123 Causeway street


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May 30, 2006
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Hi guys,

I don't know if anyone remembers my ancient thread on the Causeway Street El teardown, but the demolition of the El revealed an interesting facade at 123 Causeway street. This building was McDonald's for a long time, and a Waldorf's for even longer. I was in Boston very briefly last week and noticed that this building was completely swathed in scaffolding. Anyone know what is going on with it?

Pics from 2004:


I remember that thread, Dave.

And I absolutely love this building. It's the closest thing to Louis Sullivan we have in Boston.

I think we decided it was once a theatre. I'll defer to our resident expert: "Paging Ron Newman!"
It was built and operated as a Waldorf Cafeteria.
I'd love to know what is planned for it now, and if the McDamage at street level will get fixed up. This building always struck me forcefully in that I never noticed it at all until the El came down. It seemed odd that something so striking in its context could have completely slid by my notice for so many years.
The daylight on this street hurts my eyes.

Put the el back up.
Or a nice slender tower in fill saveing the base of course!
Nothing on the BRA site about it.

Anyone have a picture of its original form?
It's cast stucco, you know old school EIFS. All the new McBuildings in strip malls near you, I'm talking to you CVS in the Allston/Brighton thread, could look this good but I digress.

On the really old thread about this building someone had a picture from the Bostonian Society. Right now their server seems down, otherwise I'd pull it up.
I am amazed to find after all this time that the original ancient thread is still there. The original image is just enough to make out the Waldorf's sign.

North Station Goes South (I guess I wanted to be a Herald reporter in 2004.... :) )
"Paging Ron Newman!"

Thanks, but unfortunately I have nothing new to say. I didn't even realize the building was undergoing construction. Whatever they're doing, I hope it preserves the fa?ade.

Interesting that a building we all love so much housed chain restaurants for its entire lifetime.
There was a permit pulled in mid-August to remove the existing bluestone and concrete face in order to make building safe. McDonald's is still the owner or tenant for the building. They authorized the permit. It appears that it is just the brick facade coming down.
Thank you for the update. I hope the facade is not ruined in the process.
Does anyone have any basic history concerning Waldorf Cafeteria? There doesn't seem to be a web page devoted to it and google seems to mention only Boston and NYC. Was this a large chain or were there just a few locations?
Waldorf was a large regional chain at one point.
I'll never forget the heart burn I had after eating Swedish meatballs at the Waldorf on Summer St., downtown, back in the late 1960's. By that time it attracted shoppers and downtown workers. It was the era before decent cuisine hit the Boston market...our taste buds were still stuck in the post-war era.
Would you like grease sauce on your grease, sir? With a side of grease?
I worked at this location when it was a new McDonald’s from 1972 to approximately 1980, working every crew position in the store, ending up as a shift supervisor before I graduated college and began my career path. When I checked the address online recently I found this link. I can provide some insight into how the insides were configured. I’m not familiar with architectural parlance so forgive the awkwardness or inaccuracy of the terms used. During this period the elevated tracks to Lechmere Station were still there and for a few years there was an active stairway entrance to the station in the middle of Causeway across from the McDonald’s. They closed it a few years after I started working there. At the corner was an Albiani’s cafeteria where I had breakfast sometimes when I was one of the opening crew at McDonald’s. They grilled and did not toast their English muffins and served three halves per order. I Googled it but can’t find any info on that business. Back to 123. They had installed a suspended ceiling on the ground floor when outfitting the building as a McDonald’s. But when you visit the upstairs you discover a wide balcony that extends the periphery of the building that would allow upstairs diners a view of the ground floor. The ceiling extended approximately 20-25 feet above the balcony, well above the top of the large window at the front of the structure. Also, on each side of the window were inset frames behind which, I believe, rotating light fixtures were installed. It appears you could see the light from the street through those fixtures, however it seems those insets have been since filled in. Also, each of the long walls contained a floor-to-ceiling mural which had yellowed appreciably by the time I got there. I fabricated a little desk with a small light fixture for when I would do crew scheduling so it was too dark to see much detail on the murals. There was a dumbwaiter shaft from the second floor down through to the basement, which was made into a trash compactor shaft. One of the jobs I held was equipment maintenance, so I had the opportunity to visit the roof several times to work on the HVAC system. You could see the elevated platform at equal level to the roof. In the basement was a walk-in freezer, carbonation equipment, dry goods storage, water filtration system, manager’s office, trash compactor room, dressing rooms and bathrooms and a double-door hatch flush with the sidewalk that opened to a 45-degree conveyor belt down which the deliveries were accepted. The scary part of the job was when the huge – and very heavy - C02 tanks were delivered and placed on the conveyor belt. They were wet from condensation; the conveyor belt was not very sticky and there were no side rails. You basically had to catch it as it slipped down the chute. Yikes. Back in the day we would serve Boston Garden event crowds (Bruins, Celts, circus, Disney, concerts) and the lines would be out the door; of course, there was the daily B&M and MBTA traffic as well. And yes, we saw our share of famous folks: Gretzky, Bird. That’s about all I can recall, but I appreciate the forum in which to share this user experience.