For the last 16 years, Robert Dimmick lounged in a small-two person booth inside Doyle’s. He affectionately called it, “My booth.”
There, he’d sit and drink with only the company of a book.
“You don’t find those anymore,” Dimmick said. “It was perfect for me and my book.”
On Wednesday, Dimmick shared the historic Jamaica Plain tavern with hordes of visitors. He recognized some faces. Others were new.
“Who are all these people?,” Dimmick said. “All of these curiosity seekers here to pick over the carcass. Where were they when Doyle’s was needing some business?”
This day brought neither a cold beer nor any buffalo chicken mac-n-cheese – Dimmick’s meal of choice. Instead, away from his booth, Dimmick sat tucked away in the back corner of the restaurant for an auction. Doyle’s closed its doors at the end of last month. Wednesday and Thursday they reopened but only to sell most of the items inside.
“It’s like leaving a family home. It’s a place you have a deep, deep connection to that’s suddenly, through no fault of your own, no longer going to exist,” Dimmick said. “So, yeah, it is emotional.”
Dimmick desired a glass red sphere that hung over a door. “Exit” was frosted on the glass. Dimmick guessed it may be original to the bar when it opened in 1882.
“I think anything else might be too much of a reminder,” Dimmick said. “That exit light just appeals to my sense of whimsy and if I don’t get it, that’s OK.”
Many of the regulars who walked through Doyle’s, for likely the final time, shared similar sentiments.
A woman from Abington, who only wanted to be identified as Rita, arrived shortly after 8 a.m. to sit in the chairs by the bar one final time.
Rita discovered Doyle’s 15 years ago as part of the Sam Adams brewery tour, which ended with a trip to the pub.
“When I walked through the door, I thought I was stepping back into a pub in Ireland,” Rita said. “I worked in Dublin in a bar several years ago. When I walked in, I said, ‘Oh my god, It’s just like being in Dublin.’ That’s how I started.”
Like Dimmick, Rita hoped to purchase a specific item – a barstool – like the one she sat in. She didn’t plan to break the bank. If she didn’t win it, she would walk away from Doyle’s with priceless memories.
She already owns shirts, a sweatshirt, and a hat from Doyle’s. She also saved the placemat and receipt from her final visit.
“There was no place like this,” she said.
When the auction began, people packed the back room. With no open seats available, the crowd spilled over into the hallway where the bathrooms are located.
Many vied for the political memorabilia hanging on the walls. But tables, chairs, glasses, pots, pans, kitchen equipment and freezers were also up for auction.
The sight of tea cups, and pans placed on tables rather than drinks and food added to the morbid emotions.
“It feels like a wake,” Rita said. “And the funeral begins at 11 a.m.”
The auction was scheduled to start at 11 a.m. but the first bids were cast closer to noon. Not every item was purchased. The lots of tables and chairs didn’t gather much interest. The political pictures varied in price. A brass or bronze plaque from 1914 indicating Mollie, Waddy and Tony, the performing elephants sold for $4,000.
Ken Sazama of Jamaica Plain won a framed Edward Kennedy picture for a modest $87. But he debated not attending the event at all.
“On one hand, I wanted to take a piece of history with me, but on the other hand, I feel like I’m part of the selling of history, which doesn’t feel right,” Sazama said.
Before leaving, Sazama registered the item with the Boston Public Library, which hoped to document every item purchased during the auction in an attempt to preserve the history of Doyle’s. The library will digitize the pictures to forever capture the bar’s historic walls.
“I’m really excited they’re doing that project,” Sazama said.
For many who ate a meal or drank a beer at Doyle’s, the famous faces that walked through the doors or hung on the walls aren’t the source of sadness.
Bill Smith wandered through the restaurant wearing a green track jacket with a Doyle’s logo on it. Coincidentally, Smith doesn’t drink and never sipped an ounce of alcohol in Doyle’s. But that didn’t detract from his memories.
He celebrated the 60th birthday of his wife Kathleen. It was also the spot where after she died, the family hosted the collation.
Tears soon formed in Smith’s eyes when he thought about Kathleen and Doyle’s – one of her favorite places.
“It was a place,” he said. “It was a good place.”
Smith was one of the only people at Doyle’s Wednesday who also appeared in a picture on the wall. It showed him competing in one of the Doyle’s road races. He smiled as he though of organizing the events.
From tears then to smiles, the emotions from a man who doesn’t drink, revealed the value of Doyle’s to the regulars standing inside.
“It was always a place where I could see people I knew,” Smith said. “And even if I didn’t, everyone was friendly enough. It was a nice place to spend a few minutes.”