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Fifteen Magical Places in Boston

Written by Mackenzie Barrall and Corinne Muller. Photos by Matthew Dickey.

The world is full of uncertainty, but if you look closely, you can see magic all around you. You don’t have to be a wizard to Apparate to Hogwarts or Diagon Alley—the magic of the Wizarding World surrounds us. Join us in honor of Harry Potter’s birthday (he’d be 40!) as we discover Venomous Tentaculas and glide on Thestrals to some of Boston’s most magical locales. Prepare to be spell-bound.

1. Hogwarts Library - Boston Athenaeum
Athenaeum

Boston Athenaeum at 10 1/2 Beacon

Although it might not be 1,000 years old like the Hogwarts Library, the Boston Athenaeum was founded in 1807 and is one of the United States’ oldest and most distinguished libraries. With treasures around every corner, we know Hermione would fall in love. Instead of a Restricted Section, the Athenaeum has an outstanding rare books and manuscripts collection and an archive you could get lost in. Make sure to keep your voice down and eye out for Madame Pince while you roam through the stacks. 

2. Potions Dungeons — Boston Public Library
BPL Fault Rooms

Government Documents Room 

The tiled, vaulted ceilings of the Boston Public Library were built by Spanish builder Rafael Guastavino. The library was his first project in the United States but he would go on to build magical tile vaults in over 600 buildings across the United States. The style of building vaults with thin interlocking terracotta tiles is an old technique that dates to ancient Roman temples and gothic cathedrals. However, this kind of cavernous space is also characteristic of Hogwarts—especially the dungeons. Dim the lights and start a fire in the fireplace, and we could easily picture Snape teaching Potions down here among the fumes.

3. Room of Requirement — Metropolitan Waterworks Museum
Waterworks Museum

Waterworks Museum 

Since the late 19th century, whatever water resources the City of Boston needed, the Waterworks Museum supplied. You never know what you’ll stumble upon at the museum: industrial machinery, amazing Romanesque architecture, biology labs, and so much other preserved history. Walking among the giant engines and water pumps, you’d expect to see a Vanishing Cabinet hidden in a corner. You can almost imagine a Bostonian standing a century ago in Hogwarts’ seventh-floor corridor, thinking I need somewhere to get water...and the Waterworks provided it!

4. Stables for the Thestrals — Charles River Speedway Complex
Speedway Headquarters

Speedway Complex

Constructed in 1899, the Speedway Headquarters were home to constantly bustling stables as Muggles, and the occasional wizard, used the Charles River Speedway racetrack. Around the 1920’s the Speedway park and racetrack were losing popularity with the rise of the automobile. Although the speedway itself was razed around the 1960’s, nothing is stopping the Thestrals trained by Hagrid from roaming free and sleeping at the Headquarters, which have remained almost completely vacant since 1990. The Architecture Heritage Foundation is fully restoring and renovating the speedway. Soon it will be bustling with life with thirsty Muggles in search of a tankard of Notch beer.

5. Hogwarts Greenhouse — Dorothy McGee Greenhouse at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
McGee Greenhouse

McGee Greenhouse

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is famous for its combination of a world-class art museum and gorgeous gardens. The landscape and horticulture are an integral part of the museum’s character, just as Herbology is to Hogwarts. Hanging nasturtiums are an iconic feature of the Gardner Museum’s greenhouses. But watch out!—they might be Venomous Tentaculas in disguise, waiting to seize you from behind. Be prepared to use a Stunning Spell, just in case.

6. The Three Broomsticks - Warren Tavern
Warren Tavern

Warren Tavern

Anyone fancy a butterbeer? If you asked anybody in Hogsmeade where the best place for a drink was, they’d say the Three Broomsticks. In Charlestown, it’s Warren Tavern. Established in 1780, the tavern was a favorite haunt of historic notables like Paul Revere. It’s still located in its original building in Charlestown today. With its cozy and rustic atmosphere, it would surely be any villager’s go-to for a warm drink on a snowy day in Hogsmeade. (It’s also a Legacy Business of Boston) 

7. Honeydukes - Eldo Cake House
Eldo Cake House

Eldo Cake House

We’ve all dreamed of walking into Honeydukes and being faced with an infinite assortment of colorful candies and magical sweets: Chocolate Cauldrons, Acid Pops, and Licorice Wands galore! Luckily for us Bostonians, we don’t have to fly to Hogsmeade to satisfy our sweet tooth. Eldo Cake House in Chinatown has some of the very best cakes in New England. Serving sponge cakes topped with fresh fruits and cream, sweet buns, and tarts, Eldo is about as close to magical as you can get. There is even a street tucked behind the shop, as if hidden by some magic charm. Ron would go crazy here! 

8. Hogsmeade Station — Mattapan Trolley Station
Mattapan Station

Mattapan Station

The historic Mattapan Station at 1163 Blue Hill Avenue opened in 1856 as a major terminus for the railroad and commercial activity in the surrounding area. It’s easy to picture Hagrid standing by the tracks, waiting to guide eager young students to Hogwarts. After closing in the late 1920s, the building has taken on many identities, including a barbershop and several different pizzerias. Although it’s no longer in use as a station, who knows what goes on behind its facade—for all we know, it’s a hidden entrance to the Ministry of Magic!

9. The Shrieking Shack - Calf Pasture Pumping Station Complex
Calf Pasture Pumping

Calf Pasture Pumping Station Complex

Anybody would believe that this historic sewage pumping facility in Dorchester was haunted. Before it was constructed in the late 19th century, it was a largely uninhabited marshland where locals brought their cattle for grazing. The large Romanesque building has sat abandoned since 1968, when a new facility was built on Deer Island. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 and is listed as one of the Most Endangered Buildings of Massachusetts. A variety of teams have formally expressed interest to UMass to work on a project to save it including Historic Boston Inc, New Atlantic, and UtileListen at night, and you might just hear a werewolf howling inside—or is it a ghost?

10. Flourish and Blotts Bookseller — Brattle Book Shop
Brattle Books

Brattle Book Shop

Search through the shelves of Brattle Book Shop and you might just stumble upon Standard Book of Spells or A History of Magic for your classes at Hogwarts or even Ilvermorny. One of the oldest used bookshops in the country, opening in 1825, it has an impressive inventory of over 250,000 books spanning three floors, from average used books on the first two floors to antique and rare books on the third. Hopefully they have better luck keeping track of that pesky Invisible Book of Invisibility.

11. The Leaky Cauldron — Jacob Wirth Co.*
Jacob Wirth

Jacob Wirth Co.

Jacob Wirth’s sadly shuttered its doors in 2018 after 150 years of being a local favorite, but perhaps, like the Leaky Cauldron, it too appears differently to those who know that there’s magic going on inside. The German-American restaurant was opened in 1868 by the Wirth family who were from a small town in Germany, and remained the second oldest continually operated restaurant in Boston until its closing following a fire and water damage. The building, constructed in 1844, is protected as a local Boston Landmark and its significance recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Who knows, it might also hide a secret entrance to Diagon Alley. 

12. Gringotts Bank — Bruce C. Bolling Building
Bruce C. Bolling

Bruce C. Bolling Building 

There might be no dealing with goblins here, or money exchange for that matter. The Bruce C. Bolling Building was originally built in 1901 for the Ferdinand Furniture Store, and after a hefty construction project, the facade of the building was saved and incorporated into the new building. Following the motto of Gringotts, Fortius Quo Fidelius (Strength through loyalty), with its restoration of the facade which earned the project a Preservation Achievement Award in 2016. Today the building houses offices for Boston Public Schools among other things. Still wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out for any stray Galleons, Sickles, or Knuts.

13. Potter House in Godric’s Hollow — The Pierce House
Pierce House

Pierce House 

The Pierce House did not see anything as tragic as the event that gained Harry the reputation of the ‘Boy Who Lived’, but it too took part in the end of a war. Built in 1683, the Pierce house was expanded over the generations, and its owner at the time, Col. Samuel Pierce, took part in the Revolutionary War, participating in the fortification of Dorchester Heights and leading some of his troops to join in battle with the continental army. 

14. St. Jerome’s Graveyard in Godric’s Hollow — Cedar Grove Cemetery
Mattapan Trolley

Mattapan Trolley 

Some of the most important figures of the Wizarding World are buried in Godric’s Hollow, like the Peverells, the Potters, and the Dumbledores. Much of Harry Potter’s history can be traced back to this graveyard. Although you might not uncover a clue to the Deathly Hallows at Cedar Grove, you will find many notable figures from New England’s past: Former Mayor of Boston George Hibbard, Samuel German (inventor of German chocolate), Boston City Councilor James Kelly, and many more who have left their mark on American history and culture. You won’t find this cemetery in the pages of Bathilda Bagshot’s A History of Magic, but you will see it in Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Harry Fig’s Believe It or Not for its unique claim to being the only cemetery in the country with a trolley running through it, the Old Colony Railroad (today, the Mattapan High-Speed Trolley, which runs a 2.6-mile route on the Red Line from Ashmont to Mattapan).

15. Malfoy Manor — The Dahod Family Alumni Center
Dahod Alumni

Dahod Alumni — Photo by Jane Messinger

You won’t find any Death Eaters here, unless someone has decided to take over the Wizarding and Muggle worlds…again, but you will find plenty of loyal alumni of Boston University. Commonly referred to as ‘The Castle’, it was completed in 1915 and served as a private residence until 1967, first housing a wealthy industrialist and then the Presidents of Boston University. A winner of the 2019 Preservation Awards, the building underwent a restoration executed by a large team led by Finegold Alexander Architects that added functionality as well as carefully restored historical elements. With such an attentive project, the Ministry of Magic may have investigated if any transfiguration spells were used.

Mischief managed. 

For more magical places in Boston, take a look at our list from last year

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