Alexander Parris, 1824–1826
Renovation: Benjamin Thompson and Associates, 1976–1978
National Historic Landmark
Harleston Parker Medal, 1977
Quincy Market is one of many “festival marketplaces” developed from the mid-1960s onward, as Americans renewed their interest in older city centers as an alternative to the characterless automobile-oriented shopping malls proliferating in the suburbs. Its frisson of urban energy in newly sanitized historic buildings may have lost some of its power through repetition, but the masonry, glass, street performers and merchandise still have their charm and sense of authenticity. Visionary architect Ben Thompson saw retail’s power to revitalize cities and culture, and the potential for renovating down-on-their-luck 19th century buildings to re-connect cities to their roots.
Alexander Parris originally designed Quincy market in the Greek revival style to give dignity to the commercial enterprises inside while employing a number of building innovations: cast-iron columns; iron tension rods; laminated wood ribs for the copper-covered dome; and the first large-scale use of granite and glass in the manner of post-and-beam construction. The original complex consists of four buildings: the brick and wood Faneuil Hall facing City Hall; the granite Quincy Market behind it; and the substantially altered North Market and South Market buildings on either side. Faneuil Hall was once on the waterfront, before landfill pushed Boston's edge another quarter of a mile seaward.
The markets still function in much the way they did when they were built. Quincy Market, long and thin, has a central aisle flanked by stalls. The North and South buildings have more conventional retail space with offices up above. New glass “greenhouse” structures from the 1970’s and 2016 renovations, along with steel and stone stairs and other improvements, provide modern design counterpoints and conveniences while evoking the timeless spirit of dense urban marketplaces.