The History of the Oliver Lofts
The name atop the brick façade reads Oliver Ditson Company 1835-1925, but that is only a portion of this building’s diverse history. In fact, it wasn’t built in 1835, those dates simply commemorate the lifespan of the Oliver Ditson Company, an impressive 90 year run. The building itself was one part of a larger complex that begun construction in 1892.
Who built it? A brewery of course. Rather serendipitous as craft beer is in the middle of a major resurgence today. These buildings were part of the Highland Spring Brewery Bottling and Storage complex. Founded in 1867 by two Irish and German immigrants, the Highland Spring Brewery enjoyed tremendous success until Prohibition went into effect in 1920, forcing the company to seize operations. After several years of no use, the Oliver Ditson Company purchased the storehouse part of the complex in 1925.
A quick side note... After Prohibition ended in 1933, the former brewmaster of Highland Spring opened another brewery in part of the complex. Croft Brewery went on to operate successfully for about 20 years until they were bought out by Narragansett Brewing Company and moved to Rhode Island. In a roundabout way, parts of this building’s history are still brewing today.
Back to Oliver Ditson… It was one of the biggest music publishing houses in the USA. Headquartered at the corner of Tremont and Boylston Street, they were known for publishing sheet music along with Dwight’s Journal of Music, a well-respected music journal. They acquired the storehouse building to house its print shop and additional storage. Then in 1931, the company was acquired by the Theodore Presser Company, another major music publisher. They continued operations in the building until the early 1950’s.
You may also hear people refer to the lofts as the old Pickle Works, and that’s because it was. In 1958, the building was acquired by R&S Pickle Works, a local pickle maker. They used the space to produce kosher pickles for almost 30 years. Eventually, Hebrew National purchased the company and closed the plant in the mid-1980s.
For the next 20-something years, the lofts sat vacant until 2008 when Winn Development began redeveloping the building into the Oliver Lofts you see today.