At the intersection of Southampton Street and Massachusetts Avenue are two unusual round buildings. The smaller is the New Market Pizza and Grill, which is perhaps the most ornate pizza place in the city. And the other is a solid six-story brick hotel, formerly the Roundhouse Suites, now the Best Western Plus Boston Hotel.
Its history is a real gas - and its existence an example of the creative re-use of old industrial structures that Boston sometimes excels at.
The Roxbury Gas Light Co. put up a round structure between 1868 and 1873 on Gerard Street, at what was then the southern end of South Bay, to store coal gas, according to a brief history by the Library of Congress. Coal gas was the 19th century equivalent of natural gas - produced by heating coal, it was stored in large round "gasholders" to be pumped through pipes to heat homes and power gas lamps.
Back then, these round gasholders dotted the landscape.
In 1905, the company and several other Boston-area gas companies were merged into a new conglomeration called Boston Consolidated Gas, which begat Boston Gas, Keyspan and now National Grid, and which stopped using the gasholder. In the 1920s, somebody started using the building for a movie house. But that didn't last long and after a spell as a storage facility, eventually the building became an abandoned hulk.
For 60 years, the thing stood there, unused, until Werber Management bought it and hired a local architectural firm, Group One, to turn it into a hotel.
In 2001, Hotel Business chronicled the transformation, which included replacing the three original floors inside with six new floors - and which meant cutting 24 windows for each new floor through 20-to-24-inch thick layers of brick. The company also had to find new bricks that would match the coloring of the old ones.
Unlike the Liberty Hotel, which pays homage to its original role as a jail - its restaurant is called Clink - the hotel does little publicly to play up the building's history.
Photo from the Library of Congress.