Many of Boston’s early buildings were built with brick, but it was granite that defined the city’s first distinctive architectural style.
Alexander Parris, Gridley Fox Bryant, Solomon Willard, Isaiah Rogers, and other Boston architects developed the unique “Boston granite style,” making use of this abundant local stone in projects ranging from massive warehouses to refined institutional buildings. The designs often play with granite to highlight their visual and structural rationales, punctuating rough stone facades with finely dressed lintels above windows, and defining corners with alternating quoins. Charles Bulfinch preferred granite wherever he could afford it, and had the brick of his most prominent buildings painted white if granite or marble could not be used – as at the State House.
For those seeking to rationalize – and perhaps come to terms with – Boston’s Concrete architecture, these massive, vertical buildings of light-colored stone, with thick walls, deep window and door openings, and minimal ornamentation offer a historical reference point. When cleaned and updated, these old granite buildings often bear a striking resemblance to modern concrete structures.