Union Wharf, 343 Commercial Street, ca 1846
Renovation: Moritz Bergmeyer, 1979

The somber dignity of Boston's granite warehouses is nowhere better expressed than in Union Wharf. Its rough granite is utterly straightforward and without artifice. The building's masonry walls with iron-shuttered windows speak for themselves, and its name is boldy set in granite in the pediment. The stone blocks of the ground floor are of a larger scale than in the upper floors. A string of brick row houses was added to the wharf by the same architect who did the renovation in 1979. (AIA Guide to Boston)

Union Wharf is located on the Boston waterfront in the North End neighborhood. The irregularly shaped bulkhead extends west from the inner harbor 590 feet and includes the building at 295-353 Commercial St. It is owned and operated by Union Wharf Condominium Association.

While a portion of the Union Wharf bulkhead was constructed in the late 18th century, it did not assume its present form until 1845 when merchant John L. Gardner purchased it. The wharf's construction is typical of Boston's 19th-century waterfront, which used timber cribs filled with rubble stone to form the perimeter. Earth filled the interior and granite blocks placed alongside the cribs formed a durable, protective seawall. The wharf's surface is now covered with a variety of paving materials, including granite pavers, asphalt and landscaping.

Gardner expanded the wharf to the north to create a larger building site and erected a granite-faced warehouse, which is the major building occupying the wharf today. Completed in 1847 on the northwest section of the property, the warehouse was originally four stories tall. The fifth level is a 19th-century brick addition. Gardner sold the property to the Union Wharf Company in 1847, but apparently retained the principal interest. The United States government subsequently leased Union Wharf as a bonded warehouse. By the late 19th century, the ports of New York and Philadelphia gradually became more important to maritime commerce than Boston. In response to this shift, Boston became a center for steamship lines and railroad terminals.

In 1900, Union Wharf was purchased by Metropolitan Steamship Company, which already owned nearby India Wharf and operated steamers between Boston and cities and towns in Maine. After experiencing several periods of reorganization, the Metropolitan Steamship Company eventually sold the property to Robert P. Gable and Frank Leeder in 1945. The J.L. Kelso Company used the warehouse for storing goods until it was sold to Union Wharf Development Associates in 1977, who converted it to housing. Today, six buildings occupy Union Wharf but only the warehouse is considered historically significant.  

Information courtesy of National Park Service, Maritime History of Massachusetts.