Stephen James House

On September 29, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

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.)

Here is the third installment of places that no longer exist. I didn’t plan on it, but when I did the Woodbridge and Venice stories I also thought of the old Stephen James House. I tossed it out there on the social network, and reeled in some juicy stories about the old function hall/lounge/bowling alley. The place was on Davenport St. near the Somerville Cambridge line. Many, many Somerville people frequented it during its run. Davenport is the street behind Star Market/Shaws in Porter Square. I personally played in the lounge for a while with one of my bands. You could hear some pretty good country western music there too. The lounge was known for drawing divorced women and I can tell you there were always lots of well-dressed ladies there. The building is gone and there are apartments and condos there now.

The Stephen James House was a hot spot for weddings and sports banquets. If it was an important event, it was held at the Stephen James. There was a statue of an Indian at the bottom of a stairway (remember?). They had “stage coach” booths as one friend recalls. By the way, my name is James Steven, and one of the most memorable and huge family reunions my mother’s side ever had was at the Stephen James House. I have some great pictures of the event and, sadly, many members are no longer with us. It must have been around 1978 or so.

It was a fan favorite for last call also because it was open until 2 a.m. One guy tells us that his first job was at Stephen James, washing dishes for $2.10 an hour in 1976. Someone else worked in the kitchen making $1.10 an hour. My friend Phil, who was a member of the Amazing Sensations group, put on a show there and sold 450 tickets. That may have been an overcrowding situation but it was still…amazing! Somerville High School’s class of 1979 had their 5th and 10th reunions there (so we know it was opened until at least 1989).

The prime rib was supposedly pretty good eating and a lot of people commented on the mashed potatoes also. It was a very popular local place to have weddings. Many of my friends were married there. As a matter of fact, one of my friends actually married the owner’s daughter (but the place was closed up by then). Did you ever take your kids to see the Easter Bunny there? Me neither, but I know someone who did. The bowling alley downstairs also had pinball machines. I know that the Alewife Brook Parkway Bowling League had two banquets a year there.

Banquet hall, lounge, bowling alley and dancing school? According to one of my contributors, it was called something like Ester’s School of Dance. My friends Tom and Mary Ann got married there and tell me that in some of their wedding pictures there is a bull with horns. She thought they should have removed it for the wedding and that’s no bull. The bride saved the menu and the family style roast beef dinner cost a whopping $10.95 per person. The wedding package included the cake, pictures, and the first night’s stay at a hotel. P.S. they are still happily married!

Star Market also had a lot of Christmas parties at the Stephen James. Here’s a blast from the past: My friend worked at Zayre in Cambridge and had his Christmas party there, also with hypnotist Sam Levine as the entertainment.

I don’t think there is anyone in Somerville or Cambridge over the age of 40 who didn’t go to a banquet, wedding reception, or some kind of function at the Stephen James House. As I think back now, I can’t remember if the family reunion we had was actually at Stephen James, or Igo’s on Mass Ave. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.


4 Responses to “Stephen James House”

  1. frankie dicampo says:

    Jimmy, you bring back memories. as a teenager if it was cold or raining the bowling alley in the basement of the steven james was a place to go. and if i remember i think it had 4 or 6 alleys.Everyone who hungaround davis square worked at the woodbridge as a dishwasher. after work we would go to the bowling alley behind the woodbrige. where as the time gone? Heres a few names from back in the day, the pine tree diner, napolis pizza,park snow, grants, gorins,jillys store was next to the show.mig toy. what memories thanks jimmy

  2. George Zaglakas says:

    I am the son of the James portion of the Stephen James House. The restaurant closed in June of 1991. Probably one of the memories of the “hall”, as we called it, that struck me the most occurred just before we closed. We were returning deposits for functions that we had to cancel, and a family came in to the office. The family consisted of the mother, father, and their six daughters. They were all in tears. The parents had their wedding reception at the restaurant and the 5 oldest daughters did as well. We were returning the deposit for the 6th daughter’s wedding reception. .

    Later in life I would ask my father (he passed away in 2010) if he missed the “Hall”. He always had the same response. Not the hours and the labor, but he always missed the people. To him, they were the reason he went to work each day. He enjoyed making “their day” as special as possible, and in his own way he had the opportunity to participate in each one. He stayed up all night preparing and decorating for my own wedding reception.

    The restaurant was major part of my life and it was a wonderful experience.


  3. Nelson (Red) Burtt says:

    George Zaglakas,
    I grew up with your whole family in the Old Greasy Village area of Cambridge, your Grandfather “George” was a good man, we all hung around in his variety store (Village Spa) I don’t know how he put up with us, whenever I hear an old WWII song I will have a flashback of the Spa, and the old Jukebox, there aren’t many of us left from those days I turn 88 this year, lots of good memories, The Village Spa was our second home..
    Good Luck..

  4. Dan Santarpio says:

    Worked there as a kitchenboy 76-78 and a barboy till 80. Yeah started at 2.10 an hr. Wrote a short story book one time called ” the job” if any copies are still around. The z boys and jim mchugh were great guys to work for. And the friends you made, the carbones and I are still freinds today and live in ca. shoutouts to jim kissane, bruce sweetzer, eddie bingle, bullets, the kelly twins, alison bambury, just a few of the many who made that place
    a great after school and weekend job. lots of stories. maybe one day if i get back to somerville we can have a reunion and perhaps gather some stories and write a book.
    dan santarpio

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