Photograph: The Plywood Palace, 1974

Spencer Grant reflects on his photo of the boarded-up Hancock tower.

plywood palace 1974

Photo by Spencer Grant

Photographer Spencer Grant: When the Hancock Tower was being built in 1972, the windows of the lower half of the building began cracking. It reached a peak in 1973, when severe winds damaged 65 windows. Many cracked, and some actually popped out and smashed on the sidewalk below. In both cases, the temporary solution was to board the windows up, creating an eyesore. As you might guess, the John Hancock honchos weren’t exactly happy about this, although they didn’t handle the PR very well. “The Plywood Palace” became a laughingstock, and Esquire published the story “Boston’s Big Pain in the Glass,” by Gerry Nadel, which ran with this photo. The VP in charge of construction told Gerry, “It’s not funny. We have a hundred million dollars tied up in a building we can’t use. That isn’t very funny.” It didn’t leave me with any warm feelings toward the company. The view is looking north toward Stuart Street, and the sun is sparkling off one of the undamaged windows.

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