Let’s Lift One High to the Olde Town
At one time, Charlestown's one square mile was home to more than 50 watering holes. Here's a look back on some of those locals, and what the neighborhood looked like back then.
I will admit that the Charlestown of today is a beautiful neighborhood with million dollar condos and multi-million dollar “town houses.” But the Charlestown I grew up in had its true beauty within the people who called it home.
With a few exceptions, it was a blue-collar, Irish Catholic neighborhood filled with hard working men and women with large families. Employment could be found in the Navy Yard, waterfront, the docks, sugar factories or with the city and state. We had our fair share of friends who entered the priesthood, convent and military, as well. So many shared experiences, our faith in God and love of politics made for a close-knit neighborhood with lasting friendships.
Pooling all these elements together -- hardworking, Irish, politics, and perhaps the noise of their large families, the local men found relief in frequent visits to the local drinking holes. To appease this quest to wet their lips, clever entrepreneurs offered them more than 55 establishments throughout this one square mile.
In our mind’s eye, let’s stroll along the main streets of Charlestown from the 40’s to the early 60’s and reminisce on where some of these bars were located.
Within the City Square, Chelsea Street and Navy Yard Gate 1 area, we’d find the Stock Club (Hollywood Movie Theatre), the Morning Glory Café (the Glories), Murphy’s, Hill Billy, Blue Mirror, O’Neil’s Café, Tony Scalli’s, Rip MacAvoy‘s, and onto Warren Street the Spud (Big Potada), which is now the Ironside Grill.
Bunker Hill Street was home to Kelly’s and the Horseshoe (Wax Museum). Hayes Square had the Old Timers and the Point Tavern.
Let’s skip over to Medford Street where we’d find Shorty Connolly’s Stage Coach, where a newspaper article once told of finding an alligator in the basement. There was also Scottie’s, Driscoll’s, Doherty’s, Speeds, Golden Anchor, Sports Grill, D & H (Driscoll & Hurley), later owned by Shorty Connolly, and Mystic Lounge.
The old Sullivan Square had its fair share, too, with the Mystic Café (gentlemen’s gym) and later the Town Line, owned by Peter O’Malley, and Celtic Tavern that called itself a "bistro!"
Main Street had Pat’s Village, Shamrock Village, Old Tavern, Jim’s Tavern, Oak Tavern (corner of Oak & Main) McCarthy’s aka JJ’s, Pilsner Gardens (The German’s), the Greeks and the Alibi. Coming into Thompson Square there was the Thompson Square Tavern and Manhattan Café.
Continuing down Main toward City Square we’d find Murphy’s, the Sea Bar (next to where the new Sully’s is today). The new Sully’s took the place of Vic’s, not a bar, that was located next to Connie McCarthy’s. Back into City Square, there was the Lobster House on the “low bridge,” and at Lynde and Union Streets, (Old) Sully’s, the first “speakeasy” to get a legitimate liquor license after prohibition and Hart‘s at the Prison Point Bridge.
I also found the names of other bars, but don’t know where they were located.
Being a young girl and later a lady who was not encouraged to enter 98 percent of these locals, I leave it up to you to figure out where they were: Donovan’s Tavern, Charlie’s Grill, Tom Casey’s, Debargo, Glynn’s Tavern, 8 Bells, Danny Kane’s, Jack’s (Jack O’Brien), Speeds, Charlie’s Deli & Café and Munto’s. Then came the Front Page (now the 99) and Warren Tavern.
Many reasons brought about the demise of these popular spots, all of which were financially successful in their day. Perhaps is was urban renewal that hit Charlestown in the 1960s, the removal of the elevated structure along Main Street or the closing of the Navy Yard in the 1970s.
Or maybe it was that many families followed the American Dream and moved to the “burbs” for that front lawn, back yard and drive way? Speculation is an individual perspective. But, needless to say, another era in Charlestown was gone and placed into the rich historical fabric of our past.
Let’s lift one high to the olde town.