In his new book “Cape Cod Nights: Historic Bars, Clubs and Drinks” (History Press, 2019), Christopher Setterlund picks up where his 2017 book “Historic Restaurants of Cape Cod” left off.
Both books lead the reader on a nostalgic trip of dining, clubbing and drinking across Cape Cod of yesteryear.
“I began by asking my family, parents, grandparents, etc. where they had enjoyed going and amassed a huge list of current and former hotspots,” Setterlund said in an email interview last week. “Then it became a process of whittling down the list to those that I felt deserved to be recognized but also the ones that I could find enough information on to create a proper history.”
Of the 34 bars and clubs profiled in the book, five are in our area. And we must note that some of the places Setterlund profiles, such as the Chatham Squire, are still in operation. The book also includes Higgins Tavern and Southward Inn in Orleans and Lincoln Lodge and Storyville in Harwich, all of which are shuttered.
Setterlund, who grew up on the Cape and now lives in South Yarmouth, is a 12th generation Cape Codder and a descendant of Deacon John Doane. He is the author of the 2013 “In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide.”
For Setterlund, exploring the highlights of the golden age of the Cape’s nightlife was an exploration of his family, too. He knew that his maternal grandparents loved the Columns in West Dennis. But “in doing my research I did found out that my Nana on my father’s side used to enjoy Joe’s Twin Villa in Osterville, which was a bit of a shocker.”
Joe’s Twin Villa was in business for six decades, from 1947 to 2008. “Joe’s became the hot spot for beautiful women on Cape Cod, with the men following.”
To research the book, Setterlund combed through online newspaper archives. He also “loved getting to interview some of the former club owners, but getting our schedules to match up was often a challenge.”
Setterlund traces the history of the Chatham Squire back to 1937, when a business called the New York Sandwich Shop and Restaurant inhabited the spot at 487 Main St. In 1968 the business was purchased by a group including George Payne and Richard Costello. (The business and real estate were sold last May after nearly 51 years.) Setterlund notes that a turning point for the Squire came in 1978 when it became the first business in town to have its liquor license extended from November to January. Another landmark moment came four years later, in 1982, when the Squire was granted an entertainment license that allowed live music. With each restaurant, Setterlund includes a recipe for an iconic drink. The Squire’s is the piña colada.
Harwich’s two nightspots are no longer open, but both have fascinating histories. The Lincoln Lodge, 403 Lower County Rd., was in operation from 1953 to 1988 in the 1833 home of Captain Leonard Robbins. In the 1930s an owner opened a rooming house and named it after Chatham’s novelist Joseph Lincoln. A subsequent owner retained the name, assuming the lodge was named after Abraham Lincoln. A family named Lufkin bought the establishment in 1953, and later built a two-story motel on the property that they named Mary Todd Court, in keeping with the misunderstanding about President Lincoln. The restaurant became the Cape’s only spot to eat fondue and also became famous for its highly-potent drink the Nantucket sleigh ride, whose ingredients remain guarded to this day.
Storyville was a jazz club with a four-year run at Route 124 at Pleasant Lake. It opened in 1957 with Louis Armstrong playing two sets. Jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performed at Storyville during its 10-week season. The club did not turn a profit, however, and closed after the 1961 season. Its famous drink was the Blue Hawaiian that took its color from blue curacao.
Higgins Tavern was a popular 19th century hot spot that catered to the stagecoach trade between 1829 and 1860 at 151 Route 6A, Orleans. It had a second life in the 20th century when it reopened immediately after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Today the Olde Tavern Motel, which was built from a part of Higgins Tavern, graces the spot. Its drink is the Sazerac cocktail, invented in New Orleans in 1838. It contains absinthe.
Finally, the Southward Inn at 107 Main St., Orleans, had a 55-year run. The inn featured a loudmouthed parrot and interior designs by Peter Hunt of Provincetown. In the 1950s the inn brought in jazz artists and even held square dances on Friday nights. After a change of ownership and a name change, the inn was closed by the board of health in 1974. The building was razed in 1977 and is now the site of a Masonic Lodge and the Bank of America. The Manhattan was the Southward’s drink.
Setterlund is working on another book that will feature historic hotels, motels and inns on Cape Cod. He will give a PowerPoint presentation on “Cape Cod Nights” on Thursday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Eldredge Public Library. For more information call the library at 508-945-5170.