If you wanted to buy an automobile or commercial vehicle in the the early 1900s, chances are you would take a stroll along Boston’s Auto Mile which ran from Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street between the BU Bridge and Allston’s Packard’s Corner. In 1929, this stretch of tarmac housed no fewer than 117 automobile-related businesses. One such business was International Harvester which sold farm equipment and motor trucks. IH constructed their corporate headquarters at 61 North Beacon Street in Allston where they stayed until the company closed in 1974. Over time, Boston’s Auto Mile experienced decline as showrooms moved out to the suburbs.
Boston Volvo, reviving the automobile history of the area, undertook a two-year restoration of the former IH building, bringing it back to its original use as a vehicle showroom and office. The project team carefully uncovered and restored lost elements of the Beaux-Arts/Revival building such as a grand staircase and large storefront windows that reconnect the building to the streetscape. The interior retains large mushroom columns and is designed in a way that celebrates the history of the building while adapting it for contemporary branding. The reuse of Boston Volvo proves that old buildings can frame new products in an interesting juxtaposition, creating a successful showroom while preserving the historic fabric.
“It can be a challenge convincing large corporate entities trying to extoll the forward-looking nature of their brand that a rehabilitated old building is actually just what they need. Yet old is new again and the large windows purpose-built to show off vehicles do the job better than any new building Volvo could have constructed, with the classic building framing and highlighting shiny new cars, all while keeping the history of the neighborhood intact,” says Greg Galer, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance.