History of Newbury Street Real Estate
Back Bay is one of Boston's most historic and iconic neighborhoods. Its real estate is as diverse as it architectural styles, and one can find a stately historic one-bedroom home alongside exquisite limestone mansions that can reach up to 10,000 SF. Until the 1800s, Newbury Street was underwater. It has always had an air of prestige and sophistication, and traditionally attracted the city's elite. Newbury Street began exclusively as a residential neighborhood, and was considered the most desirable place to live within Boston during the 1880s and 1890s. Its popularity outpaced that of neighboring Beacon Hill, as homes in Back Bay were larger and equipped with top luxury amenities like indoor plumbing and coal-burning furnaces. Today, Back Bay still has residential homes, but its primary focus has shifted to retail and commercial uses. Its nickname is "Rodeo Drive of the East," and the neighborhood is known as Boston's fashion and style destination.
Back Bay is recognized for its distinct and varied architectural styles. Its early homes, built in the late 1800s, have European touches like wide boulevards, grid patterns, and parkways. Architectural designs found along the street range from French Academic, which is characterized by brick and sandstone, to High Victorian Gothic, epitomized by stained glass and wrought iron, and magnificent carved gargoyles, representative of the French Chateau-esque style. The variety of real estate on Newbury Street includes a mix of historic and iconic residential and commercial space.
The changeover from Back Bay's residential to commercial scene began in the early 1900s when the first commercial establishments opened for business. Fashion and apparel stores emerged during the next decade, and by the late 1920s Back Bay had a reputation as an elite shopping destination. Boutique jewelers and luxury goods retailers began moving into the neighborhood, and first-floor shops started putting in large glass windows so that passers-by could see their products. In the 1970s, Newbury Comics moved into Newbury Street, which helped draw younger, hip, bohemian crowds. Art galleries, music instrument stores, and other fashionable retailers moved into Newbury Street's commercial buildings. Book stores appeared along the street, and today, some of the city's and the country's last remaining independent book stores still operate on Newbury Street.
Newbury Street remains the shopping district that it was in the 1970s. Its sophisticated, diverse architectural styles have not changed much in the past several decades, but high commercial rental and purchase prices have lent to a high turnover rate , with businesses regularly opening and closing their doors. Established retailers still exist on Newbury Street, as do renowned luxury brands, high-end boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. In addition to the diverse retail landscape, Newbury Street is known for housing some of Boston's most famous and historic landmarks. One of its most iconic structures is the Emmanuel Church, which was the first building constructed after Back Bay was filled in; that project finished in 1860. Newbury Street was once the site of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it still contains the Boston Architectural College, or BAC, which made Newbury Street its home in 1960. The school resides at 320 Newbury Street, and is situated in one of the street's only Brutalist style buildings. The Exeter Street Theatre, a famous landmark built in the Romanesque Revival style, remained in operation until 1984, when it was forced to close its doors because of declining box office revenue.