Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tree Carnage at Charley's

As I've written before, we miss Charley's, a casual neighborhood restaurant at Newbury and Gloucester Streets, which is turning into a Frye boot store:
The best thing about Charley's, besides its tall, perfect wedges of Boston Creme Pie, was the brick patio facing Newbury Street. On warm spring and summer nights, one could sit under the kousa dogwoods, and their blossoms glowed in the lights strung on the trees. No matter how the food was — and it was always fine, at least, beginning with the round loaf of hot, soft bread and a pot of butter —the atmosphere was charming, with some of the best people-watching in Boston. We liked to go after 9:30, to just order dessert — that Boston Creme Pie. The crowd on the patio would have thinned by that hour and the lighted trees seemed even more romantic.
Tonight we were horrified to see that all EIGHT TREES have been chopped down around the patio, leaving none standing. Besides the kousa dogwoods there was a white birch, and other trees. It's a grim scene and a great loss to our neighborhood:

Four stumps of mature trees are visible in this view.

This looks like a crime scene to me. 

I emailed Margaret Pokorny, a neighbor who is Boston's greatest champion of trees and a fellow member of the Garden Club of the Back Bay. She told me that the Garden Club had tried to save the trees by doing all they could — providing Frye with an assessment of the trees and recommendations — and Frye was not persuaded. She said they will plant four little trees along the curb and one bigger tree on the property. Then she gently reminded me that it is not a perfect world...

No, it's not. But there must be some little something I can do. Since I love boots and live in them, I was looking forward to buying some Fryes from the new store. I know they make spectacular bags, too. Now I think — no, I know — I can never own a pair of Fryes or a bag. At least not until there are twinkling lights on some tall kousa dogwood trees on that corner again. I will miss the trees far more than I will miss the boots or the bag. I'll bet I'm not the only customer they lose over this.

But Newbury Street lost one of its treasures. Farewell, wonderful trees.


  1. It appears that Frye understands the importance of the trees to the community. This shows what kind of corporate neighbor they will be. It's a good reason not to spend money there.

  2. The four street trees are a welcome gesture, although I wonder if Frye could have planted them without chopping down the eight. Replacing eight mature trees with one young tree in that garden area does not strike me as the act of a thoughtful neighbor, or one who recognizes the value of trees.

  3. The poor tree stumps look guillotined--I don't get what Frye's beef was with these big trees?? That their mature foliage would have obscured the storefront and/or sign? And what's up with the torn up brick paving and exposed dirt? I wondering what's going down to replace that?


  4. Always sad to lose trees. And speaking of restaurant closings, Panificio's appears closed on Charles Street - have you heard anything?

    Regards to the very sweet kittens and cats,


  5. Joyce, I was walking past Panificio two days ago and saw all that brown paper covering the windows. I saw a man in the doorway and he told me they were painting. ONLY a fresh coat of paint, and they'd be open again soon!

  6. Thank you for the Panificio info - we love their gnocchi bolognese and (some) pastries. Would be nice if they had put up a sign signaling their intent to close for a few days. A Beacon Hill way of doing business?

    *And thanks for all your posts - I've been so entertained, learned much about the Back Bay, and love reading the daily cat anecdotes. Your blog has given me much joy since moving to Boston from San Francisco. We were lucky to have found an apartment on the edge of the Public Garden -pretty neighborhood and I can't wait for my first Boston Spring. And I have Toffee's lookalike twin, Amelia, who still has a ridiculously long coat and tail five years after adoption. She's a very sweet girl and I can't even say no when she gets on the counters - she's that cute.

    Take care!

  7. Losing trees is of course sad in any venture but please people they are planting new ones, it is not as if the real estate will be barren. It looks to me like Frye is creating a beautiful space that will attract tons of shoppers to Newbury St. and thus those restaurants on the street will benefit. Although Charley's was a staple on the street I for one as a former resident of that neighborhood will certainly appreciate not stepping into the remnants on the sidewalk from an overindulged night.

  8. I disagree. Went by there yesterday and they have planted ONE tree in the patio area. It was of decent size, at least. It looked lonesome. They are also building a series of what appear to be brick chimney tops, which I'm guessing will be used for planters. They looked awkward and of course they are very permanent. I hope it all comes together but it's not going to have the beauty of those former, mature trees for decades to come. Street trees on Newbury are often an iffy proposition. Let's hope they take care of them. And we already have several places where we can buy Frye boots if we want them, so I don't think this store will be that much of a destination.

    Charley's had a good reputation as a neighbor, I believe, and I thought they kept their sidewalks clean and their diners under control.


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