An old brewery’s name restored in Jamaica Plain
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The Haffenreffer name can stand tall in Jamaica Plain again.
For years, a large chimney at the former Haffenreffer brewing complex has been missing some of the letters that spelled out the old company’s name. The smokestack was shortened after renovations three decades ago, its vertical labeling reduced to: “FENREFFER BREWERS.”
But on Wednesday, workers from Boston Chimney & Tower mounted a large stainless steel fixture, with the letters HAF attached, to the top of the smokestack, capping a quixotic five-year campaign by artist Bob Maloney for the Haffenreffer name to be made whole again.
Maloney, a neighbor of the brewery complex, where the Boston Beer Co. brewery is now located, said he had long been bothered by the truncated spelling.
“I live like a block away from there and see it on a daily basis. And most people just think the name of the brewery is Fenreffer,” he said. “It’s always been a wrong that I felt needed to be corrected.”
Maloney designed a circular frame or crown of stainless steel that sits atop the 118-foot brick chimney, to which was mounted the letters, each around four feet high. He came up with the concept while in art school and eventually persuaded the brewery complex’s owners, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, to back his pet project. The group provided $35,000 toward the restoration and secured an additional $20,000 grant from the George B. Henderson Foundation.
While Maloney designed the structure and created a small sculpture to model it, the actual crown was fabricated by Bowmar Steel Industries of Hanson, according to the development corporation.
Haffenreffer, named for its founder, Rudolf Haffenreffer, moved into the Jamaica Plain complex in 1870 and was one of more than a dozen breweries around Stony Brook at the turn of the century.
Haffenreffer outlived most of them, surviving prohibition and lasting nearly 100 years before leaving in the 1960s, according to the neighborhood development corporation.
In 1964, Haffenreffer production and distribution was taken over by Rhode Island’s Narragansett Brewing Co., which was also run by the Haffenreffer family.
The brewery complex was bought by the development corporation in 1983, which has since renovated it to include a number of businesses, including Bella Luna & The Milky Way, a restaurant at the base of the chimney.
Originally 148 feet, the chimney was in such disrepair that the development corporatin had the damaged top 30 feet removed in 1986, eliminating “HAF” in the process. (The five next letters, “FENRE,” were also removed between 2008 and 2009 as part of a restoration process that replaced another 30 feet of chimney.)
The smokestack has not been used since Haffenreffer left the complex, and is now purely decorative.
Hatsy Shields, the 70-year-old daughter of the last president of the brewery, Theodore C. Haffenreffer, had been unaware of the restoration, but received the news warmly.
“After school, I would go to the brewery, where my father worked. I loved the bottling room,” said Shields, who now lives in Hamilton.
“It really was a terrific neighborhood place, and very historic. . . . I can understand that an old neighborhood would want to hang onto it.”
Richard Thal, executive director at the neighborhood development corporation, said the signage is a tribute to the brewery site’s past.
“Our commitment over nearly 40 years has been to revive this historic complex as a job creator and community gathering place, and putting the HAF back in the smokestack feels like the right way to respect the Haffenreffer family that invested in this community 150 years ago,” Thal said.
The resoration project required approval from Boston’s Inspectional Services Department, which it received this month, and from the Boston Planning & Development Agency, which was granted in November.