The Shifting Landscape of Local Food Hot Spots
The next time you leave campus and head south on Spring Street, keep your eyes peeled for an unassuming stone cottage just past the fire department. Now part of a private residence, it has a rich history, including once serving as a popular dining destination for Tabor students.
Captain Frederick Allen, a key player in Marion’s small but prosperous 19th century salt industry, built the structure in 1820 as a warehouse for his business. By the 1880s, after serving as a whale oil refinery during the Civil War, it fell into disrepair. Richard Gilder, a poet and magazine editor, saw the cottage’s charm and purchased it as a studio for his wife, the painter and illustrator Helena de Kay Gilder. Maximizing the space’s capacity for comfort, Gilder renovated the interior and added a grand stone fireplace, designed by architect Stanford White.
Throughout their ownership, the Gilders held Parisian-styled salons in the studio, hosting many artists and prominent guests. President Grover Cleveland and his wife Frances, summer residents of the town, were frequent attendees, along with authors Henry James and Ralph Waldo Emerson and actors John and Ethel Barrymore.
In the early 20th century, a local businessman named Benjamin Waters bought the studio and repurposed it for his Marion Gas Company, adding a windmill to supply power. Following in her father’s entrepreneurial footsteps, Edith Waters Hudson took over the cottage in 1933 and opened a restaurant. The Old Stone Studio, nestled in a pine thicket less than a quarter mile from campus, quickly became a favorite haunt for Tabor students.
“Why not have a snack after the game?” asked an advertisement for the Old Stone Studio in a 1949 issue of The Log. “Home-cooked food and ice cream,” declared a 1962 ad. “Tabor boys welcome!” When the Studio closed in the mid-60s, students had to look elsewhere for off-campus refreshments.
Over the years, Marion village has had various options. Jenkins, across from the Music Hall on the corner of Cottage and Front streets, served breakfast and sandwiches. A little further down the road, The Galley was a classic delicatessen that was proudly open 362 days a year. And, of course, there is always the Marion General Store. Originally constructed in 1799 as a congregational church, one of the town’s most significant historic buildings became its general store in the mid-19th century and has filled that vital role ever since.
Tabor students have also enjoyed many great food haunts north of campus. The corner of Route 6 and Spring Street has been a fertile crescent of sorts. The current site of the Atlantic Bistro, which offers fine dining with French flair, was previously the home of the Sippican Cafe, whose brunch, The Log opined in 2015, “makes your weekends infinitely better with various egg benedict dishes and delicious omelets.” In the 1980s, The Little Neck Fish Market served fried clams and boiled lobster while appealing to land lovers with burgers and hot dogs. For the last three decades and counting, Turks in Mattapoisett has been the Tabor community’s favorite spot for seafood, especially once they added a sushi bar in the early 2000s.
For many years, Tabor students lacked easy access to one of the most essential items on the teenage food pyramid. Pizza was scarce in Marion. The Wave, which now operates as Brew Fish, was a bar and family restaurant with a carry-out window around back that was known for its pizza and fish and chips. (It was also a popular late-night spot over many reunion weekends, a tradition that has continued with Brew Fish). But they didn’t deliver, and students were prohibited from crossing Route 6 without permission. The opening of Santoro’s in the late ’90s was a game-changer. Located on the campus-side of Route 6, just past Spring Street, it quickly became a magnet for takeout and delivery orders, a status it maintains to this day. As The Log noted in a 2015 review, “the bbq chicken pizza will never fail you.”
If pizza was tough to find during Tabor’s early history, sweet treats were not. In addition to sandwiches and coffee, the Old Stone Studio served waffles and cakes. The Galley’s bakery had an assortment of cookies and pastries, and the General Store has always had a reliable stockpile of candy. Although it might not fall under the category of “local haunt,” Cumberland Farms (“Cumby’s”) has been a snack haven ever since it arrived in the mid-80s.
Before the dining hall started serving ice cream regularly in 2002, students had to venture off-campus for frozen delights. Petersen’s Ice Cream Parlor on Cottage Street was a hit from the moment it opened in 1921. Mr. Petersen’s son, Viggo, graduated from Tabor in 1930, and the family always treated the school well. One of the senior privileges listed in the May 1939 issue of The Log included special visits to Petersen’s. Viggo took over the shop after his father’s death in 1941, but was forced to shutter during World War II due to cream shortages. Petersen’s reopened after the war and remained a Marion institution until it closed in the 1970s.
Dutchland Farms, located in the plaza where Uncle Jon’s sits today, was another popular ice cream parlor in the early 20th century. In the neighboring towns of Mattapoisett and Wareham respectively, Oxford Creamery and Kool Kone have been open for decades. Many alumni and current students have fond memories of visiting them with friends or going with teammates and coaches after practice on a late spring afternoon.
For nearly half a century starting in the ’50s, Tabor students enjoyed regular visits from the Dainty Maid ice cream truck, which would show up on weekends and at athletic events throughout the school year. Alumni have fond memories of the friendly service they received from the Dainty Maid drivers. In 1988, students acknowledged Nick “the ice cream man” by dedicating The Dinghy, a yearbook supplement, in his honor. Ice cream and food trucks have not gone out of vogue. Since 2011, the Flour Girls Baking Company’s Sweet Truck, run by Tabor’s own Jill Houck, has been a community favorite.
High school is a time of self-discovery. For many adolescents, at least since the rise of cafe culture in the 1980s, that includes determining whether or not they like coffee. Uncle Jon’s, which opened in 1989, has helped several generations of Tabor students find out. Its pastries have been known to appear at advisory meetings, and the rogue teacher has hosted a class or two in the cafe on special occasions. Many students relish the opportunity to walk over whenever they have time. Whether it’s making a quick run with a classmate during a shared free period or enjoying a weekend stroll with friends, Uncle Jon’s has loomed large in life at Tabor. These excursions are often as much about the camaraderie as the caffeine.
The arrival of Dunkin’ changed the local coffee landscape. As many alumni and Marion residents know, it was a long road for the franchise to open. The company first approached the town in 2000, but there were concerns about how it would affect Marion’s small-town identity. The debate percolated on and off, and Tabor students often waded into its waters.
In The Log’s April 2000 issue, students were asked how they felt about the prospect of Dunkin’ coming to Marion. “I think it would be bad because it would be a perfect example of the huge national chain enterprise taking over the small-town mom-and-pop businesses,” one student said. Several students echoed this view, but others felt differently. “I don’t think it would be that bad,” another girl said. “I don’t think it will put the other places out of business. [It will] just add another option.” There were also culinary considerations. As one student said, “It would be great to finally have a place that makes really good donuts.”
The resistance held out, but Dunkin’ prevailed when its Marion location opened on Route 6, just west of Spring Street, in 2009. The Log, like many local papers, expressed concerns in its editorial pages. Over time, however, the majority of Tabor students have come to embrace Dunkin’ without forsaking Uncle Jon’s. This 2015 headline from The Log could be one of the clearest indicators of the community’s acceptance of the coffee chain: “What Does Your Dunkin Order Say About You?”
Just like Tabor’s campus, the local food scene has evolved throughout the school’s history. Many establishments have come and gone, and many have endured. The rise of delivery services like DoorDash has expanded the radius of available options. Today, students can easily order from restaurants in Fairhaven, Wareham, and other nearby towns.
We know there are so many more great haunts than we had room to feature in this space, and we encourage alumni to reach out with memories of their favorite off-campus cuisine.