Formerly known as "Creepy-chusetts, Strange-chusetts".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

O'Hara Waltham Dial Company, Waltham

This is one eccentric building. The Waltham Watch Company factory building  gave an impression of stacked, piling up structure due to its gradual expansion. But this one is different. It is sort of looking into a genius eccentric man's brain; each function of the structure is uncertain to us, but it makes damn sense to him. Each component is perfectly arranged like a good watch, symbolizing the order of the universe (at least in his sense) that cannot be disturbed one bit. Who are you, Mr. O'Hara?

As you can see, the building is no longer functioning as a watch factory, or it is not even performing the principal function of a building; it looks like an allegorical folly of Escher. But if I suppose a building reflects its original owner's character, the one of O'Hara is still oozing out*...funky. I mean it is not because the building is nearby a dump but you know, funky in a cool way.

* Added on April 9 2012: I passed by the site yesterday and noticed a post stating that the site is contaminated by all the metal substances .... and radium!  Possibly it was used for the glow-in-the-dark paint. "Oozing out" was no joke, folks.
**Added on July 31, 2013: What a Dump: A Different View by the Backside of America

I immediately fell in love with this building when I saw it from a blog, The Backside of America.There are, or were,  numerous redbrick ruins in Massachusetts (especially in Waltham in my opinion) and some could be creepy, shady, or dangerous. But this one is like finding a treasure from a junk market.

Daniel O'Hara was a watch case maker trained in Kentucky. He came to Massachusetts in 1880 as a superintendent of the case department of the Waltham Watch Company. He then joined a small dial company in 1890 which would eventually become O'Hara Waltham Dial Company. A new factory here on Rumford Avenue was built in 1897.

However, only a year after moving to the new location, the business went down because a new watch dial maker was established in the upper state New York.

Mr. O'Hara then shifted his business to decorating stain marks.Wait, what are "stain marks"? Stein Marks are elaborately decorated beer mags, occasionally with metal lids on. I apologize my ignorance but this is a whole new world I've never been bothered to get to know before. Would it be a big deal in Antique Roadshow, maybe? Anyway, what a radical business change...

The trade mark of his stein marks was inspired from the fleur-de-lis. Inside of the fleur-de-lis, letters of "Paris France/ O'HARA DIAL CO./ Waltham Mass. U.S.A" were printed. I don't know Mr. O'Hara's upbringing very well, but "an Irish named American man making goods originally from Germany and suggesting his operation is also in France" sounds very random, sorry, cosmopolitan. You can see the company's products from; I wonder why he made lots of stein marks with not-so-handsome or even grumpy looking* middle aged men. A precursor of made-to-order "the bestest [sic] dad" coffee mags?

*He reminds me Father Jack from Father Ted (a mid-90's UK situation comedy set in a parochial house in a remote Irish island).

Mr. O'Hara died in 1912 at the age of 57, and the factory closed its door sometimes around 1926. Before completely abandoned like now, it was functioning as a canvas factory. A screw factory used to be across O'Hara but it is now converted into an office complex. But the industrial character of the neighborhood is still there; a punctual mechanical sound, probably the one of a press machine was heard from one of the surrounding buildings.

Click picture for detail

The inside of the abandoned factory looks like a total mess, but one detail caught my attention. Look at the curving on the red door in the above pictures. Love and pride of Mr. O'Hara is present even from an old door. Would you expect such a decoration from a contemporary factory? It's not really a factory, it's an atelier!

According to a article in 2007, a condo development plan was proposed and expected to complete in the fall of 2008. But as you can see, nothing is happening!

Locate O'Hara Waltham Dial Co. @ Google Map

What a dump, the Backside of America:
MACRIS database:
O'Hara Dial CO., Stein Marks:
The Mettlach Tapestry Steins:
Factory to anchor condos, on Aug. 5, 2007:


  1. Love the Stein Marks links, very cool stuff and completely unknown to me before reading your post!

  2. Hi, Matthew.

    Something to collect in addition to baseball cards, maybe?
    Personally, I want to bring the mag to Starbucks and ask for refill, modern twist.

  3. Curving on a red door? Do you think maybe two original arched windows were replaced with one flat-topped window and a piece of red-painted wood? If I am looking at the wrong photo, please let me know where I should find a curved red door. I love architectural details and adore old industrial architecture.

  4. Hi Anon,

    There are two sets of photos and I think you are mentioning the above photo. Instead, click the below photo to enlarge. You should see the red door through the broken window.

    Though the two original arched windows replaced into one that you mentioned is worth while paying attention, too.

  5. stumbled upon your blog looking for info about this building. very nice! as a fellow lover of urban ruins, i think you'd appreciate my gallery:

    i absolutely love going urban exploring in worcester!

  6. Hi Ashley,

    Thanks for the comment. I love your photos, especially factory ruins. Nice fish eye lens, too (lens envy). I've never been to Worcester, what's your favorite place there?

    I want to see your pics of O'Hara, that would be awesome!