By John P. Rattigan

The recently installed plaque at 100 Franklin Street, Boston.

The Irish International Immigrant Center moved to its present offices at 100 Franklin Street in October, 2009. The building is owned and managed by Synergy Investment and Development (recently named Boston’s “Landlord of the Year”). Last month Synergy installed a plaque on an outside wall to commemorate the building’s connection with two unique Boston institutions.

Erected in 1909 as the new home of the Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company, this ten- storey, white marbled, Italian Renaissance edifice boasted the largest bank vault in New England.

Franklin Street was the last home to the Boston Stock Exchange. Founded in 1834, it was the third oldest stock exchange in America. The exchange closed in 2007, when it was acquired by NASDAQ. The former trading floor on the street level has now been returned to banking business and is currently occupied by the Webster Bank.

Boston in the late 1950s was in a terrible financial condition, hovering on the brink of bankruptcy. A small group of about a dozen civic, banking and business leaders decided to do something about it. They formed what was known as the Coordinating Committee, but the public soon labeled it the Vault because the group met bi-weekly in a board room adjacent to the massive underground vault of Boston Safe Deposit.

The workings of this committee were highly secretive and mysterious. No minutes of the meetings were ever kept. The members were all white men, mostly Ivy League educated, conservative Yankee Republicans. In 1959 the Vault formed an unlikely partnership with the young newly elected Democratic Mayor, John F. Collins.

Their shared goal was to lay the groundwork for the building of a modern city. In this effort, the Vault was enormously influential and successful, leading to the emergence of the “New Boston” in the 1960s and the world class city that we know today.

Such a private and secret collaboration would no longer be possible today. Massachusetts Open Meeting laws and criticism of the obviously undemocratic nature of the Vault led to its waning power and eventual disbanding in 1997. There is, however, a valuable lesson to be learned – as important now as it was fifty years ago. When partisan politics are set aside and there is a committed effort by all to work only for the common good, much can be accomplished.

After more than 100 years, this unique and handsome building continues to add to the beauty and vibrant future of the city we all enjoy.