Visitors to Boston invariably make their way to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Filled with food, shopping, and entertainment, it is a highlight of any visit to the city. Today’s marketplace owes much to James Rouse whose 1976 renovation not only saved the marketplace from destruction but provided the template for other urban renovations, including New York and Philadelphia. But the foundations for this modern attraction were laid by Bostonian Josiah Quincy.[1]

quincyThe first of three Josiah Quincies to become mayor of Boston, he was in fact Josiah III, although he never used the ordinal number. He was the grandson of Josiah the colonial merchant and the son of the Josiah who was John Adams’ co-counsel in the Boston Massacre trials.[2]

Josiah Quincy served in Congress from 1805-1813. As a congressman he gave no indication that he would become a reform-minded civil servant. Instead he embodied blue-blood Boston committed to upper class elitism. In an address before Congress he acknowledged his patrician roots:

It is not for a man whose ancestors have been planted in this country now for almost two centuries to hesitate or swerve a hair’s breadth from his country’s purpose and true interests, because of the yelpings, and snarlings of that hungry pack which corrupt men keep directly in their pay — a pack composed it is true of some native curs, but for the most part of hounds and spaniels of very recent importation. [3]

 

It may have been this background that equipped him “to seize the reins of government with such vigor and determination that he eventually became known as the “Great Mayor.”[4] From 1823-1828, as the second mayor of Boston following its reorganization from a town toa city, he took the fledgling mayoral job and created a strong executive authority.[5] He reorganized the fire department and promoted public health with effective city sanitation. (“For the first time, on any general scale destined for universal application, the broom was used upon the streets.”[6]) He also placed responsibility for the poor and homeless under city control [7] Historian Thomas O’Connor credited Quincy with “establish(ing) a program of urban planning and city development that few mayors have been able to duplicate.”[8]

This development included the expansion of the Faneuil Hall marketplace. Merchant Peter Fanueil built Fanueil Hall in 1742 for the city.[9]

gilman photoIn addition to use as a marketplace, it hosted various public events and speakers including Samuel Adams.[10]  The passage of years and Boston’s growing population had made the market place inadequate and decayed. Fruit and vegetable dealers were exposed to the weather and the small size of the area meant

 

“the congested Faneuil Hall Market district was a compressed, discordant mass of people, with butchers cutting their meat along the first floor of the building itself, vendors of fruits and vegetables lined up under wooden sheds along the outside walls, and fish- mongers stationed behind long wooden benches with large tubs filled with all kinds of seafood.”[11]

 

On market days dangerous crowds and the overwhelming stench of refuse filled the air. Quincy had a scheme to do more than just clean the streets of the marketplace. He planned an entirely new marketplace, the construction of which would provide employment.

 

(H)e commissioned Alexander Parris, now one of Boston’s leading architects, to design the new marketplace consisting of a central market house where residents would come to shop, flanked by two large granite warehouses that would store the cargo that was coming into Boston from all parts of the world. Parris’s design for the central market house, a structure more than 500 feet long, featured a copper-sheathed eliptical (sic) dome that capped the center of the pavilion, while each end of the building was in the Greek Revival style, with four monolithic granite columns supporting a triangular pedimented gable.”[12]

1826 quincy

Quincy’s scheme faced opposition by those objecting to the use of public monies and those who saw the project as causing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.[13] Consistent with his vision of a strong executive power, Quincy pushed forward, destroying tenement buildings and adding six new streets. Completed in 1826, “(t)he new market house (officially called “New Fanueil Market” but popularly referred to as “Quincy Market”) was a magnificent two-story structure, an unusually large building for its day.”[14]

Decay again set in in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Then Mayor Kevin White engaged James Rouse to bring the market into the 20th century to form today’s marketplace.[15] But it was White’s predecessor Josiah Quincy who set the stage for today’s bustling marketplace and entertainment hub.

 

 

[1] “James W. Rouse, 81, dies”. The New York Times, April 10, 1996, retrieved April 14, 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/10/us/james-w-rouse-81-dies-socially-conscious-developer-built-new-townsand-malls.html

[2] “The Name of Quincy in Boston History: The Mayor-Elect the Third of His Name in that Office,”

from The Boston Globe, The New York Times (1857-1922);( Dec 15, 1895; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times), 28.

[3] Richard G. Hewlett, “Josiah Quincy: Reform Mayor of Boston,” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 2 (June 1951), 179-180.

[4] Thomas O’Connor, The Athens of America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), 27.

[5] Josiah Quincy, A Municipal History of the Town and City of Boston (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1852), 62.

[6] Josiah Quincy, A Municipal History of the Town and City of Boston (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1852), 68.

[7] “The Name of Quincy in Boston History: The Mayor-Elect the Third of His Name in that Office,”

from The Boston Globe, The New York Times (1857-1922) ;( Dec 15, 1895; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times), p 28; The Boston Globe; O’Connor 30; 38-39.

New York Times (1857-1922); Dec 15, 1895; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, 28.

[8] Thomas O’Connor, The Athens of America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), 27.

[9] http://www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com/info/history

[10] Robert J. Allison, A Short History of Boston (Carlisle, MA: Commonwealth Editions, 2004), 32.

[11] Thomas O’Connor, The Athens of America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), 27.

[12] Thomas O’Connor, The Athens of America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), 33-35.

[13] Richard G. Hewlett, “Josiah Quincy: Reform Mayor of Boston,” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 2 (June 1951), 179-196,186.

[14] Richard G. Hewlett, “Josiah Quincy: Reform Mayor of Boston,” The New England Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 2 (June 1951), 179-196,186.

[15] Robert J. Allison, A Short History of Boston (Carlisle  MA; Commonwealth editions, 2004),105