Built on a landfill created from tidal flats in the early 1800s to provide additional housing for Boston’s expanding middle class population, Chinatown is home to Boston’s largest Chinese community, in a unique mix of residences and family owned and operated businesses. As the area’s original residents moved out of the area in the 1840s, an influx of immigrants moved in, including Chinese, Irish, Italian, Jewish and Syrian, who converted the area’s single family homes to multiple unit tenements. Commercial uses, including textiles and leather works, began at the turn of the Century with the construction of South Station and the Washington Street Trolley line. To this day, Chinese restaurants and specialty shops fill the ground floor levels of residential buildings.
The Leather District is a small but growing sub-neighborhood of Chinatown. Located between Dewey Square and Kneeland Street, the Leather District is a nine-block area noted for its 19th century brick warehouse structures. These historic buildings were constructed primarily during the 1880s, with a design focused on efficient and economic manufacturing. The leather industry and related wholesalers required space for display, offices and work areas, thus, huge, ground floor display windows don these buildings, set in sturdy cast iron columns – a unique signature of the Leather District.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Leather District has grown as a mixed-use area, filled by a variety of commercial and residential tenants.