2 Replies Latest reply on Aug 25, 2021 8:51 AM by Kim Gleason

    Why was the Great Seal of the US used in the Boston Custom House?

    Kim Gleason Newbie

      I'm interested in learning more about the use of the Great Seal in buildings. ]I work in the Marriott Custom House in Boston, and I give tours of our historic building for guests staying with us. The inside of our rotunda has the Great Seal placed on the ceiling of the dome. From what information we have, this Seal was added in 1960, but my coworkers and I have not found why it was added. The anecdote we are familiar with is that JFK may have had it added to honor his grandfather who may have worked in the building or just greatly admired the building. The other part of that anecdote is that there are 11 buildings in the US with the Great Seal, 10 of which are in DC.

       

       

      This Seal is about 6 feet in diameter, and the last time it was repainted was 2010. The many-pointed star part on the outside of the Seal is metal. I understand that different versions of the Seal are used by different government agencies, and the one we have would be the one used by the Treasury. This would make sense, because the architect of the original lower part of the Custom House, Ammi Burnham Young, went on to become the first supervising architect to the US Treasury Department. We have been in contact with the JFK Presidential Library regarding a file entitled "US Custom House, 1960," but the library archivists said it was just a folder from the Senate files regarding a 1960 cleaning and repainting of the building. Though it would be interesting to confirm or debunk the JFK theory, I'm also interested in what rules are used in adding the Seal to buildings. I’m curious why it was added and why it was placed how it was. It’s not facing one of the cardinal directions, and it’s not centered with any part of the dome windows around it. I get questions from guests asking why it’s not facing straight with our walls. Is there some rule that’s followed in placing the Seal in buildings? I’ve been able to find information on the building and its updates in a few documents from the Boston Public Library’s online archives, as well as from reading the application to add the building to the National Register of History Places. So, my question for you is this: Why was the US Seal added to the Boston Custom House? And why is the Seal oriented in the direction it’s in?

       

      CH US Seal