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  • Writer's pictureLISA THARP

An Architectural Gem: Why I Love the Back Bay

Updated: Dec 14, 2018

One of the best things about living and working in Boston's Back Bay is the architectural inspiration that can be found all around the neighborhood. In fact, there are inspirational treasures on just about every block.

A favorite example sits on the first block of Commonwealth Avenue, just a few doors down from the Boston Public Garden. Built around 1860 as one of a pair of academic brick houses, the building was completely transformed in 1905.  Architects Parker Thomas and Rice added curved bow windows, and swapped out the mansard roof for a windowed upper level while cladding the home in white stone.

Above is a closer peek at the left side lawn area, which was claimed for the addition of a large new music hall / ballroom in the Palladian style... a true hidden gem.

Then homeowners, the Baylies family, hosted a grand debutante ball for their daughter Charlotte in 1912.

The addition's style is reminiscent of another of my architectural favorites, Rosecliff of Newport RI, built in the same era.  Rosecliff was designed by architect Stanford White, of firm McKim, Mead & White fame, and modeled after the Grand Trianon (1687) at Versailles.  Rosecliff owners Hermann and Teresa Oelrichs longed for "a theatrical setting for grand parties and entertainments".  - Newport Preservation Society

A sunlit glimpse of the former mansard roof

My daily walk between home and our Newbury Street studio inspires me every day. I give silent thanks to the architects, builders, craftspeople, patrons and preservationists of the past that have contributed to such neighborhood beauty.

Photo Sources / Credits: 1. Back Bay Houses 2+3. Me 4. Jodi Hilton, Globe Staff Photo 5.  Videoblocks  6. Me

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