Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Haffenreffer incorporated

The Haffenreffer Brewery is a massive mumbo- jumbo of diverse chockablock structures built from the 1870s to the 1950s according to the beer brewer's evolving needs, without regard to architectural unity or spatial coherence. Over time this yielded a labyrinthine layout that would drive Laverne and Shirley to drink and Lenny and Squiggy nuts.

Strange brew

But now that Haffenreffer has closed up shop and merged with Narragansett (who else? — same number of letters, two sets of double letters), the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation has incorporated the old brewery's diversity of digs into a handsome neighborhood of businesses, including a dance studio, a cafĂ©, a gym, a cleaning company, three cabinetmakers, a food supplier, and — in keeping with tradition — Sam Adams Brewery. On last Saturday's Common Boston-sponsored tour of the complex, Andy Waxman of the JPNDC and Gail Sullivan of Studio G Architects showed us how Baker/Wohl Architects ingeniously interconnected the structures by busting through walls and installing stairs going up and down from one building's second, third, fourth or fifth floor to the other's. Floor levels didn't match from building to building, and historical guidelines demanded as-is preservation of almost all of them. They range from a low mansard brick counting house retaining its "Night Depository" safe door, a towering castle-like main building (the office complex entrance), a wood clapboard horse stable for the Clydesdales that delivered beer by wagon in days of yore, and a corrugated metal hangar-like doohickey for storage of kegs, barrels, forklifts and the like.

Brewer's gold

Not to mention the yellow-brick smokestack that continues to landmark the site, but in truncated form: safety concerns caused its decapitation, and it awaits a repaint so it can once again read "FENREFFER BREWERY."

The interior shows how adaptable the high ceilings and the vast floor spaces, created by iron columns taking the place of load-bearing masonry walls, are to the building's new uses. And what a museum of construction history: brick walls (retaining much of their paint because sandblasting is now a historical no-no), wood beams, concrete beams, steel beams, iron posts and rails, stenciled-on indicator signs ("HOP STRAINER 30BB"), a wood-deck ceiling with skylight, an old metal track door, and especially a handsome Victorian cast-iron stair with arcaded risers and acorn-topped newel post. And don't forget Sam Adams' beer-barrels!

Making their dreams come true, indeed! And doing it their way!

Thank you for visiting. I welcome your comments!

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