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Where to look for lofts in Boston

Certain neighborhoods in the city—including the Leather District and Dorchester—lend themselves to the cavernous housing type

An open bedroom with a railing and a bed and a staircase leading up from it.

With its historical abundance of triple-deckers, rowhouses, townhouses, and just plain houses—never mind one modern condo sprout after another in recent years—Boston does not really lend itself to lofts. That’s more a New York thing.

Or is it? There are some areas of the city where finding spreads low on walled-in bedrooms but rife with high ceilings, exposed brick and beams, and larger than normal windows is relatively easy.

Affording them is another matter, of course, as lofts are subject to the same conditions that make Boston housing so relatively expensive in general. All of the below loft-peppered areas also share another feature: Each was once a haven for commercial trade. The residential conversions to loft apartments and condos came later.

Leather District

A cavernous empty living room with a kitchen to one side and shiny floors, and there’s a painting of a Union Jack across one wall. Listed by: Kimball Borgo Real Estate

This small Boston neighborhood between branches of I-93 and near South Station is a vestige of its original function starting in the late 19th century: It was where leather was manufactured and where people shopped for it. So there are a lot of big, brick buildings left behind that today house dozens of lofts.

Above is from the listing for Unit 503 at 210 Lincoln Street, a 1,402-square-foot one-bedroom, two-bathroom asking $949,000.

Fort Point

A bedroom with high ceilings, big windows, and a bed. Listed by: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

The approximately 100-acre waterside enclave morphed in the 19th century from a defensive outpost into a prime spot for storing goods, especially sugar and molasses, that came off ships. That meant large warehouses, which in the 20th century evolved into spacious residences that are among some of the most expensive in Boston.

The loft pictured here is Unit 511 at 319 A Street—a former warehouse for, among other things, leather goods, and now a 48-unit condo. The 850-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom is asking $950,000.

Lower Mills

Ceiling view of a brick-walled living room with furniture and an enormous arched window. Listed by: Coldwell Banker

Dorchester is Boston’s largest neighborhood by area, a vast veldt of distinct enclaves—and why not? The neighborhood was once an independent city. And within that city was a manufacturing hub on its southern edge along the Neponset River. That hub, known as Lower Mills, evolved from exactly what its name implies into a largely residential and retail (and relatively affordable) neighborhood.

Vestiges of its past glory abound, however, especially in the converted Baker chocolate manufacturing complex. Above is Unit F609 at the Baker condos at 1241-1255 Adams Street. It’s a 1,376-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom—with a 14-foot arched window on the lower level—asking $699,000.

North End

An open bedroom next to a railing and with a staircase leading up, and there’s a bed. Listed by: Douglas Elliman

Until the geographic maturation of Charlestown and East Boston, the North End was for a long time Boston’s northeastern-most neighborhood. As such, it was the unloading and loading point for a lot of the sea trade that made Boston important. And a lot of the warehouses and other storage facilities from back then survive today as residences.

Above is the 816-square-foot Unit 5-5 at 287-295 Hanover Street, with its loft-in-a-loft bedroom and its 21-foot ceilings. It’s asking $742,000.

East Boston

An open kitchen-living room with a view over the kitchen island, and to the left of that is a spiral staircase. Listed by: Ken Snyder Homes

The infill-spurred linkage over 150 years of five islands east of Boston formed this neighborhood. Its waterfront location foreordained it to be a major port for the city that it joined in 1836. Still, even with that pedigree, Eastie does not have as many capacious reminders of its past still intact, not as many as Fort Point and the Leather District, say.

But it does have the odd cavernous ex-warehouse or factory—like the factory that used to be at 156 Porter Street. Unit 406 there is pictured above. It’s a 1,071-square-foot one-bedroom, two-bathroom that’s asking $669,000.