On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
“A comfortable home-like hotel for the tourist or permanent guest. All rooms have hot and cold running water, some with baths. The hotel accommodates fifty guests. The first floor is devoted to the lobby, lounging room, office and banquet and dance hall. The big living room with comfortable furnishings reflects the home-like atmosphere for which the hotel is known. Convenient to the activities of Somerville and Boston, it offers you the charm and seclusion available only in suburban hotels. The New Woodbridge Hotel is the Headquarters for Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs. Ample parking is available for guests at no extra charge.”
That was the description of The Woodbridge Inn, also known as The Woodbridge Hotel, from a 1944 picture postcard that I got on eBay. The manager back then was a gentleman named Frank E. W. Howe. I wonder if he was related to our own John and Marie Howe? I often look at the Ciampa Manor building on College Ave. and say, “How could the Woodbridge Inn have fit in that small space?” I recall it being pretty big.
I remember the great hotel being brown, but on the postcard it is painted a steel gray with red trim. The hotel wrapped around the corner onto Winslow Ave. and had a huge porch. There was also a green awning over the entrance (I am describing the postcard photo). All I can remember from walking in and out of, and past, the grand structure for many, many years was a cool looking, old, humongous wooden building. The Woodbridge was destroyed by fires in 1979 and 1980.
I saw my first pitcher of green beer at The Woodbridge Inn. It was in the downstairs lounge known as The Blarney Stone Pub. Here is how one Somerville guy remembers the Blarney Stone. “It was The Blarney Stone that helped me through my early college years. Just a great place, and, if memory serves me, never once did I see an outbreak of problems (fights, etc.). We all went, sang along and drank heartily. And those of us who were male were grateful we never had to use the women’s room after hearing the tale of Seven Old Ladies. He is referring to the Irish sing-along that tells of the seven ladies who unfortunately got stuck in the lava’try. That was one of the many songs that Somerville legend Jim Plunkett used to have the packed crowds singing along with at the top of their lungs. He and his guitar got that place rocking. Another favorite was Charlie on the MTA. Did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unknown. He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston, he’s the man who never returned. I know a guy who remembers when some of the well lubed patrons would actually dance on the tables. Someone recalled being at the Pub with Plunkett and singing Irish songs the night Richard Nixon resigned. I’ll have to do an entire a story on my friend Jim Plunkett someday. He is still performing around and he is as good as ever.
Some (retired) teachers from different schools around the city used to meet there on Friday afternoons after a long week. They were such good customers that they often got free appetizers. They also reminded us that The Blarney Stone had one of the best jukeboxes evah! Another friend says, “I worked upstairs and drank downstairs and then walked home. Those were the days!” A friend adds, “Sitting up front where the band was on a Friday night was the place to be in the day. Jerry ran a great place and we often talk about those days.”
Movie legend Tallulah Bankhead came to Davis Square to perform at the Somerville Theatre and stayed at the Woodbridge Hotel back around 1919 and had to live at The Woodbridge for a while. She complained of the non-private bathrooms and having to climb up three flights of stairs. I guess they added the private baths by the time that postcard of mine came out.
When I first searched up The Woodbridge Inn I came across a site that featured an audio tape of the Somerville Fire Department jakes who were at the fire in 1979. That was the end of a glorious era featuring that grand old wooden hotel that used to grace College Ave. It housed some fabulous memories for a lot of us Somerville kids.
I understand that the guy who owned and ran the Blarney Stone is still around the Ball Square area. If you see him, don’t tell him that I know someone who still has a Blarney Stone mug that accidentally followed him home one night.
I’m glad I don’t have any bad memories of seeing the sad, burnt remains of the Woodbridge after the fires. All I have is nice memories of it, in a time that was so much fun so long ago. The Woodbridge went the way of the Cyclone roller coaster at Revere Beach that ended up a burnt skeletal wreck. It seems that when certain “geniuses” under the guise of “progress” want something gone, it goes up in flames. It’s probably easier and less expensive that gutting it in its original form. One thing they can’t ever do is burn pleasant memories out of our minds. Long live the Woodbridge Inn and The Blarney Stone Pub!
Some facts were found in the book Somerville, A Brief History by Dee Morris and Dora St. Martin.