Museum of Fine Arts

Copley Square
Boston, Mass.

Year Built: 1872
Year Demolished: 1909

This building was designed in 1870, built from 1871-1876 and demolished in 1909 to make way for the Copley Plaza Hotel. This was the first public building in the United States to be designed using terra cotta and the first gothic building in the world to be created using this material.

Other bidders for this commission were Ware & Van Brunt, Peabody & Stearns and Bradlee & Harmon.


• American Architect and Building News, Vol. 8, October 30, 1880, Plate 253 and 255, p. 210 and 212 (Illustration of the Lawrence Room).

• "Charles Brigham," MacMillan Encyclopedia of Architects, Adolph Placzek, entry written by Margaret Henderson Floyd, 1982, p. 288-9 (Museum of Fine Arts, 1870, Copley Square).

• "Temples of Art: Museum Architecture in 19th Century America," Jay Cantor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 8, p. 331-354 (commentary and photograph of the Sturgis & Brigham building).

• Letters from Charles Brigham to John Hubbard Sturgis, 2/8/1870, 8/3/1870, 1/5/1871 and 8/16/1875, Sturgis Papers, Boston Athenaeum Library.

• "A Terra Cotta Cornerstone for Copley Square: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1870-1876, by Sturgis & Brigham." Margaret Henderson Floyd, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, May, 1973.

• "Brigham & Spofford," Illustrated Boston, Metropolis of New England, American Publishing and Engraving, New York, New York, 1889, p. 196 ("Museum of Fine-arts").

• "Charles Brigham," Boston of To-day, Richard Herndon, Post Publishing, Boston, 1892, pp. 156-157 ("Among the principal buildings designed during his association with Mr. Sturgis . . . the Museum of Fine Arts . . . .").

• "A New England Architect and His Work," Oscar Fay Adams, New England Magazine, June, 1907.

• "An Early Example of the Use of Terra Cotta in America: Art Museum, Copley Square, Boston;" Brickbuilder, 1911; Vol. 20, p. 46.

• "John Hubbard Sturgis," American National Biography, Oxford University Press, 1999, American Council of Learned Societies ("Museum of Fine Arts at Art Square (now Copley Square), 1870-1876").


ca. 1875

Building as originally designed but not executed. Perspective is from the corner of St. James and Dartmouth.

Right-side relief on front of building. This depicts "Art & Industry."

Left-side relief on front of building. This depicts "Genius of Art."

Left Side relief . This depicts "Genius of Art."

View Looking West

After 1878 additions

Architectural Sketch Book

Architectural Sketch Book

From the east side

Close up of left-side relief . This depicts "Genius of Art."

American Architect and Building News, April 13, 1878

ca. 1895, after 1878 additions

MFA before 1878 additions

MFA before 1878 addition

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