Boston, Massachusetts


Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society was the first historical society devoted primarily to collecting American historical documents. Its services include a research library, a publications group, the Center for the Study of New England History, and public programs. A National Historic Landmark, the Society’s Renaissance Revival-style building — constructed in 1897–99 by Wheelwright & Haven and expanded in 1848 and 1970 — did not meet code or collections care standards, nor could it support expanding programs.

The master plan began with a comprehensive building assessment, addressing architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing, fire protection, and electrical components, as well as access and code requirements. ABA worked with MHS staff to evaluate functions, programs, use of space, and future growth requirements. The long-term space needs plan supported the Society’s goal of making its resources more accessible to the public and recognized the challenge of housing its expanding collections on a confined urban site.

ABA identified a four-phase program of work to completely upgrade the building and allow the Society to remain operational throughout construction. The work included exterior envelope restoration, as well as improvement of technical services, administrative and editorial offices, and public areas. The building was made universally accessible. The project renewed historic the reading rooms that double as conference space, introduced climate control and infrastructure upgrades into the stack areas, and created high-security storage with appropriate fire protection systems. Conservation laboratories were updated. Renovations to historic rooms created galleries, seminar rooms, and space for receptions.

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Project Team: Ann M. Beha FAIA, Thomas M. Hotaling AIA, John C. Hecker AIA (Master Plan); LeMessurier (Structural); McPhail Associates (Geotechnical); Exergen Corporation (Mechanical); Robert W. Sullivan, Inc. (Plumbing / FP); Thompson Engineering Co. (Electrical); Andrew Chartwell (Cost); Peter Vanderwarker (Photography)