The Forgotten Concert Hall Under Boston

Daniel Ganninger
July 14, 2021
The front of Steinert Hall in Boston, the forgotten concert hall.
Outside Steinert Hall Google Maps Nov 2020

Sometimes things are found right where you would never expect, and there’s a structure in Boston, Massachusetts, that many Bostonians didn’t even know existed. In the middle of the city, there is a 120-year-old abandoned concert hall known as Steinert Hall that is 40 feet underground, buried beneath a piano store.

It was constructed in 1896 beneath Boylston Street in the Italian Renaissance style, and some of the world’s best musicians played there. It closed almost 80 years ago and had once been one of the city’s finest performing art sites. It was almost acoustically perfect since it was deep underground and away from street noise.

A fire in 1942 in a nightclub called the Cocoanut Grove (this is actually how it was spelled) caused the eventual shutdown of the hall. The fire caused 492 deaths, and fire codes became stricter in the city. Those buildings that couldn’t afford the upgrades to stay compliant were closed down. Steinert Hall was one of them.

steinert hall interior
Interior of Steinert Hall Screenshot Youtube The Boston Globe

The concert hall stayed shuttered underneath the street that was known as piano row, and a piano dealer called M. Steinert & Sons continued on above it. It became a storage area for piano parts, but some musicians stopped by the old venue to record or take a look. It wasn’t “rediscovered” until 2011, when a blogger wrote about the mostly unknown hall.

It wasn’t easy to get into the theater since the basement area had been deemed a safety concern, and the only elevator to it had been closed down. Sprinkler pipes were added in later years, and flooding damaged the ironwork in the old hall since it had been built below the water table. There were 650 seats at one time in the hall, which had auditorium-level seating and a balcony, but the seats had been donated long ago to a local high school. It was even once designated as a public bomb shelter.

The building above ground level began a restoration in 2016, and there were talks of the hall being renovated, but it appears that has not happened. The cost of completing such a restoration of the once-famous concert hall was estimated to exceed $6 million.

Sources: CBS-Boston, The Boston Globe, History Daily