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Custom House: 1915

Custom House: 1915

Circa 1915. "Custom House tower, Boston, Massachusetts." Note the wireless masts next door. Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative. View full size.


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Tropical Radio

The radio towers belong to Tropical Radio. A part of the United Fruit Company. This was their contact with fruit growers in South America. Growing up in a small town south of Boston I had a friend whose father was employed by Tropical Radio as an auditor and traveled all through South America visiting their locations.

Boston Gem

I just recently stayed there. I did take a tour of the building. Great history behind it. The 36 original pillars at the east and west entrances are solid granite weighing in at 42 tons each. 1847 means ox had to deliver them. The dome of the original structure was kept intact and the tower built over it and can only be seen from the interior.


When I was a boy, the Custom House was the only skyscraper in the City of Boston. I could look across the harbor from my home in Winthrop, and see the Custom House, and the United Shoe Building, the second tallest edifice, illuminated at night by lights on its roof.

Now a Marriott vacation timeshare.

It is now a Marriott vacations property. A friend gave my wife and I two nights of their timeshare last week. We were on the 19th floor facing the harbor (the top of the three floors by the fluted columns.)The room key accessed an elevator to the observation deck. We saw a few groups of people not staying there approach front desk and were given an escort to the observation deck.

Somebody Goofed?

What's the point of a clock tower if one can't tell the time by it? Where were the hands at the time this was photographed?

[In a crate with the rest of the clock. - Dave]

A Survivor

Nice to see that this building still stands. It's amazing how much they destroyed of their old city in Boston.

Weird architecture

This is a weird looking building. It seems to be cross between a courthouse, office building and church.

Wonderful View

As I write this, I am looking at this very building, as I do every day from my office on the Boston waterfront. Still one of the more striking profiles on the Boston skyline, even though it is now surrounded by a number of more contemporary structures. Incidentally, the handsome building upon which the wireless masts are anchored, at the corner of India and State streets, is still there, very nicely preserved, and serves, among other things, as the current home of Kitty O'Shea's, an Irish bar on the State Street side. And the Gothic beauty with the arched windows at the right margin of the photograph -- the Flour and Grain Exchange Building -- also still syands, also very well-preserved, and newly visible now that the dreadful Central Artery has been torn down. Terrific photograph!

Gas works

In the distance can be seen one of the ubiquitous (at the time) municipal gas holders. These got quite a bit of discussion in some earlier Shorpy threads at:


I think these old dinosaurs have pretty much disappeared from the contemporary city skyline.

Nice Renovation

For those that don't know, the base of the building was completed in 1847, but the twenty-six floor tower was not added until 1913-15. We don't build them like this anymore!

Checking In

The tower is now a smallish (87-room) Marriott hotel.

A timeless pun

Good one, Dave! I think what Fort Worth Guy is asking about is the little door between 6 and 7, which perhaps was needed for someone to assist the heavy hands with making their upward climb on occasion.

[It's where the cuckoo pops out. - Dave]

What is on the clock face between the 6 and 7?

I cannot see what it is from the full view size.

[6:30 - Dave]

My favorite too!

I've always loved that building and what it means to Boston's maritime past. What I remember most fondly though is the trip I made in 1970 as a 14 year old geek to take my commercial radio license exam at the FCC offices that were there. Some years later I was able to ride the tiny elevator to the observation deck above the clock. Sadly, I didn't have a camera with me.


Perfect example of how to get a large building on a tiny site! Beautifully simple!


What are the wireless masts for? It's too early for broadcasting.

[Radiotelegraphy goes back to the late 19th century. Its most widespread application was ship-to-shore communication. Wireless telegraph and telephone ("Marconi") masts began to appear in large cities, especially along the East Coast, around 1910. - Dave]

Carter's Tested Seeds

Carter's seems to have been a British seed producer. Not only did they offer seed for turf around "some of the finest holes" -- one assumes this refers to golf courses -- they offered flower and vegetable seed, included the largely-unloved Brussels Sprouts.

Look Ma, No Hands!

It looks as if the Custom House clock is "out to lunch." It was only recently that the brothers David & Ross Hochstrasser were successful in making this clock a reliable timekeeper. The clock's original hands were far too heavy and the clock would frequently stop due to the load of the minute hands when they were ascending the dials. Today, the clock's hands are made of lightweight plastic.

The Art of Photography

There is a rather timeless quality about this image, don't you agree?

[The clock is definitely timeless. - Dave]

Best towah evah

Glad to see my *favorite* building in Boston on Shorpy! The Custom House Tower looks just as gorgeous today as it did back then.

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