Locke-Ober, located at 3-4 Winter Place, is the third oldest restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts, after the Union Oyster House and Durgin-Park. The restaurant building was built in 1832 and added to the National Historic Register in 1986. Boston city records of 1870 record Luis Ober as the proprietor of a restaurant at number 4 Winter Place of "over twenty year's standing." From the start the restaurant specialized in French food and has been central to the financial, political, and intellectual history of Boston.
Luis Ober was born in 1837 in the French department of Alsace. At age of fourteen he moved to New York, working as a barber, book seller and importing and exporting goods between the U.S. and France. Ober lived and worked in New Jersey, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia before settling in Boston. Ober was employed at the restaurant then owned and operated by a Mr. Blanc. While in Blanc's employ, Ober became familiar with French food, fine wine and furnishings. By 1875 Ober had acquired ownership and applied to the city for expansion of the restaurant to numbers 3 and 4 Winter Place. Financing was provided by Eben Jordan, a co-founder of the Jordan Marsh Company. The restaurant reopened as Ober's Restaurant Parisien.
Similar to Boston's Parker House hotel inventing the Parker House roll and Boston cream pie, a cocktail, the Ward 8, was born at Locke-Ober. The story goes that in 1898 a political czar, Martin M. Lomasney, hoped to capture a seat in the state's legislature, the General Court of Massachusetts. Lomasney was nicknamed the "Boston Mahatma" and had held considerable power in the city for nearly 50 years. The story goes that the drink was created to honor his election, and the city's Ward 8 which historically delivered him a winning margin.
Over the next 20 years the restaurant was expanded and became furnished with increasingly luxurious imported materials typical of the Gilded Age including Honduran mahogany, French furniture, Italian and French sculpture and paintings, English silver, and Bohemian crystal lighting.
By the end of the late twentieth century Locke-Ober though still possessing most of its original grand trappings had lost much of its luster. Boston restaurateur Lydia Shire, with investor Paul Licari, purchased the space and began a painstaking restoration of the main and private dining rooms on the third floor, and added two more contemporary rooms. Employees of 20 to 30 years service were retained, the menu was kept with added refinements and innovations. Locke-Ober continues as a favorite Boston dining room.