As most regular readers of Diner Hotline know, I usually feature posts about diners and other roadside establishments. This particular post will be slightly different as it is about a new restaurant that will be located in an existing commercial building in downtown Medford, Massachusetts (the city where I was born and raised). This new restaurant, Carroll’s Bar & Grille has roots that go back to circa 1930 when Maurice W. Carroll bought a used “Brill” steel diner and moved it (from I believe the town of Reading, although it is not substantiated), and placed it adjacent to a building on Main Street in Medford that housed his primary business, the Medford Battery Company.
The following photos and scans will take you on a timeline showing the Carroll family’s history of commercial achievements in the city of Medford as I know it….
Below we see an image scanned from a book I have in my collection called “Medford, Past and Present, 275th Anniversary 1905” published by the local newspaper, “The Medford Mercury”. This image apparently shows the 1905 offices and plant of the newspaper located on Main Street, where Carroll’s Diner would eventually be located.
This next image shows the same building on the left along with its next door neighbor, the Medford House Inn. Beyond the Inn you can see the old Fire Department Headquarters on the other side of South Street where it intersects with Main St. The Medford House was owned by the Carroll family until it was torn down.
Below is an ad from a trade publication, possibly circa 1930 or so showing the same building, although enlarged and modified to be Medford Battery Co. which was also an Esso Gasoline station. Maury Carroll III told me it had previously operated as a Beacon Gas Station before rebranding to Esso. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
Next is a touched up image showing the original Carroll’s Diner in front of the Medford Battery Co. I believe this is right before the delivery of the 1948 stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner that replaced the first diner.
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
This image shows the interior of the first Carroll’s Diner circa 1939
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
Below is a 1948 newspaper piece from the Medford Mercury on the delivery of the new Carroll’s Diner. At the time this was delivered, the original Medford Battery Co. building was altered to make space. The front of the building was cut back almost to the chimney shown in the earlier photos. This created the space to move the first diner back enough to attach the second diner in front, thus utilizing the first diner as expanded kitchen space for the new diner.
Here you can see the second diner in place in front of the altered building. The first diner was small enough that one cannot see it from this angle, sandwiched between the newer diner and the building behind. At the right edge of the frame is the Esso Gas Station that superseded the old Medford Battery Co. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
Interior view of the 1948 Carroll’s Diner.
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
By 1948, when the stainless steel diner came along, the business was being operated by Maurice Carroll’s sons, Maurice, Jr. and John F. “Jack” Carroll. They had purchased the new diner from Joseph Swingle, a World War II veteran like themselves who had just started working as a salesman for the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Co., (Mr. O’Mahony happened to be Joe’s wife Kay’s uncle). In fact in 1987, Joe Swingle himself told me that Carroll’s Diner was the very first diner he sold after getting into the business.
Below…. an image of a matchbook cover for the 1948 vintage Carroll’s Diner,
at this time the diner’s address was listed as being at 89 Main Street.
This next image is a slightly later version of a Carroll’s Diner matchbook cover, probably from the mid-to-late 1950’s showing a new logo they started using for the diner.
The Carroll brothers continued to operate the diner, very successfully I might add and between 1948 and 1961 had started to acquire more of the property that surrounded the diner. Fronting on Main St. from Emerson St. to South St. (not counting the Esso Gas Station site) they had a fairly good-sized piece of property, including a portion of the land behind the diner and the gas station, By 1960 they were ready for a new larger diner.
But by this point in time, the Jerry O’Mahony Company had been out of the business for at least 5 years, but Joe Swingle was still in the business. He had left O’Mahony to become the sales manager at Fodero Diners in the early 1950’s and by 1957 was ready to start his own company called Swingle Diners. So Maury and Jack Carroll got in touch with Joe Swingle and contracted with him to build a big new diner for them.
In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the old railroad car style of diner was being phased out by the manufacturers and in its place, a new look was being offered that borrowed from early Americana…. the colonial style. These diners generally had large picture windows and a minimum amount of stainless steel, primarily for trim on the exterior. Ironically the first diner that the Swingle Diner Co. had built was a traditional stainless steel diner…. Twaddell’s of Paoli, PA in 1957. This was a large “L”-shaped 2 section diner with a corner entryway/vestibule.
Here is a photo of Twaddell’s Diner upon completion at the Swingle Diner factory in Middlesex, NJ. This was taken prior to it being moved to its operating location in Paoli, PA (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
The above photo was provided to the Carroll brothers along with quite a few other 8″ x 10″ publicity photos from Swingle to help them make a decision as to what style and size diner they might want to purchase. Well they ended up purchasing a large “L” shaped, 3 section diner similar to Twaddell’s, but of colonial design. Next we can see a blurb from an August, 1961 news clipping about the arrival of the new diner……
Here we see the 3 sections of diner heading east on State Route 60, High Street in West Medford in front of the Brooks School, out of the shot to the left. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
Next we see the diner approaching its operating location on Main St. The old stainless steel diner can be seen on the left and the Medford Fire Dept. Headquarters can be seen behind the diner. At this point, the Mystic Valley Parkway (Route 16) was at a grade crossing intersection just beyond the Fire Station with Medford Square in the background. I was told that the man in a black suit with his back to the camera was indeed Jack Carroll. The Medford Police Patrolman is Jack Kirwan, a close friend of the Carroll’s. (Thanks Mike!) (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
Below is another great shot showing the 3 sections of the diner on 3 different trucks coming down Main St. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
I personally remember driving by the site with my family and seeing the pieces of the new diner waiting to be placed on the foundation. I was around 8 years of age and this was totally interesting to me.
Here we can see the new diner open for business, it looks to be the winter of 1961-62 with the snow on the ground. This diner was undoubtedly the newest, most modern diner in Massachusetts at this time. The old diner is still on site at this point over to the right just out of the frame. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
Here is a slightly closer view of the brand-new Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car
(Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
A great close-up of the sign featuring the diner’s logo. Note the interesting timeline here, when the diner was delivered, there was no overpass for the Mystic Valley Parkway to cross over Main St. By the time the diner was operating a few months later, the new overpass was in place! You can also see the old 1948 diner in this shot. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
Here is a new matchbook cover advertizing Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car,
and mentioning the function rooms they now offered.
Next we see one of the Swingle Diners manufacturer’s tag from Carroll’s.
I obtained both of them in 1987, after the diner had been closed …….
Here is a postcard from my collection for the exterior view of Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, not too long after opening.
Postcard from my collection showing the interior view of Carroll’s
Colonial Dining Car.
I recall going to Carroll’s Diner with my family for breakfast on Easter Morning after church. I believe we did this for at least 2 years in a row when this Swingle diner was brand new. It might actually have been some of the few times my whole family ever ate breakfast out together in a diner!
The photo below was taken on the night of the Great Northeast Blackout
of November 9, 1965. According to Maury Carroll III, the diner had some power, possibly enough to use the cooking equipment and the staff utilized candles so patrons could eat their meals. (Photo courtesy of the Carroll family)
The image we see next is an architectural rendering circa 1970 of the proposed Sheraton Hotel the Carroll family hoped to build. They had acquired even more property which would have given them plenty of room to build what was going to be a 6-story, 150 room full service hotel, something Medford did not have at that time. The diner is visible here sandwiched between the hotel and the dining room addition. Unfortunately, these plans were never realized. (Image scanned from the 1997 Medford Police Relief Association Sponsor Booklet, courtesy of the Carroll family)
During the early to mid 1970’s, Carroll’s Diner was the place I hung out with all my friends. It was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and was always busy. I can recall the lines out the door waiting to get in at 3:00 am after going to night clubs, etc. It was the place to be and be seen for sure. Also by the 1970’s, the next generation of Carroll’s had started working at the diner. There were brothers, Maury (III), Tom, David and Paul as well as their cousin John F. (Jr.) who all held various positions over the years.
This next photo is a time exposure I shot in February of 1982 showing the diner at night. You can see in this shot the large dining room/function room addition that was grafted to the right side of the diner by the early 1970’s. This addition also housed upstairs offices for the complex. It was known as Carroll’s Restaurant by this time.
(note: I digitally removed street lights from this photo)
Below is another photo from August of 1983 showing the restaurant around 9:00 am one weekday morning. Carroll’s was by now operating with shorter hours and no longer open for breakfast. (photo by Larry Cultrera)
One of the last matchbook covers they offered at Carroll’s, note the address has changed to 101 Main Street (from 89 Main St.)
(Image courtesy of Diane Carroll DeBenedictis)
By March of 1986, the restaurant was still operating when freelance writer Donald Dale Jackson contacted me, Diner Historian Richard Gutman, as well as others in advance of penning a feature article on “American Diners” for a prestigious magazine. I am honored to say that I was one of 2 guys from Medford that were featured in the article, the other guy was none other than John F. Carroll, Jr. In fact, I actually met Don Jackson at Carroll’s Restaurant where we started the interview! The article was called “The American diner is in decline, yet more chic than ever” and appeared in the November, 1986 edition of Smithsonian Magazine. Ironically, unbeknownst to me and a lot of other people, Carroll’s Restaurant was about to close for good. This happened in late December of 1986, the month after the Smithsonian article came out!
It was mentioned in the Medford Mercury early in the month of December that a local developer had bought the property for a great amount of money in order to build a large office building on the site and that the restaurant would close by the end of the month. I managed to take a long lunch on December 17th from my job about 15 miles away in Bedford by inviting my friend Duane Marshall (the engineering supervisor at my place of employment) who had never been to Carroll’s. We managed to get there around 12:30 pm as I recall and got to sit in the last booth in the right front of the diner next to the dining room. As we left, I approached Maury Carroll Jr. and told him I was going to miss the place and wished him good luck! I also asked for one of the menus as a souvenir and he graciously handed me one .
I got home later in the afternoon from work and found out that the restaurant had closed right after lunch. I did not realize it but that particular day was planned to be the last day of regular operation for the place and I had made it to the last official sitting.
March, 1987 – that is me sitting on the brick wall at the base of the sign.
In the background you can see signs in the windows announcing the public auction for equipment and a large sign that said “Restaurant Closed” and thanking customers for their patronage! (Photo by Steve Repucci)
The whole structure was torn down in June of 1987 as shown in the next photo…….
One day during the demolition (which spanned a few days), I walked into the rear parking lot to see what was out there and was surprised to see the old neon sign that had been mounted to the roof of the 1948 O’Mahony diner! The guys from the demo crew told me it had been lying on the roof! I am not sure but it looks like it was tossed off the roof to the parking lot……
Shortly thereafter, construction began for the 101 Main Street professional building with an underground garage as well as some above ground parking on the South St. side of the building.
This large professional building is what replaced Carroll’s Diner at 101 Main Street. (Feb. 19, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera)
A few years before Carroll’s Restaurant had closed, John Carroll, Jr. had started a consulting business with his dad and cousin Maury Carroll III called Cornell Concepts and managed places like the Memory Lane Restaurants that were in Somerville and Malden, Mass. as well as Newington, and Manchester, NH. There was also a place in Charlestown called “The Front Page”. These were all casual dining and cocktail places, that had eventually closed by the early 1990’s.
Around 1992 or 93, I got a phone call from John Carroll, Jr. Although we were both featured in the above mentioned Smithsonian article from 1986, we had never met or even been in touch. He asked to get together to talk, so we met up at the Main Street Diner in North Woburn one weekday for lunch. We had a great conversation and became instant friends. We remained friends and would talk or get together periodically right up until he passed away due to complications from cancer in 1996.
Also in the years since Carroll’s closed in 1986, Maury Carroll, Jr’s sons Maury Carroll III and Tom Carroll have stayed in the hospitality business working at or operating quite a few establishments in the Boston area. In fact Tom was the function manager at Montvale Plaza, a function facility in nearby Stoneham, Mass. and helped arrange the wedding reception for my wife Denise and I in 1991.
More recently, Maury and Tom have continued with a side business called Carroll’s Distinctive Catering and attempting to open another restaurant in Medford. In fact in 2008 they had started a project to convert a former bank into a new restaurant called 55 High which I wrote about here, see…..
They had moved forward on that project to a certain point but due to circumstances and the economy, it never came to fruition. More recently they had an option to lease space in another building on High Street that is undergoing an extended renovation. That building renovation seemed to have been stalled temporarily when the former Il Faro Italian Restaurant around the corner at 21 Main Street closed its doors last year. They immediately saw their chance and secured a lease to take over not only the former Il Faro space, but also the Nail Salon that had closed next door. With the expanded space they now were set up to bring the Carroll’s name back to a restaurant in Medford, within 2 blocks of the site where the diner was located!
On February 15th (last week) I noticed Sean M. Walsh posted a photo on the “You Know You’re From Medford When……” Facebook page of the new Carroll’s Bar & Grill. They had just installed the signage and awnings that morning. I was excited to see this and made plans to get there later in the day to take my own shots! The photo immediately below is my first one showing the new signage. I was especially pleased to see the old logo from the diner being used for the new restaurant! This is the first time in 26 years that the Carroll’s logo has appeared on a restaurant in Medford.
The next shot is a close up of the entrance to Carroll’s Bar & Grill…..
Next we see Maury Carroll (on the left) with 2 friends standing in front of the restaurant. This is the very first photo showing the lights shining on the sign and awning!
Carroll’s Bar & Grill is slated to open either in late March or early April, so when it does, I will do a follow up post here reporting on the restaurant and the menu they will be offering. I wish Maury & Tom as well as the rest of the Carroll family good luck with this new venture!
I want to thank Maury Carroll for his continued friendship and help in proofreading this post for factual purposes as well as providing me with photos over the years. I also want to thank both the late Jack Carroll and John F. Carroll, Jr. for their friendship over the last years of their lives as well as providing me with other photos and memorabilia for my collection.