Ayer Lofts History


Building History

Actually two buildings, the Ayr Lofts consists of the Barker Building and the J.C. Ayer Company
Building. The Barker Building was built between 1890-95 by Horace Barker to house a variety of
commercial and light industrial uses. It is typical of buildings that were built along Middle Street in
the late 1880s/early 1890s when the street's smaller buildings were rapidly replaced by four and
five story structures built to serve mostly wholesale service and light-industrial trade. Through the
years the Barker Building housed many businesses including printers, a brass foundry, and a
harness manufacturer.
The J.C. Ayer Company Building was also built between 1890-95 and along with 165 Market Street
(1858-59), housed one of Lowell's largest patent medicine companies. Ayer's company used the
Market Street building as its laboratory and the Middle Street building as its office. Ayer was
instrumental in the development of Lowell's patent medicine industry in the 19th century when
he marketed his "Cherry Pectoral" and Ayer Cathartic Pills" beginning in the 1840s. By the time
of his death in 1878, his company was one of the largest non-textile businesses in the city.
The company continued to expand and operate until it went out of business in the 1930s but in
its nine decades of operation, it spread Ayer's, and Lowell's, name worldwide. "Ayer's Cherry
Pectoral," "Ayer's Hair Vigor," and other products were sold around the world, and millions of
copies of Ayer's Almanac were distributed each year, free of charge, in eight languages including
Chinese. After the company went out of business, the building housed a variety of light manu
facturing companies up through the 1980s.