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Surprise! — your home was a tavern

A 1940s restaurant/bar called the Grey Squirrel hides in plain sight at 4 Chestnut Ave., directly behind the Burlington Car Wash. At first glance it may look like a typical house, albeit a bit long, but look again. It has a cater-cornered door like an old pub. It also has two distinct halves, each with its own window style and each with its own door. An in-law addition? No, this was a popular business with an attached residence, and it was located where the car wash is today.

Grey Squirrel ad 1935 Burlington, MA
Grey Squirrel ad 1935

The Santullo family bought the Cambridge Street property in 1951 from William F. Murphy* and lived in the Grey Squirrel building until 1965, when they moved it to Chestnut Ave. to make way for the car wash.

So what killed the Grey Squirrel? The town did, when it outlawed the serving of alcohol in the 1950s. But in the free-flowing days of the ’30s and ’40s, this was a Cambridge St. landmark, a little unusual but, according to Anne Mahoney of Cambridge St., very pretty.

4 Chestnut Ave, Burlington MA

The residential part, made of fieldstone, formed the left side. “It had all the lovely features of the homes in that period. Beachwood, hardwood, french doors,” says Mahoney, a Burlington resident since 1941. The business side was asphalt shingle. Gray, of course, says Phil Santullo, the second-generation car wash owner. The entire structure was re-skinned in brown brickwork for uniformity’s sake, he says. It was also abbreviated a bit. The original business end was longer.

Mahoney says the Grey Squirrel served an upscale clientele, including tannery executives in Woburn. That was quite a coup. Woburn had a much more mature culture than scrawny Burlington, which didn’t even have a bank or a supermarket. So the Grey Squirrel was a rare Burlington destination for the well-heeled.

The Santullos sold the place to Walter R. McCarthy soon after it was moved. McCarthy sold it to the current owners, Lawrence Travaglione and Brenda Ferdinand, in 2014. McCarthy knew the history of the house, but the new owners didn’t until neighbors tipped them last year. They were pleasantly surprised. Thank goodness.

 *His daughter, Claire, apparently made the honor roll in 1934 at St. Charles in Woburn. The latest owners of the house found her certificate in the attic.

 

 

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