This sign is awaiting installation

As part of Boston's waterfront urban renewal program, Harbor Towers was built in 1970-71 with a combination of Federal Housing Authority and private monies. Photo by Charles Dixon, October 1970.

Harbor Towers Rise

In 1971, Harbor Towers were the first major residential buildings constructed along Boston's waterfront. The project was part of the city's effort to turn things around on its dilapidated wharves. Boston had been in decline like many U.S. cities, its population dropping. The revitalization plan also included Christopher Columbus Park, the New England Aquarium, and renewal of Quincy Market.

Charles Bulfinch designed the building that stood upon India Wharf for 155 years. Similarly, highly regarded Henry Cobb of I. M. Pei & Partners was chosen as the architect for Harbor Towers. Cobb's design came midst the city's bold—though short-lived—experiment with concrete modernism or Brutalist architecture. Some saw concrete as compatible with the city's granite warehouses.

Boston's Mayor White touted Harbor Towers as luxury living on the harbor, hoping to lure people to the city. However, delays in street and sidewalk connections and the setting between a then-polluted harbor and elevated highway forced lower rents. Today, thanks to two massive investments of public funds—the Big Dig and the successful harbor clean-up—the towers are among the city's most desirable residences.

More...

How did the Harborwalk come to exist? [expand]

How did Colonial laws help create today's Harborwalk? [expand]

For more on Brutalist architecture [expand]

What else is architect Henry Cobb famous for? [expand]

What other buildings in the area were built in the Brutalist style? [expand]

Why did Brutalist architecture end? [expand]

Resources

Credits

Main image: Courtesy of Boston Globe Archives

Aerial photo and photo of model: City of Boston Archives

About us

The Friends of the Boston Harborwalk is a group of volunteers, affiliated with Boston Harbor Now, dedicated to enhancing enjoyment of Boston's 43-mile Harborwalk. The Friends meet monthly to plan and coordinate our three main priorities.

1. Host monthly two-hour long tours connected to the Harborwalk or Boston Harbor;

2. Facilitate waterfront clean-up days to ensure that the full length of the Harborwalk is clean, safe, and inviting;

3. Create engaging interpretive signs to help people learn about and enjoy the rich stories connected to Boston's waterfront.

For more information and to join the Friends, contact Mike Manning, Chair, mmanning@bostonharbornow.org .