New GSA Film Profiles Renovation of Notable McCormack Building, Which Integrates Historic Preservation With Sustainability

By Paula Santangelo
New England Region
General Services Administration


Beth L. Savage
Center for Historic Buildings
General Services Administration

BOSTON, May 27, 2011 – GSA’s Center for Historic Buildings has released the latest in a series of award-winning documentaries highlighting architecturally exceptional buildings that have undergone major modernizations.

The film “Boston’s Dazzling Cliff: John W. McCormack U.S. Post Office and Courthouse,” was released in May for National Preservation Month.

“We’re proud of this building, we’re proud of it being a legacy building within GSA, and we feel like we achieved it as a model for sustainable historic renovation,” said Public Buildings Service Regional Commissioner Glenn Rotondo.

Constructed in 1933, the monumental building was designed by the renowned Boston architectural firm Cram and Ferguson in conjunction with the supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury. It remains one of Boston’s best examples of the art deco style of architecture.

“It is a style that definitely likes rich colors, and the interweaving of strong materials, like white metal, and dark wood, bronze, terrazzo, all of these very durable, high-end finishes that have extraordinary sustainability characteristics as well,” said the project’s principal architect Jean Carroon, FAIA, of Goody Clancy, a Boston-based firm of architects, preservationists, planners, and urban designers.

The courthouse has many historic features and spaces that the public and building tenants can one again enjoy. A former law library serves as a dramatic meeting space with its ornamental ceilings, built-in bookshelves, and mezzanine with bronze railings. The historic courtrooms feature rich finishes, including wood wainscoting, marble walls, and ornate ceilings and decorative trim.

“The courtrooms are majestic,” Chief Judge Joan N. Feeney of the U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts said. “All three of the bankruptcy courtrooms are majestic in a different way.”

A rehabilitation project completed in 2009 preserved original features, while at the same time creating sustainable features that will ensure the building endures. The building achieved a Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design gold certification through both design and construction elements that support sustainability. Materials such as doors and marble tile were recycled within the project. The fifth level of the building has a green roof with cisterns that capture and reuse rainwater.

The building's tenants, some of whom worked there before the rehabilitation, report they are amazed at the transformation that has taken place.

“Moving into this building, people were very excited because it is a beautiful building," said Cynthia Greene of the Environmental Protection Agency. "It’s a historic renovation with all the green features in it."

In spring 2011, the John W. McCormack U.S. Post Office and Courthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The documentary is part of GSA's efforts to support Executive Order 13287, “Preserve America,” which encourages everyone to explore and enjoy the nation's heritage.

GSA’s Office of Communications and Marketing's video and broadcasting team produced the film for the agency's Center for Historic Buildings in the Office of the Chief Architect.

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