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By Scott Roberto / May 12, 12:00 AM
A Peek at the Past: Quincy Market


Quincy Market, the grand Greek Revival building at the heart of famed Faneuil Hall Marketplace, is a thriving center for shopping, dining and entertainment. What may be hard for Bostonians to believe is that this beloved, historic structure was once one of the most endangered landmarks in the city.

Named for former Boston Mayor Josiah Quincy III, who was instrumental in its creation, Quincy Market was completed, along with the flanking North and South Market buildings, in 1826. Boston had just officially become a city in 1822, and was growing by leaps and bounds. More space was needed for the selling of wholesale goods than neighboring Faneuil Hall, created in 1742, could accommodate. The area to the east of Faneuil Hall, which had been situated on the waterfront, was filled in order to create space for the new edifice, which was designed by esteemed local architect Alexander Parris and originally called Faneuil Hall Market. In its early days, the stalls there were used to sell all kinds of produce, from fish and meat to fruit and bread, while the North and South Markets were used primarily as warehouse space. 

For decades, the area was a hotbed of activity. Goods that passed through Quincy Market were distributed throughout New England and beyond. By the middle of the 20th century, however, the building began to deteriorate as its tenants departed for more modern facilities and shipping traffic on Boston Harbor decreased. This set the stage for one of the most successful urban renewal projects in Boston history. Heading off plans to demolish Quincy Market, a coalition of developers and city leaders stepped forward. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, the site was subsequently restored and redeveloped, eventually morphing—along with Faneuil Hall and the North and South Markets—into the Faneuil Hall Marketplace we know today when it was re-opened in 1976. Serving as a template for similar urban marketplaces all over the world, this award-winning project transformed the area from a grocery market into a downtown oasis where locally themed retailers, restaurants and fast food stalls have thrived, serving nearly 18 million eager visitors and residents each year. 

image: courtesy of Boston Public Library

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