On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
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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.