, two structures built in the 1820s, housing Bruegger’s Bagels and formerly Sweet cupcakes, also with offices above.
As anyone who owns an historic building knows, stewardship is an on-going and costly challenge. The OCB complex is no exception. Soon after moving into our newly refurbished office space, we discovered we had roof and skylight water leaks, resulting in frequent calls to our roofer to attempt patches and repairs. Eventually satisfied that the problem was solved, we repainted our damaged ceiling, only to experience yet more leaking. We determined replacement of both the skylights and the flat roof at 277 Washington Street will be needed. But, we wondered, what is the condition of the other roofs?
We decided to hire an envelope consultant, Gale Associates, Inc. to do a thorough assessment of the roofs and skylights for the whole complex, which has a total of eight separate roofs. Gale also evaluated fire escapes, roof ladders, chimneys, roof walkways, snow stops and safety and code compliance. Thankfully, we learned the slate on the gambrel roof of the Bookstore is in pretty good condition, but we will need to start planning the replacement of some of the other EPDM roofs in the near future. And in the process of looking at the roofs, we also identified rooftop mechanical equipment that is no longer in use but has never been removed, as well as equipment still in use that should soon be replaced. Next, Gale Associates will evaluate the condition of the facades, so that we have a more complete picture of what will be needed to keep the Old Corner Bookstore in good shape for generations to come.