HOLYOKE – Easily one of the most unique buildings in the city with one of the most interesting histories was demolished on Aug. 31. The Bud at 30 John St. is now just a memory.
After years of being on a demolition list, as well as being the subject of efforts to save it, the three-story brick building came down in a day with an estimated two days to sort out recyclable materials and clean up the site,
Holyoke Historical Commission chair Olivia Mausel said the decline of the building was due to “benign neglect.”
The history of The Bud was a long and storied one. The building was first a tavern and rest stop along the Boston to Albany stage lines and built in the 1870s, according to information in the files of the Holyoke Public Library History Room.
The main bar still had a trough on the floor where male patrons could relieve themselves while having a drink during a rest stop while riding the stage.
Patrick J. Murray bought the building in 1903 and by 1913 it was known as “The Bud,” due to the tavern being the first local distributor of Anheuser-Busch beer.
A sign, now faded, on the back of the building reads “This is not a bank. This is The Bud.” Murray convinced local banks to have hours available to the city's factory workers by cashing their checks himself with silver dollars. The influx of silver dollars to local merchants showed the banks the importance and size of the blue-collar workers.
Prohibition reportedly didn't stop The Bud. Murray opened a speakeasy on the second floor of the building from 1920 until 1933.
There was reportedly a tunnel that connected City Hall to The Bud.
Mausel quoted additional information collected about The Bud by the Holyoke History Room, “It is said that the mayor and police chief used to visit the local speakeasy after hours using his tunnel all of the windows on the first floor are hollow and are latched on the bottom. They all lifted up and served as a convenient spot for hiding drinks. The waitress station in the main dining room was hollow. Inside the station was a ladder leading to the basement and out two double doors onto John Street. This was one of several convenient escape routes used during a raid.”
Patrick's son Wilbur added numerous distinct touches to the establishment. After seeing the movie “Royal Wedding,” in which Fred Astaire is seen dancing on the ceiling, he added plaster casts of shoes and bare feet to the ceiling of the first floor bar. There was a nautical motif on the first floor dining area that created the feel of eating aboard a ship.
The brickwork on the building's exterior was also unique with hearts and clubs decorating windowsills.
Wilbur Murray sold the building to James Rust in 1976, who operated the establishment as a bar and restaurant. The last owner, James Hendricks bought the building in 1987 and attempted to continue the bar and restaurant operation as well as rent the building to others. The last establishment was a Caribbean restaurant in the mid-1990s.
By 2011, Hendricks owed the city $300,000 in back taxes. The roof had caved in by 2006 allowing considerable water damage to the structure. Although members of the Historical Commission advocated in 2011 for an effort to secure the building so it could be repaired, no action took place.
This writer asked on Facebook for reaction to the demolition and memories of The Bud. Mike O’Connor wrote, “What’s sad is that nobody had the money or inclination to restore it before it was too late. It may not be a true historic sight, but it did have a very colorful history dating back to the Prohibition days.”
David Matuszek wrote, “My dad’s first job was bottle washer there when it was a speakeasy. They’d hire neighborhood kids because they were very cheap labor and in case of a raid they'd ignore them.”
Paul-Bryer-Charette said, “The 1980s incarnation with the ‘round the world beer selection was our first introduction to something that tasted different than basic Miller or Budweiser. It predated the whole craft beer scene. Ironically The Bud was definitely not the place to drink a Bud.”
The Bud was reportedly haunted by either the spirit of Patrick or Wilbur Murray. Who knows what their reaction was when their beloved building laid on the ground in pieces.