Blog 1
Boston Custom House

Boston Custom House

Structure Information         

The Historic Structure I chose was the Boston Custom House, which is located downtown Boston.  I had a layover in Boson before coming to London, so I decided to explore Boston. The building was designed by architect Ammi B. Young, and the lot for the building was purchased in 1837 and construction was authorized by President Andrew Jackson. The building was complete in 1847 during James K Polk administration. The Custom House was funded by the federal government, and was the most expensive building built in America, with a price tag of $1.2 million [2] .


Boston Custom House Before 1913

Boston Custom House Tower

Historical Significance

The beginning construction process was interesting to me; 3,000 large logs were used was the building’s support [2]. The logs were ugly I am assuming, because they covered the logs with layers of granite, brick and cement to create the sturdy foundation. The twenty-six-floor tower hat was added in 1913 caught my eye at first, because I could see it from the train station [1]. The columns made me think of the ancient Caesar’s Palace, which I learned about in history class. The Custom House has an original design of a Greek temple, with Doric columns on all four sides, and a large domed roof. The style is a Greek Revival-style hence the Caesar similarity.



Cultural Significance

The Custom House was the center of the communications commission, and the center for Boston’s customs officials. Before Federal income tax were introduced to the United States, the government relied on the duties and taxes collected by the Customs Service at Boston’s wharfs.  The Custom House played an important role in the United Stated in the early 1800’s, they accounted for 1/5 of the money collected for the federal government [2]. The reason I gravitated to this building is because, I asked a restaurant host “what was ha building?” and she replied “the Marriott hotel”. I immediately thought that was a cool looking hotel, and wanted to explore the inside.

The Custom House was completely renovated in the 1990s, and now is a timeshare owned by Marriott Vacations. The concierge in the inside was very knowledgeable about the building, nice, and gave me a fact sheet about the history. When I was leaving, he made the remark “That was easy”, so I am guessing he gives out facts to tourist all the time and is now considered a pro at doing it.


Inside Marriott Hotel

Structural Art

Based on the three principles efficiency, economy, and elegance I can determine if the Custom House is structural art. Since, this building played a major role in the federal government finances, I feel that it benefited the economy. It was pricy, but the materials such as granite, brick, cement, and logs made balanced the cost and was efficient. The load for the tower was not transparent, but from the dome down to the columns the load paths can be traced. The Custom House has a Greek elegance about it, and because of its historic look It is structural art. This building screams structural art when looking at the columns. Out of the 36 columns, only half are supporting the structure. The rest are free- standing, so I am guessing the other half are just for looks.

Structural Analysis

After the building was constructed, the exterior of the building consists of 6 columns on each side on a high flight of steps, an order of engaged columns around the walls 20 in number, all on a high basement. The columns are 5 feet 4 inches in diameter and 32 feet high, the shaft being in one place, each weighing about 42 tons. The square footage of the building is 886 sf. The assumption was made that he building is made from stone, so the weight of stone is 133 per cubic feet [3].

Load path

Self Weight Load Path

Self Weight & Force in y-Direction Calculation

Personal Response

By visiting Boston, I now understand why this historical building is well seen verses other historical buildings. I learned that Boston’s pre-1928 building code limited commercial buildings to 125 feet high or approximately 11 stories. Since this was a prominent federal building, the codes did not apply. To somewhat apply to the code, the developers compensated for this restrictive zoning by using innovative massing techniques and by expanding the floor plate [2].  This was my first time in Boston, and I enjoyed exploring and learning about the Historic Structures. When I think of Boston, I think of the Boston Celtics and the New England Patriots. Now I have the knowledge of how federal money was collected before federal income taxes.

Me at Boston Custom House