A proud member of Historic Hotels of America
The Ames Building was a significant work of architecture in the 19th century and continues as a landmark in American architecture up to this day. A proud member of Historic Hotels of America, at 196 feet, it was the tallest masonry building designed in United States history and remains among the tallest in the world. It is considered by many to be Boston’s first skyscraper.
Built of sandstone that traveled from Ohio to Boston in the late 1800’s and designed by the prestigious firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge in Richardsonian Romanesque style, the Ames stands apart in today’s world for her intricate details and dramatic roofline overhang. The design firm is also noted for other local structures, such as Congregational Library, South Station, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, and Trinity Church.
The Ames family was a wealthy family which lived in Easton, Massachusetts for many generations, prominent in both business and politics. Oliver Ames was the family patriarch and started a manufacturing company in the early 1800’s that supplied materials for the construction of railroads. His sons, Oakes and Oliver Jr., took over the company in 1844, aiding the Union Army during the Civil War and assisting with the finance and engineering of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Frederick Lothrop Ames, son of Oliver Jr., was the most successful member of the Ames family, dabbling in the family business, railroads, banks, and real estate. Known as the wealthiest man in Massachusetts, he would be the one to commission the Ames building and is most notably remembered for patenting the military shovel, which became standard issue for troops in the U.S. Army for every conflict from the American Civil War to the Korean War. A long-standing friend to the Ames family, H.H. Richardson, previously commissioned by F.L. Ames to build libraries, monuments, homes, and commercial buildings, was to have been given the project of the Ames building, but died in 1886.
The historic project was instead given to the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. Inspired by Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, the design of the Ames Building incorporated classic proportions of base, middle, and top that were unusual for its time. The masonry façade consists of exquisite details in blue slate and red sandstone, as well as a rich composition of intricate decorative carvings, making its construction even more remarkable.
The original 93,000+ square foot building headquartered the Ames families’ agricultural tool company until the 1950’s, as well as the offices of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge from 1893 to 1981, beginning the firm’s tradition of occupying buildings of its own design. From then until 2007, the Ames Building was purchased and plans were laid with several buyers, all who opted out prior to housing their businesses. In 2007, however, the Ames building was purchased with plans to renovate and was turned into the luxury boutique hotel now known as the Ames Boston Hotel. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, the Ames Building is nostalgic to the history of this area and the nation. Every detail of the Ames, from the family that commissioned it, to the teams of architects and construction firms who designed and built it, to the area of downtown Boston where it is located, is steeped in history that has shaped Boston and America’s history.