Custom House

Custom House

Ammi Burnham Young, 1837–1847

Tower addition: Peabody and Stearns, 1913–1915

Boston Landmark

Built at the nineteenth-century water’s edge, the new Custom House was ideally situated on State Street, which had long served as the primary route from the wharves to the Old State House, the banks, and Washington Street. State Street, called King Street until the Revolution, was an important street in seventeenth-century Boston. The original Custom House was a four-faced Greek temple with fluted Doric columns of granite weighing forty-two tons each. The interior rotunda had a skylit dome, but the tower was built over this in 1913.

Although Boston had a 125-foot height restriction, the federally-owned Custom House property was not subject to city height limits. Thus Boston’s first skyscraper was built, a sixteen-story landmark that was a shock to the city. It remained the city's tallest until the Prudential Tower was built in the 1960s.