04 August 2011

Tommy McFarland's Tavern

Newspaper Row in Boston, Massachusetts

Once upon a time in Boston - on the upper end of Washington Street from Water Street south past Milk Street - you could find most of the city's major newspapers. The Traveler, Post, Herald, Daily Advertiser, Globe, and Transcript were all there. Fittingly, it was called Newspaper Row.

Tommy McFarland was a familiar face on Newspaper Row. He wasn't, however, a reporter, pressman, mailer, or even a printer. Tommy McFarland was a boxer, a welterweight with a record of one win, eight loses, and four draws.

Sometime after his last bout in 1921, Tommy McFarland and his brother Smoky started operating the Newspaper Row Club on the 11th floor of a Washington Street building. In 1938, the brothers opened Tommy McFarland's Tavern at 254 Washington Street Row near the Globe building.

Wondering what a couple of guys named McFarland have to do with The Genealogy of Torre le Nocelle, Italy?

Well, as it happens, Tommy was born Torrese, and has been identified by a knowledgeable source as "Il Rocky Marciano torrese."

Tommy McFarland’s Pedigree

Tommy McFarland was born Carmine Domenico Bevilacqua in Torre le Nocelle on the 17th of November 1895 to Emilio Bevilacqua and Florinda Froncillo. On January 13, 1898, Carmine arrived in New York aboard the California with his mother and her sister Maria Luisa. All three traveled under his mother's maiden name of Froncillo (spelled as Frongillo on the passenger list) and were on their way to his father Emilio in Boston.

By the 1900 Federal Census, the Bevilacquas were living on Foster Street in Boston including the addition of a daughter, Ardita. More children followed over the next few years including Michael, Concetta, Americo, Frank (Coogie), and Charles. By 1930, papa Emilio was the owner of 172 Salem Street, where Tommy made his home for the rest of his life.

Smoky McFarland was born in 1906 in Boston as Americo Bevilacqua. People started calling him Smoky McFarland because he was always puffing on a cigar and he was Tommy's brother.

One story says Carmine Bevilacqua became Tommy McFarland by accident, when, as a lightweight boxer in 1911, he was a last minute substitute for one Tommy McFarland in a fight in Lowell, Massachusetts. Unaware of the program change, the legend says, the referee announced him as Tommy McFarland of Boston. But Tommy's brother Americo later said that fight promoter Eddie Mack gave him the name when they served together in the army during World War I. Tommy served as a boxing instructor at Fort Devens and in 1918 went overseas with the 301st Infantry regiment.

After retiring from the ring, Tommy kept his connections to boxing alive working as a trainer and manager. On December 20, 1950, Governor Paul Dever of Massachusetts appointed Tommy McFarland to the State Boxing Commission. There must have been some substantial boxing blood in the Bevilacqua veins, as Tommy's younger brother Frank (Coogie) was also a boxing trainer and manager.

Operating a tavern was apparently also a family tradition, according to Smoky McFarland. Tommy and Smoky's father, Emilio, was for some years a successful tavern keeper. Smoky said that's why the brothers decided to get into the business.

Most Wednesday nights during World War II, Smoky McFarland cooked up spaghetti and meatballs for servicemen who visited the tavern; civilians got only pretzels and chips.

Tommy McFarland's Tavern drew on the working press for much of its clientele. Some of the pressmen, mailers, linotype operators and others who were regulars at Tommy's eventually formed the Screwball Club. In addition to meeting regularly at the Tavern, the Screwball Club held an annual formal dinner on the Parker House Roof.

254 Washington Street was also a short walk from City Hall and the State House. So in addition to its normal clientele of the working press, Tommy's would welcome politicians including mayors, governors, and a one-time local congressman who later reached the highest office in the land.

Newspaper Row 1895

Time, however, took its toll … The Transcript closed in 1941, the Post in 1956. The Daily Advertiser merged with the Record-American and relocated to Winthrop Square. The Traveler merged with the Herald and moved to the South End. Only the Boston Globe was left. In 1958, the Globe moved to Dorchester and Newspaper Row was no more.

Tommy McFarland died in 1954, his brother Smoky in 1973, and both are buried in St. Michael Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. Interestingly, the famous boxer's headstone gives no note to his longtime sports identity. His line on the large Bevilacqua family memorial reads simply: “Carmen 1895-1954.”

Tommy McFarland's Tavern finally closed in 1967, a longtime hub of activity ultimately falling victim to changing demographics and urban renewal.

Acknowledgements: To Cousins Carole & Carm for their invaluable assistance.

Boston Globe: Americo Bevliacqua, 66; North End personality, May 29, 1973 pg. 45
Boston Globe: Deaths and Funerals, Tommy McFarland, October 26, 1954 pg. 22
Boston Globe: McFarland New Member of State Boxing Board, December 21, 1950 pg. 15
Boston Globe: McFarland Rite Held, October 29, 1954 pg. 17
Boston Globe: Newspaper Row's Loss Tommy McFarland Gone, Victor O. Jones, November 2, 1954 pg. 13
Boston Globe: Tommy McFarlands's Is No More, Dick O'Donnell, May 21, 1967 pg. A3

Search Massachusetts Naturalization Records At Footnote

Find anything from any year back to 1759 in the World's Largest Newspaper Archive!

1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.