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A Visit to the Customhouse (Former Boston Massachusetts FCC Field Office )




 
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Author Topic: A Visit to the Customhouse (Former Boston Massachusetts FCC Field Office )  (Read 9251 times)
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W1RC
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« on: May 23, 2007, 06:54:01 AM »

Earlier this week I had a pretty incredible trip down (actually UP) memory lane......

Most amateurs who took their tests in New England prior to the establishment of the VE program twenty odd years ago did so at the FCC Field Office that was located on the 16th Floor (1600) Customhouse in downtown Boston Massachusetts.  This beautiful old building still dominates the downtown Boston skyline and is instantly identifiable. 



This view is looking west from the New England Aquarium.

My experiences at the Boston FCC Field Office have already been recounted in the WHAT'S YOUR CALL SIGN HISTORY article that appeared here on AMFONE a while back.  For those of you who may have missed it you can find it here:

http://amfone.net/Amforum/index.php?topic=10847.20

In the nineties the FCC Field Office was relocated from The Customhouse on State Street in downtown Boston to Batterymarch Park in Quincy MA where it is located today.  However by that point in time most amateurs never had the occasion to visit their offices so the move went largely unnoticed and today it is not a venue that is familiar to most amateur licensees.

The rumor was that the building was sold and being turned into condominiums.   However every time I drive through downtown I see the building and it brings back memories.  I'm sure this applies to anyone who took their tests there as well.

Yesterday I took the family down to Boston to visit the fabulous New England Aquarium.  Knowing well what parking downtown is like (expensive!) we took the 'T' (subway) from where we parked the car to our destination.  As it happens we walked down State Street right past the the Customhouse on our way to the Aquarium.  As we walked back to the 'T' after a pleasant afternoon my wife happened to pause at the Customhouse side entrance for a moment so I thought I'd just wander in and see what was happening inside the grand old building.  Here's what I learned:

The old Customhouse was purchased by the Marriott Corporation and looks very much like the upscale hotel that it is.  I chatted with the concierge who told me that it is actually a "vacation club resort" or an urban time-sharing condominium.  It is possible to rent some of the suites on a nightly basis but it ain't cheap.  I told the concierge about my connection with the building and she graciously invited me to visit the observation deck and gave me a card-key required to operate the elevators up to the 26th floor.  We had an outstanding viewing experience of downtown Boston, the harbor and the surrounding area for about an hour and I was able to take many excellent photos. 



You can see the observation deck above the clock.  It is covered by wire mesh because the tower is home to several Peregrene Falcons who nest on the nooks and crannies above the deck. 

Yes, the clock works and keeps excellent time, thanks to my friend Ross Hochstrasser, KB1OEO, who along with his brother rebuilt the clock some time ago.

Naturally on the way down we stopped at the 16th floor.  The ghosts of "Uncle Vinny" Kajunski, Jerry Sarno and others were instantly present as we stepped off the elevator. 



Actually the 17th floor today is the old 16th floor.  The Marriott people appear to be superstitious and their version of Customhouse does not have a marked 13th floor.  So Room 1601 is actually on the (old) 15th floor.

Back down at the lobby I returned the card-key to the concierge and thanked her.  She was kind enough to give the card to my daughter as a souvenir of the visit.



So if you happen to be on State Street in Downtown Boston be sure to stop in at the Customhouse and see Karen the concierge.  She's only there on Mondays and  Tuesdays.  Tell her you just love the magnificent old building and have fond memories of the FCC office on the 16th floor.  Maybe, just maybe she'll extend to you the same courtesy and allow you to visit the observation deck. 

What a wonderful experience!  Next time I go I wanna see the CLOCK!!!!

73,

MisterMike, W1RC
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KC1XF
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2007, 07:49:43 AM »

AH Yes, there was alot of nervous moments spent here Mr Mike. Remember it well, from years gone by, Thank You very much for the photo's. This was the PLACE for testing and I remember doing the same thing for my General at the time, park in Quincy and take the subway into downtown. What take the general test and fight the traffic.

Thanks again, Mr Mike

Fred

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« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2007, 09:38:19 AM »

Thanks
That was cool. Dean, WA1HSD & Myself went there in the 60's and took the General and Advanced. I remember it like it was last week.
Keith
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« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2007, 01:47:46 PM »

Great shots and writeup, Mike.  Below is the "Old Post Office Building" in Buffalo, NY, where I took my General and Advanced in FCC's office in Room 328.  It seemed like a very scary place back in those days, but actually, it's a beautiful place of "historical landmark" architecture.  It is now the downtown campus of ECC (Erie County Community College).
vH


* Old Post Office Buffalo, NY (1).jpg (62.11 KB, 672x504 - viewed 576 times.)
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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2007, 01:56:42 PM »

I saw something recently on The History Chanel about Boston and they said a few words about the Customhouse.

At the time it was built it was THE tallest structure in Boston. From that catwalk the customs  people would watch over the harbor looking for goods being transferred in order to collect duties. Boston being one of, if not the first US port to collect import tariffs.

Mike
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« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2007, 02:45:48 PM »

Yea, and and in need for a modern tea party
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W1RC
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2007, 04:11:21 PM »

The Old Customhouse is a very interesting building.  I am hoping that my friend Ross will add something to this article about the building and the clock.  He and his brother rebuilt it in the 1980s after Marriott bought the building so he knows a lot about the building's history.

73,

MrMike
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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2007, 06:52:27 PM »

The building is a very familiar landmark on the Boston skyline.  I entered the building to visit the FCC office there only one time, in the early 70's, to get a copy of Docket 20777 as soon as I returned to Boston after having heard the news at the Dayton FCC Forum.  As I recall, the attractive female employee came back a after a few minutes and handed me a good quality xeroxed copy of the document.  I immediately began spreading the word about it over the air to the AM gang, and I like to believe I least helped to get the ball rolling that eventually resulted in the rejection of Johnny Johnston's bandwidth proposal that would have "deregulated" AM out of existence.

It looks like the condominium conversion has respected the history of the structure.  Let's hope it remains that way.
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« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2007, 10:53:49 AM »

then there was the rocky movie on condos
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WA3VJB
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2007, 04:47:13 AM »

Quote
a good quality xeroxed copy of the document.  I immediately began spreading the word about it over the air to the AM gang, and I like to believe I least helped to get the ball rolling that eventually resulted in the rejection of Johnny Johnston's bandwidth proposal that would have "deregulated" AM out of existence.

In 1977 it was rare to be able to get a "good quality xeroxed copy" of anything since photocopy machines were not widespread yet.

In 1973 when I went to the Baltimore FCC Field Office for an upgrade from WN3VJB, I parked at the old News-American newspaper building's lot. The paper would fold within a few years and is gone. In fact, this was before the re-development of "Inner Harbor" (like Boston's Waterside), and as I took my bicycle off the back rack to pedal up to the Garmatz Federal Building, I remember how rundown the wharfs were and how seedy the overall area was. 

I was glad that the FBI shared the building for a sense of security.

Historically, this building has none. It was brand new when I got there and still smelled like construction.



Solemn, humorless, white-shirted FCC examiners sat us down, we took the code test as a group of about 12-18, and the paper test was graded by a disinterested career staffer who placed a hole-punched overlay on the answer sheets (No. 2 pencil ONLY !!!!) and began to mark the number wrong. If she saw no mark through the holes, you got an X, and after -x- number of x's you were out of there.

Passed General, came back with a waiver in a month to re-take and pass the Advanced.
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wa1knx
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2007, 01:54:52 PM »

Yes  I to passed my advanced and extra at the Customhouse in boston. I remember
the echos in the room for the 20wpm, messed me up a little. but I passed it ok.
quite an old building.
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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2007, 01:42:27 PM »

If anyone on here knows Vince Kajunski, please ask him what happened to the drawing that was on the wall: "Draw diagrams of a complete radar installation!". I'd like to have a photo of that to put online.

Bill
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w1guh
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« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2007, 02:28:19 AM »

Outstanding modern shots of that venerable building...thanks, much.

I started college in Boston (well, actually, Cambridge) in the fall of '65.  I had Friday afternoons off from classes, and one of my early objectives was to visit the FCC office in Boston, which was listed as "1600 Customhouse, Boston, Mass."

I wanted to pick up a form 610 for and "additional station license" ( never got that), so one afternoon I ventured up to the 16th floor.  I got the form 610, and glanced into the exam room.   I saw university type chairs with that "note taking appendage" on one of the arms  (how did southpaws deal with that?)  And I gotta contrast that with the FCC office at 1029 Federal Building, Detroit, MI, where the exam room was real tables with real chairs.  Talk about contrasting styles! 

So...while I was there, I kept seeing things about an "observation deck."  So I took the elevator up to it and WOW!  It was like a miniture Empire State Building, with great views of Boston and the harbor.  And it was FREE! Wow!

I've got slides I took on that visit of Boston in 1965...I really should post those.

And I noticed a few years ago that that's now a Marriott property.  Pity that, while I still thought that was a good place to stay, I didn't get the chance.  They've (Marriott) become more "PC" than I can stomach and just won't patronize that property anymore.  That's a pity 'cause they used to be so great.  Sigh.

Thanks for the update on the Customhouse today!

Oh, and BTW, what does the Baltimore office have to do with this?
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