May 21, 2023 Where’s the Old Corner Bookstore? Historic Boston explores new ways of experiencing an ancient building
When HBI was formed in 1960 to save the Old Corner Bookstore from demolition, the founders considered options for the rehabilitated buildings’ reuse and determined that the complex should continue to be commercial office and retail space, to demonstrate that historic buildings can evolve to reflect the needs of a neighborhood and also contribute to the City’s tax base. Just as importantly, the rent paid by the OCB tenants funds Historic Boston’s mission to preserve at-risk historic buildings throughout the City.
Although the Old Corner Bookstore is a site on Boston’s Freedom Trail, we know that many people know us only as the Chipotle building and have no knowledge of its origins as a residence and apothecary shop, or its many years as a center for book publishing. And HBI still receives phone calls from people asking if we carry rare books, or wondering what hours the building is open to visitors who assume we’re a museum.
To help us renew public awareness and understanding of the Old Corner Bookstore, HBI recently engaged design and branding consultant Other Tomorrows to research public perception of the Old Corner Bookstore and to recommend new strategies for interpreting the rich history of one of the oldest buildings in Boston. Their work began with interviewing a wide range of local residents, visitors, and institutional representatives to understand how people feel about the building, and what if anything they know of its history. This information will now be synthesized by the Other Tomorrows team, and a collaboration with HBI and other stakeholders will follow to envision several new ideas to highlight this historic gem.
New ideas could range from public art and interpretive signage to expanded uses or programs and beyond. The concepts that surface will dovetail with HBI’s ongoing work with architect Finegold Alexander Architects, which is helping the non-profit plan critical building updates that ensure the Old Corner Bookstore continues to thrive for another 300 years. We look forward to sharing more about the future of the Old Corner Bookstore in the months to come.