One of the greatest historical buildings in Boston, the Old Corner Bookstore began as an apothecary shop. It was built by Dr. Thomas Crease after the Great Fire of 1711 on property that once belonged to the Puritan dissident Anne Hutchinson.
In 1828 a bookstore and printing shop was opened and flourished through 1903 under various proprietors. It peaked under the management of publisher Ticknor and Fields who became the nation’s leading publisher between 1833 and 1864. They produced the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott, many of whom were frequent visitors to the building. During the bookstore’s heyday the corner of School and Washington came to be known as Parnassus Corner, a reference to the mountain home of the Twelve Muses of Greek mythology. The Old Corner Bookstore, located on the Freedom Trail, was restored in 1960.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM Anne Hutchinson lived on this spot during the time when she became a controversial religious leader. She held weekly scripture readings in her home which were attended by as many as 80 people. Charged with heresy for her unlicensed preaching, Hutchinson was excommunicated and exiled to Rhode Island in 1638 where she founded the town of Portsmouth.
IRISH IMMIGRATION Across the street from the Old Corner Book Store is the Irish Famine Memorial. It commemorates An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger), the potato blight brought to Europe on ships from the east coast of America. The wind-born disease devastated the Irish potato crop and over one million people died of famine and a million more emigrated to the United States. More of them settled in Boston than anywhere else in this country. To this day Boston boasts the largest expatriate Irish population in the world.Old Corner Bookstore is owned by Historic Boston, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the places that represent the rich cultures and character of successive generations of Bostonians by investing in their rehabilitation and reuse. Currently it is being leased and reused by Chipotle.