The Story of the Meadows

It was a bitter cold night on Friday, December 19, 1980 in Framingham, Massachusetts.  The Christmas shopping season was in full swing.  Local shopping malls were at capacity, traffic was at a snail's pace on Route 9 at a section known as the Golden Mile.  The Meadows had been a landmark nightspot on Route 9 for a quarter of a century, but was already in the process of demolition when fire destroyed it that Friday night.


The first alarm was pulled at 8:17 pm, the second at 8:23 pm, sending firemen and six fire trucks on their way to the old Meadows Restaurant.  It was most recently the home of “Beefsteak Charlies,” but they had moved down the road  to another location about six months prior.  The building had been vacant since then, as the owners were conducting negotiations for its future.  When the fire trucks arrived at the fire, they had difficulty persuading the curious Christmas crowds to move aside and let them through.  Onlookers sat in their cars and stood in the bitter cold to watch what was the biggest fire to hit Framingham that year.  Some said the spectacular flames could be seen from the Natick Mall; shoppers all along Route 9 reportedly poured out of doors to watch the blaze.

'Ball of fire' destroys Framingham landmark

“When we got here, it was one big ball of fire,” said Deputy Fire Chief John Regan who was one of the first on the scene with the station crew.  Because of that, he said, there was no way to tell how the fire started.  At 9:30 pm all that remained was the frame silhouetted by flames, ambers and white smoke.  By 10:30 pm the fire was under control.  It had been a major battle but it was over. When asked if it could have been set, Regan said, “There is just no way to know.”  Fire officials said they would continue investigating the exact cause of the blaze.

According to Norman W. Farley who bought The Meadows and the land surrounding it from Vaughn and Marian Monroe in 1959, the empty shell building was all that remained at the time of the fire.  The building was scheduled to be razed in the near future.  There was no insurance on the structure when it burned to the ground. “It’s the end of an era. That building sure has seen a lot,” Farley said.

The Beginning of an Era

Jack Marshard was directly responsible for Vaughn Monroe’s start in the music world.  Mr. Marshard guided and managed Vaughn at the time.  Up until then, Mr. Monroe was playing regularly at Seiler’s Ten Acres in Wayland, Massachusetts and lived in W. Newton, Massachusetts.  When Jack Marshard and John Novick went into partnership in the restaurant business, Vaughn Monroe was given a piece of the action.

The rustic, pine-paneled dining and dancing establishment was built from scratch.  It was built during World War II (1941-1945).  It was reported that the partners had to buy a small Vermont sawmill to get lumber for the building at a time when construction resources were being poured into post war housing.  The beams of the building came from launching docks at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts.  It was a full time job looking everywhere for building supplies to finish the project.  At last on June 29, 1946, ‘The Meadows’ opened with great fanfare and much success.  It was the home base for Vaughn and his orchestra and he appeared there regularly.

The partnership of Vaughn, Jack Marshard and John Novick remained a very smooth operation, but came to an abrupt halt in September 1948.  It was Labor Day and Jack Marshard was returning to his home from an engagement in Manchester-by-the-Sea.  His automobile struck a tree within moments of his home and he was killed instantly.  Novick and Monroe continued their partnership after the death of Jack Marshard, and in 1952 Novick sold his interest in The Meadows to Vaughn and his wife, Marian, now making them the soul owners of the famous restaurant.

Band leader, Vaughn Monroe, stands in front of 'The Meadows' famous fireplace at the time when he and his wife, Marian, were sole owners of the Route 9 landmark.

Most Popular Nightspot on the Golden Mile

Marian commuted to Framingham from their W. Newton home each day to manage the restaurant.  She was in complete charge of all operations.  While Mrs. Monroe ran the restaurant, Vaughn was on the road and had guest bands replace him.  Through the years, Sammy Kaye, Larry Green, Jack Edwards, and Ronny Weeks became the regulars with Monroe returning on occasion.  These musicians were to set the pace for many more big names to come to Framingham.  There was Glenn Miller, Harry James, Duke Ellington, and Guy Lombardo ~~ you name them ~~ they all came.  Parties for John F. Kennedy and Richard Cardinal Cushing were held there.  The Meadows became the nucleus of a new commercial and entertainment district, soon to be known as the Golden Mile on Route 9 in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The Meadows in Summer

The Meadows in Winter

Its ample and lushly landscaped grounds gave The Meadows its name, and it became a popular country-like setting.  In those heydays Boston society was flocking to Framingham to hold weddings, debutante coming out parties, luncheons, fashion shows, prenuptial and bachelor dinners, testimonials and banquets.  Helicopters would set down to whisk newlyweds off to Logan airport.  It was decided by Mr. & Mrs. Monroe to sell The Meadows after being sole owners for seven years (1952-1959), a long and successful adventure.

The Beginning of the End

Norman Farley, Sr. of Southborough, Massachusetts bought the better than 1000 seat restaurant and took over the picturesque Meadows and the 40 acres of land that was part of the sale on January 1, 1959.  The Meadows had been known corporately as Mar-mon, Inc., named after Jack Marshard and Monroe.

Mr. Farley ran the Restaurant with much success before he decided to go into semi-retirement.  He then leased it with Steak and Brew, a subsidiary of Longchamps of New York.  Beefsteak Charlies was the last tenant of the restaurant, but moved six months before the fatal fire.  The building was an empty shell stripped of all it contents and sold at auction, just a barren building with a great history and a famous name: ‘The Meadows.’


A large office building called The Meadows is now located on the same site. We did get a picture of the stone markers with the words "The Meadows" on them.

Submitted by: Richard & Patricia Longtin