Even in a city full of famous landmarks to see, it’s impossible to pass up this quirky Boston icon.
By Joe Bills
Jan 03 2022
The 40-foot-tall Hood milk bottle in Boston.Photo Credit : Edward Westmacott/Alamy Stock Photo
If you’ve ever wondered what a 58,620-gallon bottle of milk looks like—and who hasn’t?—the answer can be found just outside the Boston Children’s Museum, on Fort Point Channel. There stands a 40-foot-tall milk bottle sporting the logo of Massachusetts’s own H.P. Hood, as it has ever since it was acquired by the museum 45 years ago and became a signature Boston landmark.
In the early 1930s, inspired by the shape of a bottle from a nearby dairy, Arthur Gagner of Taunton, Massachusetts, constructed this wooden building as an eye-catching retail stand for his homemade ice cream. In the coming years, as car ownership boomed, crazy roadside attractions would become more commonplace, but Gagner’s was one of the nation’s first.
In 1943, Gagner sold the bottle to another local ice cream maker, the Sankey family, who ran the stand for the next 24 years. Afterward, the bottle was abandoned and fell into disrepair; its facade grew so weathered it even caught the eye of famed photographer Walker Evans, whose 1974 Polaroid images of it now belong to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Not long after Walker photographed the forlorn structure, though, clothing designer Carol Scofield made it her mission to find it a new home. Turns out, that would be the Children’s Museum, which was about to relocate to its current downtown location.
Hood signed on as a sponsor and funded the restoration, and on April 20, 1977, a barge carried the rebranded bottle across Boston Harbor to its new digs. Several vendors have operated out of the milk bottle since then, but most recently it has returned to its roots as an ice cream stand.
And since you are probably just as curious as I was: It would take roughly 9,300 cows to fill the bottle in a single day, and more than 32 million Oreo cookies could be dunked before all of that milk was absorbed. Just please, don’t ask how I know. —Joe Bills