Anthony’s Pier 4 will fall to wrecking ball
The photos that lined the walls are gone now, of Kennedys and Johnny Carson, Celtics greats and Frank Sinatra, always posing with the Albanian immigrant who had his name on the door.
Gone too, are the lobsters you’d pass over on that little bridge on your way into the dining room. And gone are the baskets of steaming popovers.
The views are still there, still jaw-dropping, out across Boston Harbor toward downtown and the airport. But instead of being seen from a vast dining room visited by generations of Bostonians, they will soon be enjoyed from a one-acre park at the end of the pier and from the luxury condos in a new building behind it.
Any day now, Anthony’s Pier 4 itself will be torn down — what’s left of it, anyway. The weather-beaten building that housed one of Boston’s most storied restaurants is set to be demolished as soon as this week, to make way for condominiums and an office building.
The memorabilia are long gone, taken by the family of founder Anthony Athanas, the Albanian immigrant in the pictures who built Pier 4 into one of the nation’s highest-grossing restaurants. In recent weeks, the developer Tishman Speyer has been removing the fixtures — the massive bar, the nautical bric-a-brac — and readying the place for demolition. By this time next year, construction on a nine-story condo building will be in full swing.
The restaurant has been closed for nearly three years, and vague plans to reopen it in a new development never came to pass. Another developer has built an apartment tower on the vast parking lot that fronted Northern Avenue. The neighborhood around it is also transformed; for decades, Pier 4 was one of the few reasons anyone would ever go there.
In its heyday, Anthony’s was an institution, said a former lieutenant governor, Thomas O’Neill, who in college was a parking valet there and at the neighboring fish palace, Jimmy’s Harborside. Hollywood celebrities dining there gave the place a touch of glamour. And the local notables who came through all the time gave it a familiar feel.
“Everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to [the late mayor] Kevin White. They all came in and they all used the place,” O’Neill said. “It was a magnet for A-listers, B-listers, C-listers, and D-listers. It had them all.”
Anthony’s was a special night out for regular people, too. Families would make the trip to the waterfront for a graduation dinner or retirement party, at a time when there were only 10 to 12 restaurants in Boston where you’d go for, as developer John Hynes put it, “quote-unquote dinner.”
“If you were going big-time, you’d go to Anthony’s or Jimmy’s,” Hynes said. “That was it.”
There was another side of Anthony’s, one you didn’t see with Grandma on Mother’s Day. It was upstairs, in the function room where seemingly every big-time pol in the city would hold fund-raisers. An invitation up there was like a ticket to the action, Hynes said.
“You’d walk up that grand staircase and hear the buzz of the room,” Hynes said. “And there’d be 500 people kissing whoever’s ring was there to kiss that day.”
These days, Boston has many more good restaurants, some nearby in what’s now called the Seaport. But there was no place quite like Anthony’s, O’Neill said.
There probably won’t be again.
Rob Speyer is aware of the history. He is president of Tishman Speyer, the New York real estate giant that owns the property and is redeveloping it.
“We have a tall order,” he said. “We need to honor the site’s history by creating something that will be as relevant to the future as [Anthony’s] was to the past.”
It won’t be the same. Condos aren’t public space quite the way a restaurant is. But Tishman is planning a park on the edge of the pier, about where the restaurant building now stands.
And despite the luxury address, Speyer said, the company wants a place where everyone in Boston feels welcome.
“You’ll be able to walk to the edge of the water,” he said. “It’ll be something different. But something we hope people enjoy over time as much as they did Anthony’s.”