The year 2018 marks important anniversaries of six historic sites in Boston, including the Old Corner Bookstore and the Strand Theatre. However, despite the rich histories of both these buildings, they were nearly demolished.
Originally built as a house and apothecary shop in 1718, the Old Corner Bookstore on School Street is best known for its time as the publishing house of Tickner and Fields, according to Historic Boston Incorporated (HBI).
The publishing house became a meeting place for many of the writers. It published and featured well-known authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
HBI, led by executive director Kathy Kottaridis, has managed the property since 1960.
“These buildings continue to survive and serve the real needs of today’s Bostonians. That’s their best key to preservation,” said Kottaridis.
The Old Corner Bookstore faced the threat of destruction first, in 1960. An urban renewal plan called for the clearing of the corner lot to make way for a new parking lot.
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The HBI formed in response to the potential loss. This group was able to preserve the Old Corner Bookstore as a commercial space. The HBI has worked to preserve or manages 24 other historic properties using revenue from the Old Corner Bookstore.
“This building, along with just a few others, have really witnessed so many changes in the Boston landscape over time and we’re fortunate to have it and a few others to really see where we’ve been and to imagine the changes that have taken place over time,” said Kottaridis.
While younger than the Old Corner Bookstore, the Strand Theatre located in Dorchester shares this experience. The Strand Theatre opened in 1918 as a vaudeville hall and silent movie theater.
The theater catered predominantly to the African American and immigrant population of the area. Entertainers like Fred Allen, Fanny Brice, and Alfred Hitchcock performed at the Strand Theatre through the decades, according to the Dorchester Atheneum.
Melodi Greene is the current general manager of the Strand Theatre and has held the position for 14 years.
“Dorchester is probably one of the most diverse communities in the city. We have every ethnicity in this area. The Strand has served many people of different cultures throughout the years and continues to do that,” said Greene.
In 2003, the Strand Theatre was in a state of disrepair. The building was slated for demolition before then-Mayor Thomas Menino intervened with a task force to renovate and preserve the Strand.
Greene echoed Kottaridis ideas for the preservation and future for her own building.
“I don’t think you can separate the past from what’s in the future. Productions of course are becoming more modern… I think that through the years everybody recognizes that you have to have a blend of the old and the new,” said Greene.