A place to recall and celebrate the wonderful stores of a Downtown Boston now alive only in our memories

Saturday 20 June 2009

Houghton & Dutton Company of Tremont Street

Hello, My Retro Boston Fans!
Looking at Boston today it is so hard to imagine this great city back in the year
1900. So full of life and so many places to shop! Downtown Boston was full of stores and busy shoppers filled the streets.
Houghton & Dutton Company on Tremont Street had a history of bringing in the shoppers from near and far. The company began in the early 1870's and was a fixture on Tremont Street for over 50 years. It grew, had additions built and at its peak, had most of the Albion Building leased as further retail space.
A great following developed and the company was successfully led for most of its life by the beloved , Harry Dutton. Sadly, this Boston original fell on hard times in the 1930's....as so many department stores did. My research seems to show the store was gone by the mid-1930's and the buildings were let to various companies until 1967 when the store was demolished to begin the process of building One Beacon Street. The area was a parking lot until the groundbreaking in the early 70's.
The Beacon Hill Theater was one of the last buildings to go by 1969 as the NY Times article I included here states. I did not know much about this Boston retailing legend until now and I am so glad to bring you a few bits and pieces to recall it by.
Enjoy this look back!!



JPH said...

From what I have read, we can thank Mayor Curley for H&D's demise.
In the early 30s he appeared in their jewelry department - which they were famous for. He chose a $1000 engagement ring for his daughter. They sent him a bill, which was ignored. They sent him another bill, also ignored.
This went on for quite a while, until suddenly one day an army of city building inspectors decended. Wouldn't you know it? Their elevator cables weren't up to code! Tha same with their sprinkler system, etc. The renovations were more than any business could afford in the Depression.
They were a carriage trade store - and Curley despised the carriage trade. He expected to simply take a $1000 ring without paying.

Matthew said...

Thanks for this info. We have a Boston Post photograph of the Governor's wife, "Mrs Samuel W. M'Call" holding who we think was an uncle of mine during a "baby week show" at D&H in 1916.

Skip said...

Does anyone know the children's poem about the 19th century department stores in Boston?

It went something like;

Houghton and Dutton sewed a button on R H Stearns…

The rhyme went on to name several other stores in Boston.

Shawne said...

i have a fan and it is marked houghton & dutton co. so i decided to look it up. i am thrilled to read about this store. thank you

SOC said...

Thank you for the background info on this store. A pharmaceutical-style bottle was found recently on the Isles of Shoals (off the coast of New Hampshire) with the Houghton and Dutton label. It's great to know where it came from!

Sarah O'Connor
Island Curator, Star Island Corporation

Suze 9747 said...

Did Houghton & Dutton have any connection with Houghton Mifflin Co. on Park St and Tremont St? Susan

Suze 9747 said...

Did Houghton & Dutton have any relationship with Houghton Mifflin Co also on Tremont St as well as Park St.? Susan

tonyeewu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I am a native of Orford, NH and recently received a copy of an advertisement [probably from 1890] for the Pavilion Stock Farm in Orford, built in 1877 and owned by S.S. Houghton of Boston. This was a massive barn [240' long and 60' wide] where he raised trotting horses. The complex burned in 1931. I had always heard that he was the 'Houghton' of Houghton-Dutton Shoes of Boston. I see from several articles on this site that the shoe store was nicknamed 'The Pavillion', which adds to the possibility that the farm in Orford was owned by this Mr. Houghton. Any info?

Ken Liss said...

A small correction: Harry Dutton was not the founder; he was the son and son-in-law of the founders - B.F. Dutton & S.S. Houghton.

Ken Liss said...

A small correction: Harry Dutton was not the founder. He was the son and son-in-law of the two founders - B.F. Dutton and S.S. Houghton.

Charles Boston said...

Thanks, Ken!!! Corrected the text:-)