Leather District History

Do While Studio is located in an area of Boston historically referred to as the Leather District. The Leather District is a nine block area which was formerly the home of leather merchants and related businesses. The Leather District was transformed in the 1970's and 80's from a mercantile area to a diverse use neighborhood of residential, light industrial, commercial and business uses. In the 90's, the influx of technological and digital culture in the leather district has been especially notable.

To briefly summarize the evolution of the Leather district: The buildings were all built after the great fire of 1872 by architects who were then suffering for work because of the Great Depression of 1873. These new buildings were built with large window openings for easy inspection and sorting of leather with natural light. The architectural style of the buildings they designed tends to be conservative, yet the physical plant was precisely executed for efficiently combining the management, manufacturing, storage and movement of goods, all in one building. This arrangement was very important to the leather industry since profit depended on high-volume turnover with minimum handling expenses.

Despite these advantages the shoe and leather industries started to decline after World War II. Around the same time, the City of Boston planned the original central Artery Project. Many buildings were demolished and the surface artery was built, isolating and distinctly defining the leather district. However, in the 70's the leather industry kicked the bucket. Because the number of buildings were reduced, the ones which were left became economically viable. Artists staked out the area for lofts and galleries. Finally in the 80's the zoning was changed for legal residential use.

Currently the Leather District is between the north and southbound Central Artery Tunnel construction. The large scale development ways of Old Boston have not changed. With work on the tunnel scheduled through 2004, the neighborhood has expressed concern about the noise and air pollution. Also, it is felt that new sidewalks, trees, pavement and traffic circulation improvements should be made immediately. Though these motions have been agreed upon, funding for their execution is still being sought out.

Link to the Big Dig site.