There's change afoot along Boston's historic Freedom Trail. Activists have launched a campaign on Change.org to convert the Old Corner Bookstore (OCB) into a museum reflecting the city's literary history.
Constructed in 1718 on the site of Puritan dissident Anne Hutchinson's cottage at the corner of Washington and School Streets, Boston's oldest commercial building was saved from demolition in 1960 by its current owner, Historic Boston, Inc.,which has leased out the space since 2011 to raise money for the organization's various preservation endeavors such as the Everett Square Theater and the Malcolm X house. The OCB's current tenant is a Chipotle Mexican Grill--not quite a bastion of literature and the impetus behind this current petition.
Sstarting in the 1840s, the OCB was the home of Ticknor & Fields, an American publisher perhaps best known for publishing H.D. Thoreau's Walden and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, as well as work by Julia Ward Howe and Henry Longfellow.
The entire area surrounding the OCB was a hub of literary activity in the early 19th century: 180 magazines were published in the area known as "Publisher's Row," like the short-lived Pioneer that first ran Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" in January 1843. The Atlantic Monthly, launched in 1857 still exists today, and first published Longfellow's now-famous poem, "Paul Revere's Ride" in 1861. The OCB was the center of Boston's literary community and, for a time, the country.
Though Chipotle's current lease runs through 2020 and will likely be extended through 2025, the petition's creators suggest that the non-profit develop a "workable plan that will support both Historic Boston Inc. and the broader goals of the project," but the nonprofit has not been responsive to such a request.
The OCB Petition Project was co-authored by a veritable "who's who" in the field of American letters: Boston College English professor Paul Lewis; Beacon Press director Helene Atwan; Ticknor Society president Michael Barton; American Literature Association executive director Alfred Bendixen; Notre Dame English professor Sandra Gustafson; The Dante Club author Matthew Pearl, and many others.
As of pub date, the group has 452 of 500 requested signatures. Read more about the cause here.