April 30, 2019 What Was Made There? The Nawn Factory’s Tenants and Uses
The City of Boston has begun discussing disposition of the long vacant Owen Nawn Factory (2080 Washington Street) at the entrance to Roxbury’s Dudley Square for private development, and while the community’s hope for a neighborhood orientation center continues, a look at what the Nawn Factory has been might very well inform what it can be today. To that end, we pulled a section from Leslie Larson’s historic structures report from 1989 that describes what the public record tells us went on in the Owen Nawn Factory after its construction around 1880.
The new brick Nawn Factory’s first tenant in 1881 was Chesley Brothers, a firm dealing in hay, straw, grain and flour, which remained in the building through 1888. Cole Brothers, a dealing in the same commodities, continued from 1889 through 1891. Two woodworking firms occupied space, Brandenburg and Martin, cabinetmakers, 1883-1886, and Wilson Brothers, carpenters, from 1891 through 1903. Shorter term tenants include, Dr. White, a farrier, 1887-88, a cigar manufacturer, a blacksmith, a house painter, a stable, and the Medical Department of the Fire Department.
There was one long term tenant, Alexander Blackwood, locksmith and bell hanger, whose sign appears on the ca. 1894 photograph and who occupied space in both buildings: the wooden building from 1871 to 1879 and the brick Nawn Factory from 1887 to 1911.
Cigar manufacturing in the 1920s was one of the known uses following Nawn’s sale of the building in 1898. Faded signs on the Washington Street façade advertise auto parts and tires, while more rent building permits list “manufacturing upholstery; to be: making paper novelties” (1945); “offices” (1958); “warehouse; store and offices” (1960).
The building has been vacant for many years.