A place to recall and celebrate the wonderful stores of a Downtown Boston now alive only in our memories

Wednesday 30 March 2011

E.T. Slattery's...a retro Boston legend from 1867 until 1957

Hello, My Fellow Retro Boston Fans!

Today I present a closer look at yet another one of Boston’s many fine women’s specialty stores, E.T. Slattery’s.
I am pleased to share a collection of photos, articles and advertisements that span much of this very beloved store’s history.

E. T. Slattery’s story is pretty amazing. One of the few Boston stores founded by a woman...Ms. Ellen T. back in the year 1867. She began her modest but fashionable shop on Hayward Place, more growth and a move to 631 Tremont, on to Boylston Street for a few years, another relocation to 84 Beacon Street and finally to 156 Tremont Street in 1901. By the 1930’s, Slattery’s took up three entire adjoining buildings overlooking Boston Common. For generations of Boston women, E.T. Slattery’s was the place for fashion and accessories plus a healthy selection of children’s clothing and an assortment of men’s furnishings as well! Slattery’s in Boston had grown into a large store with a very classy reputation indeed!

Mr. P. A. O’ Connell was the store general manager and president from 1908 onward. A man with ideas and drive that continued the steady growth of the business and introduced branch expansion...a new concept back then! Slattery’s was one of the early Boston based stores to look to the nearby suburbs to further serve their loyal shoppers. Slattery’s opened its first branch in Wellesley, Ma. in the early 1920’s and then another in Brookline in April of 1927. A perfect spot...the street floor of Coolidge Corner’s new Pelham Hall! Slattery’s in Pelham Hall was an eye catcher for the shoppers of Brookline with its prime corner location and large windows showing off the latest fashions.

The Brookline location was given a make-over in 1940 which expanded the shop into the lower level as well as creating new lighting methods to display the merchandise. The Wellesley branch moved from Washington Street to Central Street in 1940 and unveiled a new, larger store to serve the eager customers.

E.T Slattery’s had success and fame by the 1940’s and all signs pointed to a long, healthy retail life. One of my favorite Slattery’s traditions was, “The Ball and Chain Club.” This exclusive club was opened at Christmas time each year for those worried men who just needed some extra guidance in shopping for their wives and lady friends. It was a huge hit...with very memorable press ads as well!

The 1950’s was not kind to Slattery’s. Boston was losing its retailing life blood to suburban malls. Brookline was becoming too expensive and also lacked decent public parking areas. In a measure to save the store from closure, Brookline was shut in January of 1957, leaving the once elegant space to become a foreign car dealership for the next several decades. Slattery’s mission was to focus on the Boston location and the Wellesley branch for the future...a short future. R. H. White’s and Slattery’s both ended their long runs in June of 1957. White’s to move out of Boston and Slattery’s to close up completely.

Tremont Street now had three prime buildings sitting vacant and another was soon to join them.

Filene’s came to the bankruptcy auction and bought all the remaining stock to sell off in their famous basement.

C. Crawford Hollidge and Gilchrist’s both published advertisements proclaiming the tragic loss to Boston’s women and urged them to drown their sorrows at their stores. Each promised to support and nurture the newly abandoned female consumers of the city...fear not...retail therapy was there to help:-)

Once Coleman’s Boston store (right next to Slattery’s) was closed, not long after Slattery’s, four building sat aging and empty...all facing the scenic Boston Common. Money was to be made in demolishing these once proud buildings and creating something new and “exciting” for Boston...enter the dreamers with a wrecking ball.

For your consideration and possible dismay, I present articles and images in this update that show the rise of “Tremont on the Common” from 1961 until it was completed several years later.

By 1963, the permission to demolish was granted and the last of Slattery’s Boston location and Coleman’s vanished into dust.

When I was growing up, my mother would recall Slattery’s fondly. She would walk past the big windows of the car dealership in Pelham Hall and speak of a very fancy shop that was once located there.

She had trouble recalling just where Slattery’s used to be in Boston along Tremont Street...“It’s all so different now!” she used to say.
And she was right...Tremont Street had a whole new look...out with the smaller, unique buildings…in with the big, block long structures.

Enjoy this look back at E.T Slattery’s from the 1920’s until it closed in 1957...with an additional bonus of the aftermath of the development of the Tremont Street site it once occupied.


PS...Please feel free to contact me about the Jordan Marsh Memory Project! I would love to include your memories and scans in the collection!! So....Join in!!!