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Bowling on the Lord's Day: The West End's bowling alleys

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If you put 15 Hanover Street into a GPS, it will bring you to the middle of a crosswalk looking toward Government Center, next to the Holocaust Memorial. On the street now buried underneath City Hall, there used to be a popular, fun spot: the Crawford Bowladrome, a seven-lane, 10-pin bowling alley.

by Madeline Short

Crawford Bowladrome, circa 1958-1961, Collection 4010.001

Anthony D. Grande opened the Crawford Bowladrome on September 8, 1938. Bowling flourished as the Great Depression lifted, when American families were able to earn some more spending money and enjoy leisure activities. It was a sport perfect for working people: inexpensive, easy to learn, and social. The social aspect of bowling allowed people to talk and play together, including men, women, and children. There were even competitive bowling leagues. 

Boston’s West End was a largely immigrant neighborhood that contained multiple bowling alleys by the late 1930s. Between the Crawford Bowladrome and the Daylight Alley on Cambridge Street, working people could come enjoy an American pastime. Boston required permits to have bowling alleys open on Sunday. To get one, businesses had to fill out a “Petition to Operate Bowling Alleys on the Lord’s Day.” These West End alleys both had “Lord’s Day” permits, meaning that from 1 to 11 p.m. on Sundays, West End residents and visitors were free to enjoy bowling and socializing at their local alleys.

Petition to Operate Bowling Alleys on the Lord’s Day, 1947, Collection 0100.001

The West End even had its own bowling league that started in 1935 at the Daylite (sic.) Bowling Lanes. According to the West Ender newsletter, this League continued playing, despite the loss of the original West End alleys. The league celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1986.

The Crawford Bowladrome and Daylight Bowling Lanes closed when the West End and Government Center areas were bulldozed in Boston’s urban renewal of the 1950s and 1960s, but the former residents of the West End continued to honor their neighborhood through a favorite pastime: bowling.

This post was written by Madeline Short, a student in the History 380 (Fieldwork) Class at Simmons University. For more information about this class's work studying the history of the West End, see our introductory post to this blog series.