The Berkeley Building / Old John Hancock Tower

The Berkeley Building / Old John Hancock Tower

Cram and Ferguson, 1947

Harleston Parker Medal, 1950

Once the second tallest building on the Boston skyline (the Custom House Tower is one foot taller) and a proud symbol of a Boston beginning to come back to life after WWII, the Berkeley Building is now dwarfed by most of it neighbors.

Built as the second of the three John Hancock buildings, it has a uniquely identifiable form on the skyline. Its stepped massing, pyramidal top, and vertical piers emphasized by recessed spandrels are all typical of art deco towers like the Empire State Building – here reduced from Big Apple to Baked Bean proportions. Coming 15 years later, it has lost some of the style’s exuberance to post-war construction cost realities and seems restrained in comparison.

For many Bostonians, the building's codified weather beacon keeps it a daily point of reference:

Steady blue, clear view;Flashing blue, clouds due;Steady red, rain ahead;Flashing red, snow instead.

During baseball season, flashing red means that the Red Sox game has been rained out. In 2004 after the Red Sox won the World Series, another line was added to the poem: “Flashing blue and red, when The Curse of the Bambino is Dead!”