Boston’s Best Literary Landmarks

January 18, 2014 6:00 AM

(Photo from Boston Athenæum)

Boston was home to the first bookseller and bookstore in the 13 original colonies. It has hosted American favorites like Nathaniel Hawthorne as well as British powerhouses like Charles Dickens. The first African-American poetess who was published in this country hailed from Boston. This is all adding up to the point that Boston is a very booky place, even if it is no longer the hub of literary activity that it used to be. Remnants from its colorful past are both in plain sight and hidden throughout the city.
(Photo Credit: Omni Hotels)

(Photo Credit: Omni Hotels)

Omni Parker House Hotel
60 School St.
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 227-8600

Featured as a meeting place between two characters in “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton, the Omni Parker House Hotel was once just Parker House and home to a meeting of the minds known as The Saturday Club. While the club was open to scholars of many types, plenty of authors were among them. These included Oliver Wendell Holmes and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Meetings of the Saturday Club took place over dinner at the Parker House restaurant. Today, visitors can take pictures of the hotel from outside or step inside to have dinner like the literary greats of old.

Location Of The Old Corner Bookstore
Chipotle Mexican Grill
283 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 939-0988

Mentioned as a historic location in Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff’s “Topographical and Historical Description of Boston,” The Old Corner Bookstore was once the home of a publishing company and had a number of very famous visitors, from Louisa May Alcott to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was not always a bookshop and today is actually a Mexican grill. Nonetheless, it is one of the most important landmarks to do with literary history in the city. Moreover, the structure still stands, making it one of the oldest standing structures in the city as well. Of course, renovations have been needed over the years.

(Photo from Boston Athenæum)

(Photo from Boston Athenæum)

Boston Athenaeum
10 ½ Beacon St.
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 227-0270

Katherine Wolff’s “Culture Club: The Curious History of the Boston Athenaeum” gives readers a clear idea of just how important this library is to literary culture. The Boston Athenaeum is a roughly 200-year-old private library located in the heart of Boston. At times, the library also functions as something of a museum, much like other historical libraries in the area. Visitors who do not mind history that is a bit dodgy can go check out the supposed grave of Mother Goose before or after seeing the Athenaeum. She is buried in the Granary Burying Ground just behind the library.

Related: Boston’s Best Independent Bookstores

(Photo Credit: BPL/Facebook)

(Photo Credit: BPL/Facebook)

Boston Public Library
700 Boylston St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-5400

Of all the literary landmarks in Boston, the main building of the Boston Public Library System may be the best. “Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America’s Gilded Age” from Mosette Broderick offers an interesting view of the building and its architects. From beautiful works of art to rare books and manuscripts, there is a lot to see for those who want to take a minute to appreciate a classic building that houses the core of one of the most important library systems in the state. Look for displays of rare books and plenty of space and resources to conduct research. Not only is this the location of Boston’s literary past, but there are undoubtedly bits of its present and future happening in the McKim building as well.

(photo credit: Thinkstock)

(photo credit: Thinkstock)

Massachusetts State House
Beacon and Park St.
Boston, MA 01233
(617) 722-2000

Oliver Wendell Holmes not only gave this gold-domed structure a mention in his work “The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table,” but he also deemed it of such importance as to call it “The Hub of the Universe.” This famous building is located in central Boston. Other literary landmarks, such as the Omni Parker House Hotel, the Boston Athenaeum and the haunts of Louisa May Alcott, are within walking distance of the Massachusetts State House. Built in the late 18th century by famous Boston architect Charles Bulfinch, this building’s significance is far greater than just its literary history.

Related: Best Bookstores In The South Shore And In Cape Cod

Shelly Barclay is a professional freelance writer and amateur author. She writes on a variety of topics from food to mysteries. She loves to share the culture and rich history of her birthplace and home, Boston, with the rest of the world. Her work can be found at