Bricks tell the story of a recovered past

March 21, 2008
By

John Swan


Gazette Photo By John SwanParticipants’ feet mark the journey of many who contributed to the success of the Brewery Complex on Amory Street. In an event last Saturday called “If these Bricks Could Talk…” the JP Neighborhood Development Corporation celebrated the past and future of the historic site of business and employment for the neighborhood as they dedicated memorial bricks by the front entrance.

BROOKSIDE—For most visitors to the 50 businesses and organizations in the Brewery on Amory Street, the 127-year-old red bricks that compose the complex are silent as people come and go.

But for those who work inside the historic structures— along with the few old-timers who still live in the neighborhood, and even some who have since moved away—the bricks and mortar hold vivid stories of a time when life was centered around the vibrant complex that employed 250 local residents.

On March 15, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) celebrated the past and future of the Brewery Complex during its “If These Bricks Could Talk…” event that also commemorated new memorial bricks that welcome visitors at the foot of the Amory Street entrance.

“These bricks remind us of the legacy of this complex and the other 26 breweries that once lined the Stony Brook,” said JP historian Michael Reiskind. He noted how the community was build around the breweries because, “Everyone who worked there also lived in the neighborhood.”

“My most poignant memory was when someone came to our front door to offer my dad and uncle a job there driving trucks during the Depression,” said Barbara O’Brien Schweizer, who grew up in the Brookside neighborhood and now lives outside Boston. “Full-time jobs back then were big deals, and now it’s also exciting to see the job the JPNDC has done with this property.”

Michael Mulcahy recalled emigrating from Ireland to Brookside in 1960. “The Haffenreffer Brewery was going wonderfully at the time,” he said. But by 1965, the business closed and the site stood vacant and neglected until the JPNDC bought it in 1983.

Mulcahy witnessed the decline of the neighborhood and was one of the first members of the JPNDC’s board of directors and of the Brookside Neighborhood Association.

At the peak of production in the late 1880s, the 160,000-square-foot complex brewed half a million barrels of beer annually and employed 250 people—the same number that works there today, after nearly 30 years of renovations.

Once again, the Brewery has become the engine of the Brookside neighborhood.

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