Boston History: What Happened to My Beer? Exploring Boston's Lost Breweries

While searching the online photo archives at the Boston Public Library, I came upon a collection called "Boston Brewery Posters." While looking at old maps of Boston, I was always struck with how many breweries there were.

So, let's connect the maps with breweries, and see what stories unfold.
Here's G.F. Burkhard's Bock Beer. But we need an address.
A few Google searches later, and I find Burkhardt was located in Roxbury. This article about 
Boston's Lost Breweries, is a treasure trove of information, and talks about Burkhardt:

Burkhardt built two large six-story Roxbury Puddingstone buildings and a large stable forming an L shaped enclosure around the adjacent Houghton and Company Vienna Brewery. Gottlieb, or George Burkhardt and his son, Gottlieb Jr., ran the brewery until Gottlieb Senior died in 1884. It continued brewing until Prohibition closed it in 1919. It stayed open, however, until 1929 producing cereal and other grain products during the dry period. Burkhardt made both beer and ale. Their labels were Tivoli Beer, Extra Lager Beer, and; starting in 1912, Red Sox Beer, to honor that year’s World Series Champions. They also made Augsburger Lager & Augsburger Dark, Salvator Lager, Brown Stock Lager and Bock style Lager. They produced over 100,000 barrels a year of beer alone, plus Golden Sheaf Ale, Cream Ale, Brown Stock Ale, Old Stock Porter, India Pale Ale and; also starting in 1912, Pennant Ale.
There's the brewery, taking a couple city blocks at Parker and Station Streets. This entire lot is now a parking lot in Roxbury. 
Here is a 1931 of the area, with the buildings that are still standing today overlaid with grey.
Here's the same map, with existing buildings overlaid in green for better contrast. Look at how much of Roxbury has been torn down and replaced since 1931!
Zooming in. Wait, there appears to be two buildings (I missed them while making the map above) still on the block that was the brewery.
How poignant that we can see the Pru and the Hancock at the same time as the remains of this block. Actually, this is another brewery, the A.J. Houghton & Co. “Vienna” Brewery. Located at Station and Halleck Streets, it was active from 1870 to 1918. Explore the area on Google Street View. From the Boston's Lost Breweries article: This is the only landmark brewery in Boston, having been protected by the Boston Landmarks Commission, despite its poor condition.
A.J.Houghton & Co Brewery still stands in Roxbury.
While this poster says the office was at 16 Arch Street near Milk Street in Boston, the brewery itself was at 1276 Columbus Avenue, the present site of Roxbury Community College.
The Pfaff Brewery and the Norfolk Brewery were next to each other on the site that is now Roxbury Community College.  From the article:
A third brewery, Habich “Norfolk” Brewery, active from 1874 to 1902, was located at 171 Cedar Street and occupied the same College site. Habich was the first Boston Brewery to make Lager beer in the 1850’s.

Jacob Wirth is Boston's oldest remaining microbrewer. This poster is from 1875.

How cool is that: Jacob Wirth is still there, amazingly unchanged from 1868! Explore in Google Street View. So, what happened to my beer? It's all gone, except for Jacob Wirth's. In Boston.

The Jamaica Plain Historical Society's excellent article tells the full story of 24 breweries that once dotted Roxbury and Jamaica Plain:

Beer making in Boston was in its heyday in the early 1900’s. Try to imagine the clatter of horse-drawn, iron-wheeled, wagons bringing raw materials in and finished product out of the 24 breweries in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain which were located on or near Columbus Avenue, Heath Street and Amory Street. Add the pungent odors of hops, yeast, slowly cooking grains and the coal and wood smoke billowing from each of the 24 smokestacks and you begin to sense the impact these breweries had on their neighborhoods.

And why were they located here? There are two simple reasons: abundant and crystal clear water from the aquifer along the Stony Brook along with artesian wells bubbling to the surface around Mission Hill; and the relatively cheap land after the City of Roxbury merged with Boston in 1868. These conditions, combined with the demand for the new German type Lager beers, drove the expansion of the industry locally.

Boston History: What Connects the 1903 World Series, Northeastern University, and the YMCA?

I actually started this look into Boston's past as part of my "railroads and where are they now" series. I had promised a look at three sites that used to be rail yards - the Pru, the Hancock, and Northeastern University. But, as soon as I started to dive into the first site, I just found too much, so this post is only about the site that is now Northeastern University.

Well, there we are: two roundhouses and a bunch of tracks, right where Northeastern is.
There's Northeastern's main campus, and overlaid on top is the old rail lines and the roundhouses. You can view this map and play with it yourself here
On the other side of the tracks was a major league baseball stadium.
Today, that site is a parking lot, in front of a building...that is...well... a parking garage. Oh, the ignominy of baseball history.
Turns out that what I found was the South End Grounds. This was the home of the Boston Red Stockings, who eventually, not the Red Sox...they became the Boston Braves, who stayed in Boston until the 1950s, then moved to Milwaukee, then to Atlanta. Oh, and by the way, the Braves Stadium that replaced this one called Braves Field and was located were Nickerson Field is at BU today. See this post for more. Okay, so what about the 1903 World Series?
This 1902 map shows us exactly. In the Boston Atlas, we actually have 8 separate years of Bromley Atlas maps for Boston: 1883, 1888, 1890, 1895, 1902, 1908, 1917, 1928, and 1938. It's amazing what you can find out with that resource.
Here's a photo of the 1903 World Series, played at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston. You can see the railroad roundhouse clearly in the background, in the upper left.
And we can see that the Huntington Avenue Grounds was right in the middle of the Northeastern Campus. (Which was a empty field right next to a railroad yard in the first map...from 1890) The caption in the Wikipedia listing says it was probably taken from the roof of a warehouse across the street.
Sure enough, we see the Mass Fire Proof Storage & Warehouse across Huntington Ave. (Click the map to make it bigger.) Makes perfect sense. New TV show idea: CSI Maps. Where old crimes are solved using overlaid maps. Ah, but what's the connection the YMCA?
I was looking at this 1938 map of the same area, and wondered: Why does it say Northeastern University of the Boston YMCA? That led me to this history of Northeastern University, which revealed the following: Northeastern University as started as part of the YMCA! The YMCA of Boston had a lecture program that quickly grew into courses, eventually became a college, and then:

In recognition of the growth of the academic programs, Northeastern College was incorporated in 1916. Six years later, by permission of the Massachusetts General Court, its name was changed to Northeastern University of the Boston Young Men's Christian Association.

So there you have it. Northeastern does occupy what used to be railroad yards on either side of the track. Buried under their campus and their parking lot is not one, but two historic major league baseball stadiums. One was the home of the 1903 World Series. The other was the home of the other Boston baseball team, the Braves. And the YMCA? I knew the YMCA was right there. I never knew that the YMCA is the reason that Northeastern is right next to the YMCA! And I learned all this by wandering around some old maps.

What's The Connection Between a Roundhouse and The Cheesecake Factory?

I love old aerial photos. Especially good ones, taken with high resolution cameras. This photo from about 1925 begins our journey. First, I challenge anyone to find a building that is still standing in this entire photo! The Old Garden? Gone. The office building next it? That's now the Tip O'Neil Building. The white building in the foreground? Old Department of Public Works. Gone. Now the County Prison. How about all the small buildings in the lower right. All gone. That was the West End, and it was wiped out in the 60's by urban renewal. In fact, as I look at this whole scene and follow it northward, I find that in a span of about 60 years, it's all been replaced. But that's another story. Today, we're looking for cheesecake.

Here's the same view (roughly) taken using Google Earth.The new Garden was built just in front of the old one, and then the old one was torn down, leaving the parking lot that's there today.

At the top of this photo from 1949, you can see construction of the Museum of Science. And on the very top, you'll see an old roundhouse where they would repair the locomotives and put them on the correct track. This series of historic aerial photos, taken in the late '40's by the State Department of Transportation are a great resource. 

We see this roundhouse more clearly in this photo from January 15, 1950.

This map shows that back in 1912, a blizzard of tracks emerge from North Station.

By the time of this 2005 aerial photo composite, you can see that the railroads and the highways have all been pushed into a much more narrow corridor.

This whole array of railroad frenzy seems far away, but in fact it's just a couple blocks from the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall, which borders the circular boat basin at the bottom of the picture.

Here it is - two worlds from different times almost collide. The roundhouse almost across the street from the mall. They even had a separate building for "dining car supply.", Hmmm. They could have bought some cheesecake know where. Sixty years later, it's only 700 feet away!

Now the whole area is being reclaimed for development. Note all the green in this more recent view from Google Maps

This is only the most recent story of railroads yielding to new city. Stay tuned for a look at three other areas that we take for granted that also used to be all about railroads: The Prudential Tower, The Hancock Tower (not the one you're thinking about) and most of Northeastern University along Huntington Ave.
Here's a recent aerial photo from Bing Maps. I didn't mention it earlier, but did you notice the old prison in Charlestown? That's now the site of Bunker Hill Community College. 

How the Big Dig Has Transformed Boston - Some Photos from 2004 and 2007

In 1999, I became very involved with the City of Boston, and with the Big Dig. The project at that time was in full swing underground, but above ground, little was known about how the city would look and work after the project was done. I started a non-profit called to help people see what the future would bring. There were big debates then about whether the Big Dig would work. Whether it would indeed help with traffic. Whether it would indeed help stitch the City back together. Now the results are clear. The Big Dig has been a huge success. Traffic is dramatically improved. The airport is a few minutes drive from the city. And most importantly, the giant scar in the middle of the city has been removed, and Boston is quickly reconnecting its waterfront with the central city. And the new South Boston Waterfront is now just a stroll down the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Boston has one vibrant waterfront, and another one on the way, just steps away.

Brian McGory of the Globe wrote on October 29, 2010, how strange it is that a project that is such a success as this is used mainly as a taint. Anyone who voted funding for it is attacked. And as he says, where would we be with out it? 

 the project has been an overwhelming success by any sane measure, though maybe that’s the problem here: Nothing in the public realm seems sane anymore. ...Traffic flies through the clean, wide, well-lighted tunnels morning, noon, and night. You’re more likely to get a speeding ticket than hit a backup. Compare this with 10, 20, or 30 years ago, when traffic on the old elevated Central Artery flowed like ketchup in cold weather.

These photos show a period from March and April of 2004 to June 2007.

February, 2004. my son and his best friend, stand near the Haymarket bus station, with the rapidly dwindling Central Artery in the background.



June, 2007. The Central artery is gone,, the trees are in place, and the kids are three years older and much bigger.

April, 2004 . Most of the artery has been taken down, except a portion near the Boston Harbor Hotel.
April 2004 - View north towads the Zakim Bridge.
April 2004 - The elevated highway was actually extended closer to the Boston Harbor Hotel (note the new blue steel beams and new concrete barrier above) so the traffic could be diverted while the original artery was removed.

April, 2004 - It may be subtle, but look at the color of the vertical supports. If they are green, they are the original supports and were routed to a new (temporary) foundation below. If the supports look like rusted steel, these are new, temporary supports that were added when the original green ones were sawed off to make way for construction.
April 2004. You can't see this structure today. It is hidden now, because the Intercontinental Hotel was built right around it. This is a vent structure for tunnels below. The Intercontinental Hotel actually has giant blowers in its basement (well the part owned by the highwayt department) that extract air from the tunnels and vent it above the hotel. (Even though this is a clever way to hide a giant piece of infrastructure, I'll bet the hotel doesn't mention it on its marketing materials.

April 2004 - For fifty years, our city was strewn with miles and miles of green steel like this. It tore the city apart. Over 1000 buildings were removed in the 1950's to build the highway. It took fantastic foresight on the part of one man, Fred Salvucci, who came up with the idea of burying the Central Artery, and then put together the original financing and the team to make it happen. This is a project for the record books. A project that worked and transformed a city, frankly even more than I imagined when I was involved with those who were making it happen.