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Boston, Massachusetts

The Earl of Sandwich

A men’s restroom became a sandwich shop. 

The Earl of Sandwich, a food shop on Boston Common, is located in an octagonal stone building that was once a men’s comfort station. Built of cast stone over terra cotta brick in 1916, the 660-square foot structure was nicknamed the “Pink Palace” because of its colored masonry.

Unused as a restroom since the 1970s, it crumbled slowly behind an iron fence. The decrepit building looked more like a tomb that had wandered away from the nearby Central Burying Ground than a public restroom. An engineering report commissioned by the City of Boston noted the building’s disrepair: “The current condition of the building is very poor,’’ the report states. “The glass and copper roof has failed, the entry door is severely damaged, and the interior finishes are damaged beyond repair.’’ 

One of nine historic structures on Boston Common, the building is located near the center, close to athletic fields, tennis courts, and the Parkman Bandstand. The Boston Landmarks Commission reviewed all of the company’s proposed changes to the structure before construction began.

The Earl of Sandwich, a national chain located in Orlando, Florida, spent over a million dollars renovating the former Men’s Comfort Station. The structure required both interior and exterior work. The company retained the original appearance, which included clerestory windows and the roof’s copper flashing. A new 24-faceted copper roof replicates the form of the original skylight and both the original roof monitor and ventilator were replicated in copper.

Know Before You Go

Park in the Boston Common's underground garage and take the elevator to the surface. Or ride the MBTA's Green Line to the Park Street or Arlington Street stations.