My studio is located in a building that was once part of the Baker Chocolate Factory. From my studio windows, I can see the Neponset River and Baker Falls which run alongside the building. It is believed that Native Americans lived in areas along the Neponset River before the arrival of European settlers. Over time, small dams were built along the river, and gradually, Europeans began developing industries that utilized the river’s waters and the power created by the dams. “By the Revolutionary War, the growing Neponset Village (Lower Mills area) was quite an industrial center, keeping the communities supplied in bread flour, lumber for shelter and ships, wool for clothing, and gunpowder for hunting and protection. ” (Source: Sweet History: Dorchester and the Chocolate Factory)

 

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One of the earliest commodities produced along the river was chocolate which, in the winter months, became a secondary source of income for mills producing other things. “James Baker took over John Hannon’s chocolate business in 1780 and dedicated most of the year to making chocolate in multiple mills. Space along the Lower Falls of the Neponset River was limited and gradually became scarce as more mills were built. Beginning in 1805 Edmund Baker began buying out owners of neighboring mills for the purpose of expanding his chocolate business. Over the next century, Baker’s purchased additional grist mills, paper mills, and even other chocolate mills. Baker’s became a dominant industry in the Lower Mills, shipping their chocolate around the world.” (Source: Sweet History: Dorchester and the Chocolate Factory).

 

Baker Chocolate Factory Today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baker Chocolate Factory was a significant employer for a long time. It remained in its original location until 1965 when it was bought by General Foods and moved out of state. The company’s history is quite fascinating. Early owners were very aware of the need for clever marketing, and they developed ideas for “branding” their products long before the concept of branding was fashionable. The company came up with the concept of La Belle Chocolatier (The Beautiful Chocolate Girl) whose image appeared on all the company’s packaging and promotional materials. Attractive young women were also recruited to dress up as “chocolate girls” and demonstrate the products at events and chocolate tastings. The company also had a reputation for being a good place to work, treating its employees well and offering many employee benefits before these were common in the workplace.

After the company moved to Delaware, the buildings remained vacant for some years until they were converted into office space, condominiums and apartments.

Long after the company departed the area, the smell of chocolate remained. When I was a child, driving through this area was always a treat as a strong chocolate smell wafted through the air bringing visions of delightful sweets. The chocolate smell is now gone, but the beauty of the river and the sense of history remain.

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