In 1908, planning began to expand the Custom House on State Street in Boston, originally built in 1837. The preeminent architecture firm Peabody and Stearns won the commission for the design. When expanding horizontally proved unfeasible, the idea was hatched for a tower. Construction began in 1913. When it was completed in 1915, the 500-foot tower was Boston’s first “skyscraper.” It remained Boston’s tallest building until 1964, when the Prudential Center was built.
The tower was constructed entirely of Rockport granite supplied by the Rockport Granite Company. A crowning achievement was the sculpting and placement of four stone eagles on each corner of the 30-story tower’s 20th floor ledge.
The 16-foot tall eagles were sculpted in Rockport Granite Company’s Bay View plant, transported to Boston, raised to the 20th floor, and mounted, where they remain today. The first of the eagles was installed in 1914.
In this real photo postcard, you see one of the eagles (and possibly another behind it) at the Bay View plant. A man, a young girl and a young boy pose proudly atop it. On the bottom of the card, barely legible is written, “On (sic) of eagles on Custom House Boston.”
According to Barbara Erkkila’s book about the Cape Ann granite industry, Hammers on Stone: A History of Cape Ann Granite, it took 11 pieces of granite to make each eagle, and 15 men working for a month to cut the stone for just one of them.