Steinert Hall, an abandoned concert theater buried below 162 Boylston St., remains one of Boston’s best-kept secrets. Built in 1896, this subterranean acoustic masterpiece was once renowned as the headquarters for Boston’s performing arts.
Today, the theater sits forgotten and deteriorating under the M. Steinert and Sons piano retail storefront. The 38,000 square foot space now serves as a storage facility for old pianos, filing cabinets, and newspapers stacked ceiling high.
Alexander Steinert, son of Steinert and Sons founder Morris Steinert, commissioned the 650-seat theater in 1896. His primary goal for this incredibly costly venture was to construct a unique acoustic space impervious to the noisy streets of downtown Boston. The theater quickly rose to fame, hosting world-renown pianists, violinists, and opera singers like Josef Hofmann, Harold Bauer, and Fritz Kreisler.
Then in 1942, a disaster forced the hall to close its doors indefinitely. The deadliest fire in nightclub history claimed the lives of 492 people at Coconut Grove in downtown Boston. This tragedy inspired an entirely new set of building and fire codes throughout the city; reforms Steinert Hall was not able to survive.
Located 40 feet below street level with limited fire exits, Steinert Hall’s owners were not able to afford the costly renovations necessary to keep their doors open. The theater has now been closed for more than 72 years, and remains a mysterious urban legend many have since forgotten about.
Steinert Hall has long been listed on the market for sale as a potential entertainment venue. But since structural damage from significant flooding has made the space a disaster for any potential buyers, contractors have estimated it will take nearly $6 million to bring the space up to date with city fire codes.
These financial obstacles did not discourage developers from B Minor LLC when they purchased the property in early 2015. The company plans to restore the hall to its former glory in a project that is expected to take between 15 and18 months.
“They (the developers) will take a look at how to best share it with the community, whether it’s a symposium, or a recital space, or a place for colleges and universities to have special events,” said William Mosakowski, lead manager of B Minor LLC in a Boston Globe article. “The intent is to fix it up, but not close the doors, and to share it and have it be a part of the Boston music, arts, and cultural scene.”