Will landmark Jacob Wirth’s rise from the ashes?

Will landmark Jacob Wirth’s rise from the ashes?

Just as it was to re-open as a new restaurant and bar, the historic Jacob Wirth building  at 31 Stuart Street in Boston suffered a four-alarm fire that raged through all three of its upper floors on Monday June 24th

Until Jacob Wirth’s closed in 2018, it was considered the second oldest restaurant in Boston (after the Union Oyster House), having begun in 1868 on Eliot Street (now Stuart Street) by German immigrant Jacob Wirth, who imported German beer and wines, and served up German cuisine at this restaurant until his death in 1902.  His son, Jacob Wirth Jr., took over and continued it as a German fare restaurant until his death in 1965.  While there have been subsequent owners and some changes, the extraordinary 1890’s interior of ornate mahogany bars, oak tables, brass railings and wainscoting, remain exactly as they were in Victorian-period Boston.  So rare is this surviving interior that it is an unusual instance of a protected interior Boston Landmark.  

Two 1840s townhouses make up Jacob Wirth’s.  They remain an unusual surviving set of early 19th century row houses, a type of structure that once dominated this edge of Boston’s Chinatown and can only now be found in Boston’s South End.  The exterior of the restaurant is also protected by the Boston Landmarks Commission, and is a reminder to neighbors and visitors of this area’s development after the landfill for Bay Village and South Cove in the early 19th century.  They are also a reminder of the extraordinary change that this portion of downtown Boston has experienced in the 20th and 21st centuries.  

Boston firefighters said that all three floors of the building were alight when they arrived and that the damage is serious.  The Boston Fire Department is inspecting the site to determine the origins of the fire and the degree of damage.  The developer City Realty and its affiliate Jacob Wirth Realty Trust had to be wrapping up the interior’s restoration in order to re-open the historic restaurant as a pub and restaurant.  The Boston Fire Department estimates damage at $3 million.   

Advocates for preservation are urging the Boston Landmarks Commission to request a detailed assessment of the property and requirements for restoring its interior and exterior in accordance with the Boston Landmarks Commission requirements.