John Hancock Building

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For the tower in Chicago, see John Hancock Center. For the tallest building in Boston, see John Hancock Tower.

Three different buildings in Boston, Massachusetts, have been known as the "John Hancock Building". All were built by the John Hancock Insurance companies. References to the John Hancock building usually refer to the 60-story, sleek glass building on Clarendon Street also known as the John Hancock Tower or Hancock Place.

The Berkeley Building[edit]

Main article: Berkeley Building

The Stephen L. Brown Building (197 Clarendon St.)[edit]

Facade of the Stephen L. Brown Building.
The three John Hancock buildings. The two older structures are reflected in the façade of the newest. The Stephen L. Brown building is the low, flat one.

The oldest of the John Hancock buildings was designed by Parker, Thomas & Rice, best known as architects of the United Shoe Machinery Corporation Building. It was completed in 1922. It is located at 197 Clarendon St. across from the Hancock tower. It was known as the "John Hancock Life Insurance Company Building." The building was never considered particularly notable; for example, it is not mentioned in the 1937 WPA state guide to Massachusetts. In recent years it was known as "The Clarendon Building." Circa 2001 it was renamed "The Stephen L. Brown Building" in honor of Stephen L. Brown, chairman of John Hancock Financial Services, Inc. According to Donlyn Lyndon, "if you stand on the corner of Clarendon Street and St. James Avenue and look directly into the mirrored surface of the third Hancock, you will see reflected there the first two, aligned hierarchically in an ethereal family portrait."

Originally, the Planned Development Area (PDA) agreement for the building of the 60-story John Hancock Tower called for 197 Clarendon to be demolished to make way for open space or a public square. In 1982, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, responding to a request from the John Hancock company, decided that it would be better to keep the building on the tax rolls. It was also thought that open space near the base of the tower might not be desirable, due to the tower's "wind tunnel" effect.

The John Hancock Tower or Hancock Place[edit]

Main article: John Hancock Tower

601 Congress Street[edit]

Construction site of Manulife building (601 Congress Street), taken 2003.

In 2002, Manulife Financial began construction of a 14-story building in the Seaport District at 601 Congress Street (Picture). The building was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP of Chicago, designers of the John Hancock Center in Chicago and the Sears Tower, also in Chicago. The building features a "green" (energy-efficient) dual glass curtain wall construction, making it among the first buildings in Boston to win national LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

On April 28, 2004, the then-head of Manulife's Boston operations announced that the building would be renamed the "John Hancock Building."[1] According to Manulife, this is not quite correct; the building, completed in fall of 2004, will house the John Hancock Wealth Management Group and will bear conspicuous "John Hancock" exterior and interior signage featuring the John Hancock logo. However, the company will refer to the building simply as "601 Congress."

Only time will tell whether this notable Seaport district building will become known in common parlance as the fourth "John Hancock building." As of 2005, however Emporis lists the "official name" of the building as the "Manulife Tower."


  1. ^ Fitzgerald, Jay (2004), "Hancock signs off independence," The Boston Herald, April 29, 2004, Business section: "Proving that Manulife intends to keep and promote the famous John Hancock brand name, D'Alessandro said Manulife's Southie tower will be renamed the "John Hancock Building."

Coordinates: 42°20′54.22″N 71°04′30.07″W / 42.3483944°N 71.0750194°W / 42.3483944; -71.0750194