Model of Bulfinch building

Charles Bulfinch, Boston’s – and MGH’s – first architect

“If it is intended that our hospital shall receive all the sick that apply… I presume that a very large building would be required.” 

Bulfinch to MGH Board of Trustees, 1817 

Three months before he wrote those words, Charles Bulfinch had been hired to design Boston’s first hospital – a facility that would rival the only two general hospitals in the United States at the time, in Philadelphia and New York City. Bulfinch was considered Boston’s premier architect and was helping to rebuild the city following the Revolutionary War.  It would be another year before the plan was approved, land purchased, and ground broken on July 4, 1818. Months later, President James Madison called Bulfinch to Washington, D.C., to redesign the U.S. Capitol. He left MGH in the hands of his assistant, Alexander Parris, who oversaw work on the building that would bear his mentor’s name. It opened to patients Sept. 1, 1821.