Today we spend a bit of time looking back at another retro Boston legend, Kennedy’s!
No, not the political dynasty that shares that powerful name but the beloved and much missed clothing emporium once located on the corner of Summer and Hawley Streets just beyond what was once Filene’s.
Kennedy’s: Boston’s Largest, Livest, Leading Men’s’ Store...an early slogan that certainly caught the public’s eye and heart.
The store had its humble beginnings in 1892 in a small shop in Hyde Park that specialized purely in clothing for men and boys. The shop took off and soon spawned several other locations dotted about Massachusetts. The real triumph for the blossoming Kennedy Company came in 1912 with the leasing of the large, handsome building on the corner of Summer and Hawley Streets built in 1873. The store occupied the lower floors of this great location for the first years as it established itself a flagship for the company in this classic building right in the center of Boston’s shopping heart. By 1929 Kennedy’s renovated and filled the entire five floors of the building and in the years to come would also consume the rest of the street level as well. Boston had a premier men’s clothing store all of its own!
During the 1930’s, Kennedy’s added a women’s department on its third floor to keep up with all the stiff competition that was coming in from all retailing sides. In 1937, a girl’s department would open...thus making Kennedy’s a clothing and accessories store for the entire family!
Kennedy’s clothing store represented value as well as smart, up to date fashions for Boston’s shoppers. The store continued growing and many locations popped up in the various suburban malls that sprang up from the 1950’s onward. Kennedy’s became a feature of New England retailing life and one did not have to venture far to find a location nearby.
By the late 1970’s, Kennedy’s was owned by Van Husen Corporation who operated a vast number of clothing outlets nationwide. The company was not making the profits it deemed necessary and in early 1980 decided to close many of the Kennedy’s locations including the flagship on the corner of Summer and Hawley Streets. The “saved” locations lasted only a little while longer...the Kennedy’s name soon vanished entirely from the ever-changing retail scene.
The loss of Kennedy’s in downtown Boston was a sad reminder of Boston’s dwindling number of large retail stores. The beautiful building sat empty for the early part of the 1980’s while debate raged about re-use and redevelopment of the site. The building nearly was torn down completely but preservationists won out in the end...well, sort of....the facade was saved. The lower two floors were not so lucky...not original enough. I can recall walking by in the mid- 1980’s during the redevelopment work and saw the three floors of the original facade jacked up on stilts while a new lower two floors could be added in keeping with the original design of the building. A high rise tower soon emerged from what was once the inside of dear, Kennedy’s. Redevelopment today often comes with many floors soaring high into the sky...upward and onward!
Today we enjoy a look back at the style and class that was Kennedy’s! The advertisements, slogans and logos are classic...classic retro Boston that is!
Boston born, Brookline raised Retro Boston Cultural Historian and very eager to get as many memories, photos and newspaper adverts of the once grand stores of the Downtown Boston we all knew and loved. Also I am very busy researching Boston area churches of the past that have since closed or merged into others. All who remember are welcome to contact me with their thoughts, memories and photos to add to any of my blogs.
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