Catherine Filene Shouse Building
Charlestown Navy Yard, Building 36
When the Charlestown Navy Yard closed in 1974, 30 acres were turned over to the National Park Service as an Historic Monument Transfer Area to preserve some of the facilities that built and serviced many historically important vessels.
There are eight remaining granite buildings within the Historic Monument Transfer Area of the Charlestown Navy Yard. Building 36 is the largest and most visible of among them, owing to its prominent waterfront location adjacent to Dry Dock II.
Building 36 dates from the end of the shipyard's first phase of development and was built in 1866, just after the Civil War. It is a notable example of the Boston 'granite style'. The brick and granite-faced structure served as the joiners (carpenter's) shop and painter's loft from 1867 to 1921. From 1922 to 1927 it was a furniture store house and mold loft and then served as the Naval Reserve Headquarters until 1935.
In 1936, as part of a Depression-era WPA project, a rail spur was added at the 6th Street facade to adapt the building for storage of fabricated construction materials. Finally, in 1943 the building was converted to a cafeteria for Navy Yard employees, which it remained until the shipyard closed. In 1985, the building was converted for commercial office use.
The MGH Institute in Building 36/The Catherine Filene Shouse Building
The MGH Institute purchased Building 36 in the fall of 2000. Working with a $2 million gift from the Catherine Filene Shouse Foundation, renovations turned Building 36 into a state-of-the-art educational facility. The Institute occupied the building in December 2001, renaming it the Catherine Filene Shouse Building.
In the summer of 2005, the original slate roof was replaced after nearly 140 years of service, and a conspicuous roof dormer was removed, restoring the original roofline at the west end of the building. With enrollments growing, the MGH Institute leased additional space in 2008 in portions of the adjacent Building 34 and Building 39. In recent years the Institute has expanded into buildings OCC, 2CC, and 79/96 as well. Read more on what currently is housed in the Shouse Building.
Who was Catherine Filene Shouse?
Catherine Filene Shouse's remarkable life began in Boston as the daughter of Lincoln and Therese Filene, the same Filene family associated with Filene's Department Store.
In 1920, as a young woman and barely out of college herself, she edited a book, Careers for Women. Radical for its time, the book describes opportunities for women in more than thirty traditional and non-traditional fields, including business and finance, education and health care, the motion-picture industry and statistics.
Mrs. Shouse always strongly supported women becoming leaders in their fields and herself achieved many firsts during her lifetime: She was the first woman to receive a master's degree in education from Harvard University in 1923; the first woman appointed to the National Democratic Committee to represent Massachusetts; and she co-founded the Women's National Democratic Club.
Throughout Mrs. Shouse's life, U.S. Presidents sought her counsel, beginning in 1926 when President Coolidge appointed her as Chairman of the first Federal Prison for Women, where she instituted a job training and rehabilitation program. She received numerous civic awards, honorary degrees and honors throughout her lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.
She was also the founder and major benefactor of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts in Virginia, beginning with the donation of 100 acres to the U.S. Government for a National Park for the Performing Arts in 1966. In 1994, President Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts.
She died in 1994 at the age of 98, after a lifetime of commitment to education, civic duty, the arts and philanthropy. She was remarkable in her determination to look into the future. Her spirit finds a welcome and kindred home at the Institute.