At 11:48 a.m. Tuesday, the wrecking ball — actually a large, menacing yellow Caterpillar excavating machine that loomed over the site like Godzilla — knocked down the last remaining wall of Anthony’s Hawthorne restaurant. Minutes earlier, the New Hampshire Demolition crew of three walked through the rubble and carefully removed the six cement squares emblazoned with the historic lobster painting that greeted diners near the entrance. They gingerly placed the heavy squares into the bed of a rented pickup; only the square with the claw suffered minor damage.
Workers in the adjoining First Indemnity Insurance Agency emerged from their offices at lunchtime. They must have thought they were in the midst of an earthquake, because the demolition next door created quite the ear-splitting, earth-shaking racket.
Several longtime Lynners stood around kibitzing and snapping photos of the once-beloved restaurant on the corner of Oxford Street and Central Avenue. Their feelings were mixed. “Good riddance. It’s been an eyesore since the place closed in 2003,” said one gent. “Another Lynn icon gone. I still miss their lobster specials,” said another.
I’m in the latter camp. I have many fond memories of the Hawthorne and all of Anthony Athanas’ restaurants.
My Mom’s uncle, the late Eddie Chatigny of Salem, worked as a chef for many years at Anthony’s in Lynn and filled in as needed at Hawthorne-By-The-Sea in Swampscott and the General Glover House in Marblehead. Eddie always said that Anthony was a great guy and the family was pleasantly surprised and honored when he showed up at Eddie’s funeral.
My Mom’s aunt and uncle, Marie and Ed Murphy, who was a Lynn English High/Brown University football star, always took our family to Hawthorne-By-The-Sea, which remains open for business. Whenever we’d visit their home at 2 Smith Lane in Swampscott, then in the shadow of the New Ocean House hotel, that was the special go-to spot. My sisters and I enjoyed Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers cocktails with our meals every time we went.
When I graduated from Suffolk University back in the dark ages, our family celebrated at Anthony’s Pier 4 in what is now Boston’s over-developed Seaport District. As a young newspaperman, I covered many events at Pier 4. Anthony was always there to greet guests. Years later, when my work day ended at the Boston Herald, I would walk to Pier 4 on my dad’s birthday and enjoy a well-made bourbon Manhattan in my dad’s honor.
Most important of all for me, was the General Glover House, the site of my wedding reception 33 years ago Sept. 20. Years later, I was told that the bar bill for our celebration was the highest in the restaurant’s history for a party our smallish size. My poor in-laws, despite their daughter’s pleading to forgo an open bar, insisted guests enjoy free adult beverages like they do at every wedding in Connecticut. It took a combination of cash, check, credit card and God knows what else to settle the bill.
Like the Hawthorne, the Glover House has sat vacant for many years, on that terrific plot of land next to Tedesco Country Club.
But it was at Anthony’s Hawthorne in downtown Lynn where I spent many a happy time with Item co-workers or dates or golf companions. We held all of our Newspaper Guild union meetings in that room on the second floor, plotting how to squeeze an extra buck or two out of the paper’s owners.
Thus, it was with a bit of sadness Tuesday that I watched the storied restaurant’s walls come tumbling down. Yes, its neglect in the last decade-plus tarnished its once-grand image. Yes, I’m sure something wonderful will rise in its place. But to me, Anthony’s Hawthorne and Mr. Athanas’ other restaurants will always have a fond place in my heart and mind.