Mattapan Square, Boston Massachusetts.

Pictures and stories of some of the stores and buildings and streetcars and trolleys around Boston's Mattapan Square neighborhood.

I grew up in a bedroom community, a town of 27,000 whose border actually touched the City of Boston (Milton, Massachusetts if anyone cares). It was a fairly quick walk to "Mattapan Square" a street-shop retail area on Blue Hill Avenue in a not-the-best part of the City. There were a couple of food establishments (Blackie's and Jim's Diner where I went with my maternal grandmother once).

There was a hobby store called Hobby Town. There was Kresge's Five and Dime and Grant's department stores (Both!). There were a couple of haberdashers -- ok, clothing stores for men. Up the street (quite a way) was "Simco's by the Bridge" a footlong hotdog stand with an action neon sign of a dachshund in a bun wagging his tail. The original owners had it a loooong time (sorry for the pun) but the new owners have at least tried to have a nod towards tradition -- they call it "Simco's on the Bridge." Good for them. My family stopped by about 10 years ago and got a dog, but my mother wouldn't get out of the car. Things looked rough, but the dogs were OK.

There were a couple of barbers, Cirelli's on the corner of a side street (where we were never supposed to go) and the other one, whose name escapes me that was located up a skinny flight of stairs on the second floor above another retail shop. My brother took me for a haircut once and for God-only-knows what reason, he took me to Cirelli's who proceeded to cut the top of my ear badly, then stuffed my whole ear with styptic goo of some sort. The ER doc only put once stitch in because he was afraid to close it with all the goop in it. Ahhhh memories.

There was a movie theater (single screen, of course) a little bit further up called The Oriental Theater. It was from the time when going to the movies was an event, and not just a seat in a plain square box. The theater was all decked out in Asian decor (or at least the Americanized concept of Asian decor) and the very high ceiling had blue sky and clouds that moved and little points of light that looked like stars, especially to me as a child with my as-yet undiagnosed near-sightedness. :D So the last time I went had to be before I turned 9. Wow. As a matter of fact, after checking into the Oriental, I find that the theater did close when I was 9.

Click through these pics for bigger views, this size doesn't do them justice.

Oriental Theater Interior, date Unknown. I believe this is the organ installed along the side of the second floor of the theater.

As you can see, they had high ceilings!
According to cinema
The original Wurlitzer organ, Opus 2131, installed in 1930 was removed by J Arthur Goggin and subsequently sold to Larry McPherson of Indianapolis who planned to install it in a pizza restaurant. That never materialized and the organ was sold to Dan Stankey & myself (Terry Hochmuth) who restored it and installed it in our home in New Lenox, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, in 1983. After I suffered a tragic accident in 1995 and was severely burned, it was sold to Ron Rhode and Ron Tanner in Pheonix and installed in their home. In June, 2006, it was removed from their home and is I once again own it. It will be installed in my new home in North Truro, MA. A true case of a Mighty Wurlitzer that's returning to its home territory!
posted by Terry Hochmuth on Jun 18, 2006 at 10:55am

Oriental Theater Exterior, circa 1930. "Virtuous Sin (1930)" and "William Haines in Remote Control (1930)" are on the marquis.

Oriental Theater Street View, circa 1938. "Adventures of Tom Sawyer(1938)" and Allan Jones in "Everybody Sing (1938)" are playing here.

Mattapan Square was the south-western terminus of the Mattapan-Ashmont high speed trolley line that ran along dedicated tracks and connected with Boston's subway system. There was a "Papa Gino's" restaurant, a largish local pizza chain house in what once was the Depot Station Building. It was a curious but beautiful stone building on the corner location right outside of the Trolley station.

In this photo it was newly built (1856) and standing all alone, but by the time I knew it and enjoyed my late-night after-trolley pizza, it was a corner like you see in Times Square, and the post office was in the point of the letter V bordered by the street on the left and the street-sized access road (buses and cars) to the trolley station on the right.

Originally the trolleys came down to the station, but by the time I was around they had moved the waiting area up the line a bit and installed circle of tracks and switches to allow the trolleys to turn around and transfer to the other track.

My parent's house was in a pretty good location for transportation in/around Boston as long as you had some time. The walk to Mattapan Square was about 10 minutes, the trolley ran frequently most of the time and took "12 minutes to Boston" as the sign said (although we were already in Boston???). I used to figure that I could get anywhere in Boston on the "Red Line" from my house in an hour, and to Harvard Square in Cambridge in another 15 minutes.

And I did! I spent my late teens and young adulthood in the city. Downtown Boston with all of the shopping and all of the jobs (my first gig as a 16 year old was flipping burgers at McDonald's on Washington Street in Downtown Boston). After all, there was no work within walking distance in my home town and very limited opportunities in Mattapan Square mom and pop stores (more on that later). I loved Harvard Square and truth be told for the most part I enjoyed riding the trains when I didn't have to be somewhere, and it wasn't too cold or too hot or too crowded.

As I got older, Mattapan Square (and Mattapan as a whole) continued in urban decay. The banks had redlined and blockbusted the area and the streets got rougher and stores closed. At first the stores were replaced -- a "Store 24" 24-hour convenience store moved in and I thought that was just the Bee's Knees, not realizing what was going on. WT Grants and Kresge's moved out and were empty for a while. Now I understand that there is a revival going on. I hope the neighborhood is in better shape than when I left it. I'll have to go back and bring a camera.
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interesting, thanks.
you didn't mention anything about where you did your 1st standup routine? :D
That was in Pooh's Pub in Kenmore Square. :-)
Tony's Barber Shop was on the 2nd floor in Mattapan Square in the 1940's and 1950's. He was an immigrant from Italy after the war.
truth be told for the most part I enjoyed riding the trains when I didn't have to be somewhere, and it wasn't too cold or too hot or too crowded

To paraphrase the Kingston Trio, "...get poor 'Ronnie' off the MTA."

wonder if this is why ronnie has a motorhome?? 8)
I think you are confusing Kresge's with Woolworth. It had a lunch counter where we would buy grilled cheese sandwiches when my Mom gave us money.

I live in Mattapan from 1958 to 1981.

I worked at Balckie's Deli as a kid from 1970 until it burned down.

We lived in the Oriental Theater on our paper route money.
Whee, getting excited! :clappurple:
Wow! That's cool the organ was in New Lenox, IL. I'm in New Lenox all the since that's where the kennel club is located that I take Teddy to. Joliet runs right into New Lenox.

Interesting story and history.

I'm missing Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins while reading this!

And Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg's ads for Adventure Car Hop, home of the Ginsburger.

And Bob Lee's Islander...
You're probably right about me confusing Kresge's and Woolworth!
Ron - Thank you very much! I loved seeing the photos, and I truly enjoyed your stories.

Jim Sullivan (OFD)
It was Woolworths and it was the Hobby Fair not Hobby Town
Yes! Hobby FAIR! I just remember the owner of that store staring out the window with his foot up on something behind the counter. I think almost every time I saw him, that's where he was.
Ron, great post. However, it was Woolworths and Grants and they shared a parking lot in the back, not Kresge's. Both stores had a horse ride by the rear cash registers that gave a broncing good ride for all of 5 cents. Leonard Nimoy's (Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame) mom and my grandmother were best pals and she worked there in the shoe dept.
I spent many a Saturday afternoon at the old Ori (as we all called it then in the 1960s) watching the double features, eating popcorn, trying to win the door prize, listening to the old organ (it was amazing)... I went to the Tileston School up the street and spent every last nickle on penny candy at the orange penny candy house/store acroos the street.
In addition to the hotdogs on the bridge, how many remember Embers? Or the Chinese restaurant on River Street right by the Mattapan Station and the post office?
After the blockbusting and the flight from Mattapan by many to the burbs, it was never the same. I went back a few years ago. What a difference. -Sully[/b]

Interesting thing about Nimoy's parents: We lived in a two family house and when the other apartment was available they came to see it! Oh boy, when I found out (after the fact) I was very disappointed that my dad didn't give it to them for free! Apparently they didn't like the kitchen, wasn't "modern enough."

OK, here's the name for you -- Cathay Village! I'm kinda sure that was the name for that restaurant on river, right next to the bus ramp. I used to eat there often, and my dad used to order takeout there exclusively. I think they finally had a fire at some point, but I may be confusing them with someone else.

I just LOVED however they did their brown sauces, like over the egg foo young and beef with broccoli. My mother was enamored of asked for the food by the Chinese name, she was very proud that she knew that "gai" was chicken. :D Loved ordering "char shel dang" (I donb't recall what that was, maybe a pork and vegetables dish? I'm not sure) and moo goo gai pan.

We have an unusual last name so dad always ordered as "Mr. Bernard"! LOL Frequently I'd have to "hop out" of the car and pick it up... don't forget to check the number of containers and ask for the fortune cookies! ahhh Childhood memories.

Yeah, Woolworth's and Grant's! I remember the parking lot in back, a little bit. The entrance to the lot was also off of River street if memory serves (I wasn't a driver as a child! :D ) I also remember a large letter laid out in mosaic tiles in the ground at the entrance to one of those stores. The letter remained for years as the Store 24s and other merchants replaced them, but I don't remember the exact locations of those new stores.

Did you ever eat at Brother's Restaurant?
I grew up in Mattapan. My best Girlfriend, Judy was Chinese, and her Daddy was the Chef at the Cathay Village.
I grew up in mattapan as well. I remember both Chinese restaurants cathay village near mattapan station and china joy across from simcos and next to the old first national supermarket ( we used to play street hockey in the parking lot). I remember the hobby fair, sunnys cigar store, embers, jimmy's diner, simco's, woolworths, grants and colby's drug store where you could get cherry cokes.

Without question, the biggest attraction in the square was the oriental theater and the stars on the ceiling as well as the movie screen.

Does anyone remember the candy factory that was on babson or norfolk street?, i forget exactly. There was also a candy store we called the "little store" across from the tileston school on babson street where you could get penny candy and baseball cards- nolan ryan rookie card in my bicycle spokes-who knew?

Love the Boston talk!
Although I have lived in So. California for 30 years, I grew up in the
suburban Boston area - in Beverly, which is, I believe, just about as far north and east of the city as Mattapan is to the south and west.
Nice pictures & memories of the area and the era. Thanks for sharing.

Linda Zimmerman
The Oriental Theatre was extraordinary, especially to a sheltered girl from Milton. The sky appeared infinite, and we could see the stars through the clouds that moved beneath them. I saw The Blob there and was so terrified that I had to go outside and stand in the sunshine for a while. We were told to never enter Sonny's Newspaper Stand--with implications of danger from underworld crime. So we went there as often as possible, reading Sonny's comic books until he kicked us out. Does anyone remember Brigham's? The floor was sticky, probably from sugar distilled from the air of the place--you could gain weight just breathing, it was so sweet. The waitresses wore yellow uniforms with lacy hankerchiefs pinned to their shoulders. The butterscotch sundae was sublime, and I think it cost 35 cents. The movie tickets were 25 cents. Good memories!
I love stuff like this!!! Thanks for posting Ron!

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't get the chance to visit Boston when I worked in NY sometime back in 2002. I did visit Mass and then headed to Rhode Island where I stayed for a few days on Nantucket (wrote lovely poetry there!)

When I eventually move to Montreal, I will definately start taking road trips at some point in time and will remember or look back on this post.

The Oriental! I read a story about the first showing of a Christmas play back in the early turn of the century when it first opened. A terrible fire tragedy occurred there if I'm thinking of the same place? They say the alley way behind it is haunted.

Ah reminincing about places visited in childhood and youth...yes I can see why it makes people feel nostoligic. Thank you for also bringing us along on the trip down memory lane!

Rob1n wrote:
We were told to never enter Sonny's Newspaper Stand--with implications of danger from underworld crime. So we went there as often as possible, reading Sonny's comic books until he kicked us out.
Sonny's! I remember the place. You know, I have a long time ago acquaintance who used to walk to Mattapan Square to buy comic books. I think I'll give him a poke on fb and point him here to ask if he frequented the establishment.

I don't recall Brigham's in Mattapan Square, although I certainly remember Brigham's in general. My sister's faaaavorite ice cream ever used to be Brigham's Maple Walnut. Now that she lives up in Vermont's Ben and Jerry's land, I wonder if that's still true? I'll point her this way too.
Marianne wrote:
When I eventually move to Montreal, I will definately start taking road trips at some point in time and will remember or look back on this post.
Don't forget you have my contact info! :D

Marianne wrote:
The Oriental! I read a story about the first showing of a Christmas play back in the early turn of the century when it first opened. A terrible fire tragedy occurred there if I'm thinking of the same place? They say the alley way behind it is haunted.
I'm not sure if it's the same one or not. I think I found there are many of them named that way around the US. Probably not in the Orient though!
I bought my first 45 at the record store - don't remember the name - but the owner was always so nice and he'd play any record we wanted to hear. My first 45 was "Short Fat Fanny" sung by Larry Williams. I still have it!

Sundaes at Brighams after the matinee at the Oriental - with the glowing green buddha eyes and the older kids making out in the back row.

We got all our dungarees at Klein's.

I took my first ballet classes at Miss Karabel's - up an old dark stairway to her studio. There were about 7 of us taking with her. I guess I studied with her about a year or so. Cut to 35 years later, I"m living in LA and needed some tights for class - I was a pro dancer for a while - anyway, I see this funny little tucked away place in a mall - Karabel's Dance Supplies. I go in talk to the lady at the cash register, turns out she's her sister - they all started out in Mattapan. I nearly fell over. They're still in business!
Hi, Does anyone have photographs that they would like to share from the area... Mattapan Square north to Dorchester along Blue Hill Ave showing the businesses , also the inside of the Oriental Theatre ?

I just noticed something in one of the photos and have no idea what it is. Perhaps you or someone else here knows?

In the third photo, of the trolley, in the background it appears that there is a viaduct or something crossing Blue Hill Avenue. What in heck is that? It certainly wasn't there by the time I was around in the 50's, 60's, 70's...
Interesting! Zooming in it looks a lot like an elevated train. I certainly don't recall one there!

When I get to my desktop computer, I'll see if I can capture some of that detail and post it.
In the meantime, there is this page: ... tcar_lines
Perhaps it was the Franklin Park to Andrew line? That would probably run along or parallel to present day Morton Street (although it might be a little farther north than this picture)?

And thinking about it... Simco's by the Bridge. That's where Blue Hill Avenue is elevated up over train tracks, no? I wonder if it used to be the other way around at some point?

My parents grew up in the area. My mom is gone, but I'll ask my dad.

EDIT: I talked with Dad. He lived in Dorchester, and didn't travel south down to Mattapan much and doesn't recall elevated tracks across Blue Hill Ave.
my bet's on train, it appears to be train cars and the structure framework coincides with the era and also would explain it's deteriation and removal in the 40's or early 50's. 8)
this is fun ron, although not from boston, have family there and i'm sure you're familiar with them. :wink:

Guest wrote:
Tony's Barber Shop was on the 2nd floor in Mattapan Square in the 1940's and 1950's. He was an immigrant from Italy after the war.

then it became''danny's'' barber shop,I know because I worked there.
Guest wrote:
Guest wrote:
Tony's Barber Shop was on the 2nd floor in Mattapan Square in the 1940's and 1950's. He was an immigrant from Italy after the war.

then it became''danny's'' barber shop,I know because I worked there.
Excellent! I remember it as an entrance door at street level on the left side of a store; between a couple of stores, I suppose. Then up a skinny flight of stairs and in through a wooden door with a window in it. The shop had a window overlooking Blue Hill Ave, maybe 2 or 3 barber seats and a few waiting chairs.

Is that the place I'm thinking about? Do I have it close? When did you work there?

What was it above? Was it right above the cigar store? I just can't remember and it's been bugging me! LOL
Was also a Mattapanite. Chinese food may have been Cathay Village. Above Roberts Hardware was Danny's barbershop. Rexford Drug once had a soda fountain. Ann's Sub Shop was a favorite as well.
Marty wrote:
My name is Marty and and best years of life are from living in Mattapan in 60s with my good friend Tom O'Leary.
My father worked at the Franklin Park Theatre as a doorman. So between the Oriental and Franklin I never paid for a movie.
I would go to the Oriental on Friday night nites with a date and just hang out in the lobby. Man do I miss that.
Hello. I lived on Cummins Highway near Mattapan Square from the late forties to mid-fifties -- where my mother's family had lived for decades prior. Attended EP Tileston Grammar School and St. Angela's Parish. Have been searching for a childhood friend who lived on Rosewood Street near Cummins Hwy in the early fifties. His first name was Mark, last name Rugner or something similar. Ring any bells? Thanks. David Rogus
The barber shop "upstairs" in the retail building was "PAUL'S BARBER SHOP". Paul opened his barber shop after a dispute with the barber shop he was working for. That barber shop was the "TERMINAL BARBER SHOP" "10 BARBERS NO WAITING" the sign said. This shop was the previous tenant located in the building PAPA GINOS was located in. I remember my mother having an argument with the head barber at the terminal shop, they expected the customers to
accept the next available barber to cut your hair, and were upset that customers prefered a
favorite barber, in my family's case it was PAUL. The men's clothing store I remeber was
ALSON'S. There was the TOY AND GARDEN STORE, on river street, a FIRESTONE
franchised store, they later moved to Blue Hill Avenue, to the right of the former theatre, now
CAPITOL ELECTRIC SUPPLY CO. there was also another toy shop, MURRAYS, who moved to the square from Franklin Field, when things changed in that area. (There was also a MURRAYS DEPARTMENT STORE, no connection in Mattapan) Mattapan was a nice place to visit,
the best way to get there was by STUDEBAKER.
some of my childhood memories of mattapan....went to Martha Baker and Charles Logue on Walk hill street...bowling candlepin at Sid's....Library on Hazelton street...Bob's on the corner of Tennis road and Blue Hill ave...of course Almont playground with the giant rock formations to play on....the Bookmark..the sub shop on River was near Papa Ginos...Rachels subs?...Walsh' hockey shop behind the tuxedo store by Woolworths...Simco's of course and the Oriental....Jimmys Diner...Hobby Fair...Embers...trying to close my eyes and bring myself back...but the memories fade...but it will always be the best of times...circa...mid to late 60's...after that...feh
Great site: I grew up in Leston Street and graduated Boston English in 1965. I remember the name of the music store=Music Tent. We used to walk up to the square to buy 45rpm records. A friend who was obsessed with the 4 Seasons walked to the Zayre department srore on American Legion Highway in Roslindale from Mattapan walking up the dark Walk Hill Street past the Boston state hospital to get the new stuff. I remember clearly buying an LP by Terry Stafford (Suspicion) and I think it was $3.98.
Also recall Mattapan Bowladromw near Wellington Hill. The Embers fascinated us because they were the first we saw of rotisorries. My dentist was Louis Mogul whose office overlooked the square from the Fairway building
above Brighams. I remember 15 cent ice creams. I also used to get chocolate sodas at Smith Pharmacy at the corner of Woolson and Blue Hill. Also other ice cream places were Franijacks and Fountain Fare and Howard Johnson at Forest Hills. We used to take rides in the country to Keefes and Websters in Stoughton and I remember being afraid to climb the Chicatobut Tower.
Also remember a drive in Quincy but do recall name. We shopped at Promissels grocery near Woolson and Blue Hill. It was a big deal when Supreme opened at the square. Also remember Jimmys diner, Blackies deli, the mysterious bar next door, Karens restauraunt, Alson clothing, Delaney Chevrolet and Mr. Donut on Babson srtreet.

We also walked home from the Lewenburg on a trail downhill from Outlook Road to Goodale Road. Really bad in the winter. Also use t go to Whitmans deli and Ruth;s bakery at Landor and Blue Hill and Almont Pizza.

It is funny how I can remember all this but not what I had for lunch yesterday.I wish there were more pictures.
Love the Posts....The Embers with Rotisserie chickens cooking and spinning in the window....they smelled so good--I made my Grandfather take me in. I'd get my toy at the "5 and 10"-- Woolworths....for a Birthday Present- Hobby Town. Jimmy's Diner was cool.....Ambulances- "Fallon" parked out front. The attandants in white pants, coat and jackets, would drink coffee and smoke leaning on their rides....waiting fgor a call. They'd talk to me with mild amusement. Mister Donut or Dunkin was across the street! 1962.
i almost forgot walsh's hockey store next to the back parking lot of woolworths/grants. my friends and i would play street hockey in front of the store-the pedersen's family i think helped run the store-i think they moved to stoughton in the 70's. great, great memories.
Who owned Blackie's Deli back in the 20's? Was it Leo?
Great stroll down memory lane. I lived in mattapan from 1951 until I joined the Air Force in 1970 and never really went back. Attended The lowell Mason then St Angelas so stopping at Simcos on the way home after scholl was a must for the "foot long" with the works. Almont field had to be one of the best in Boston. The oriental theater, which I remenber as a beautiful threater with their annual halloween Costume contest followed by scary movies. I remember Bello's Fruit Market , Mr Dounts, Blackies Deli. Been tempted to try Simcos again. I'm a country bumkin now so I guess I'll pass.

Steve, formely of Livermore Street
These posts brought back memories. I lived in Mattapan from birth (1946) through college (1968), attended St. Angela School. Whenever I have trouble falling asleep, I remember my walk to school and the buildings I passed on the way. I walk up River Street, passing such stores as Blue Star Laundry, Harry Cantor Cleaners, Tony's (officially Santospirito Brothers), Craig & Shedd's Sunoco, the A&P, Paras Restaurant (and across the street the building that housed Toy and Garden, Rico's Market, Al's Barber Shop and Colby's Drug Store on the first floor while the second floor housed my dentist Leo Cooper, my piano teacher Ruth Radford, Charles Quirk's insurance agency, and the advertising office of the Mattapan Tribune). After the Church of the Holy Spirit and the National Shawmut Bank, I'd cross Cummins Highway and pass the Dorchester Savings Bank then cross Blue Hill Avenue. Before there were lights in that confusing intersection of Cummins, River and Blue Hill, a solitary traffic cop in an open booth would direct traffic (I think his name was Barney). Safely across the street, I'd pass the Square Pharmacy, Kennedy's Butter and Eggs, a fruit stand, several clothing stores, a shoe store selling Poll Parrot shoes, Grant's, some more clothing stores, Karen's Buttercup Restaurant ($.59 for a dozen donuts!), Woolworth's, Alson's, a bar, a lighting store, John J. Delaney Chevrolet, the old fire station and finally St. Angela School. (Whenever I hear a fire engine, I still say to myself "God bless the firemen and bring them safely home!") I'll take a walk down the other side in another post.
I'm surprised you didn't mention the deli on Blue Hill Ave. But that was further down Blue Ave I think, But has been there forever. Not sure if it's still there. Been at least 20 yrs since I have been in the area. Raised in Mansfield.
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