A Piece of History Is Lost; Reardon’s Razed

May 7, 2015
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Last Friday, the old Reardon’s Pub building came down to make way for an elderly residential building, and while it’s known in more recent times as a hang-out and bar, it’s also the end for one of the oldest buildings in Revere – a place where stagecoaches stopped, horses rested and Colonial dignitaries took their lunch.

Much of the original building had been built over, but the foundation was the same foundation that was put in place by John Fenno in 1835 to create the first general store and “Publick House” in the area. That old foundation and the other relics left over as part of the skeleton of the building were quite clear once demolition crews began tearing away the outer layer of the building on Friday.

Revere historian – and former city clerk – John Henry said the area was long a stopover for the passenger stagecoach that ran from Boston to Salem. The coach, known as the omnibus, operated by the site, and possibly stopped there, as early as 1766.

In 1803, Broadway – running past the site – became the Salem Turnpike and was the first privately financed and constructed toll road. Another milestone for the site was in 1825 when French-American General Marquis de Lafayette – the Revolutionary War contemporary of George Washington – received greetings from the residents of the area at the Reardon’s location. He stopped there as he travelled to Salem from Charlestown after laying the cornerstone at the Bunker Hill Monument during the 50th Anniversary of that battle.

In 1835, the property took on more of the restaurant/store role that it was known for up until 2007 when it closed down for good.

That’s when John and Joe Fenno established a store and “halfway house” on the Fenno’s corner. It was known as a halfway house because it was a resting point for horses travelling the Boston to Salem route.

At the same time, a U.S. Post Office was established in the store and was operated by Postmaster Horatio Alger (the father of the famous writer by the same name).

“It was a very active place when the store was there,” said Henry. “There was a lot of history on that corner in that site. It was built at the same time as the first Revere City Hall, which burnt down. At that time, Revere was part of Chelsea and most of the development of this area was around the store and in the (Slade’s) Mill area. It was one of the first corners of this area to become inhabited.”

Former Reardon’s owner Stephen Reardon, now a city councillor, said it was bittersweet to see the building go down. He said that his father bought the café from the Maffei family in 1962 and the family operated it until it closed in 2007.

The Maffei’s had owned it since the 1930s.

He said the building had changed a great deal, but its very old Colonial history was readily seen.

“The foundation that was there was largely the old building,” he said. “You could go down in the cellar and see the old frameworks. You could tell it was very old. You could also see the joists and beams from the old stable area. Unfortunately, the building was largely expanded on. It was extended over the original boardwalk of the restaurant and stage coach stop – the front porch area seen in older pictures.”

Reardon said the restaurant and bar also spoke to a history in Revere and Chelsea that came from the blue collar, working class neighborhood that bloomed from the 1930s to the 1970s.

He said that at one time, the restaurant was a very popular place for men at the Forbes Lithograph plant in Chelsea to take their lunch. Along with Forbes, men from Reliable, Waugh’s and Parrotti’s auto dealerships would crowd the bar and booths for their lunch.

“It is the ending of an era,” he said. “It was one of the oldest buildings, if not the oldest, located on Broadway from the early 1800s. Along with Reliable, Forbes and Waugh’s, it was one of the stalwarts of Broadway. Those were the times when people worked and lived and got a meal and a drink in the same neighborhood. People didn’t have to go far in those days, but those days are gone. People are more mobile now and that era is also gone…We had a good run, but we just got too old to run that business. It’s a young person’s business.”

Henry said the sign that was above Reardon’s depicting the stagecoach would be preserved somewhere within the new development.

He also pointed out the large painting on the northern wall in the foyer of the Broadway Post Office. The painting depicts an historically accurate scene at Fenno’s Corner from the 1830s and was painted by Ross Moffett in 1939. It was restored and framed by Nicholas Isaak in 1984. He said he has hopes of moving the painting to City Hall to preserve it in the Council Chambers with the other paintings that point back to Revere’s Colonial history.

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