Release, March 21, 2001
Pillar House Will Close in June
Consistent with a trend that has seen the recent closing
of numerous area high-end restaurants, Pillar House restaurant owner
Thomas Larsen has announced that he will close the landmark restaurant
on Route 128 on June 29 after nearly a half century in continuous
operation. Larsen and his late father, George, have operated the
distinctive restaurant since its establishment in 1952.
tradition of elegant dining in a relaxed atmosphere is, unfortunately,
part of a bygone era, Larsen wrote in a letter to more than
7,000 loyal guests and friends, announcing his decision to close.
As many of you know, other institutions such as the Ritz Dining
Room reached a similar decision. We have decided to close rather
than compromise our style or our standards. We are forever grateful
to you and your families and friends for sharing so many special
occasions with the Larsen family and our staff.
Pillar House, prominently located at the intersection of Routes
128 and 16 on the Newton-Wellesley line, was founded by George Larsen,
in 1952. It was named after the four majestic pillars on the front
of the building. It has won numerous industry awards and is described
by the Zagat Restaurant Guide as having a tradition of excellent
dining, plus gorgeous décor and attentive service.
has long been known as an innovator in the restaurant business.
In 1972, the restaurant closed for weekends in order to provide
the staff with weekends off. In 1986, the Pillar House became one
of the first restaurants in Massachusetts to ban smoking and in
1999 banned the use of cell phones in the dining rooms. After 42
years, the Pillar House closed for lunch in 1995 due to the business
communitys desire for fast lunches and the restaurants
unwillingness to compromise its style of service.
believes that times are changing in the restaurant business. We
thrived on the traditional business lunch and the elegant, perfectly-served
dinner, but those traditions are less in demand than in the past,
said Larsen. I look forward to reminiscing with our loyal
guests and friends during the next few months prior to closing.
indicated that the property will be sold to Newton-based National
Development, which plans a high-end office use for the property.
National Development has done first-rate work in Newton and
understands the history of this building. They have pledged to work
with the city to preserve the original Pillar House building, and
that is important to our family.
Tye, managing partner of National Development, indicated that plans
for the project are in the early development stage, We have
developed two buildings, one of which is our corporate headquarters,
nearby the Pillar House which add to the historic fabric of the
Lower Falls neighborhood. We will take a similar sensitive approach
in the redevelopment of the Pillar House. National Development
has been nationally recognized for its historic renovation of the
Vernon Court building and site of the former Newton Free Library
in Newton Corner.
Development is one of the largest real estate development firms
in Massachusetts and has developed five projects within the City
of Newton. The company provides complete development, construction
and asset management services. Among National Developments
better known projects are 9/90 Corporate Center in Framingham, Metro
North Corporate Center in Woburn, BlueView Corporate Center in Canton,
Forge Park in Franklin and Lake Williams Corporate Center in Marlboro.
back to top
In 1986 we captured media attention as the first Massachusetts restaurant
to ban smoking for the sake of our guests. Then toward the end of
1998 we saw more and more quests bring cell phones with them into
the dining rooms. While it was convenient for them, it was annoying
to those seated nearby. Guests come to The Pillar House with certain
expectations, and I was determined that cell phones wouldn't dim
what guests expect. So in April of '99 I banned the use of cell
phones in the dining rooms. Of course, guests are always welcome
to use their phones in the foyer, bar or outside on the covered
press got wind of the ban, and soon we were featured on TV Channel
5's evening news and Chronicle, and The Pat Whitley Restaurant Show.
Since then, we've been deluged with e-mail, telephone calls and
letters from guests who appreciate our decision. Whether to conduct
business or to enjoy a companionable dinner with friends or family,
guests tell us that they come to Pillar House for the excellent
food and the atmosphere. And they appreciate that we take the responsibility
to continue to maintain this for all of our guests and for our staff.
I recently calculated that since 1972 when I made this quality-of-life
decision to give my staff weekends off, I've been asked this question
over four thousand times. The answer is found in our unruffled professional
staff members who focus on their guests at work and their families
on weekends. This 170-year old home that's not worn out from overuse
and with our loyal patrons who fill the restaurant almost to capacity
night after weekday night.
Cigarette smoke detracts from the taste and smell of food, and I
want our guests to savor our food's subtle spices and aromas. So
in July of '86, years ahead of the trend, we hung a sign in our
lobby announcing a 100% smoke-free restaurant. Our critics howled,
but we proved that the benefits to the dining environment, both
for our staff and guests, far outweigh the risk of losing patrons.
In 1995 we made an economic decision to close for lunch. Lunch fell
from 40% to 20% of the business as professionals no longer had the
time or inclination to linger for hours over martinis and steaks.
People wanted a fast lunch. And "fast" just doesn't fit with the
slower pace at Pillar House. We also had problems finding lunchtime
help that met our standards. Our decision to close for lunch was
made with sadness after 42 years. We still miss our lunchtime regulars.
When we went completely smoke-free in 1986, it just didn't make
sense to keep the bar open. But as more public places became smoke-free,
people grew to appreciate a pristine environment. So we brought
back a smoke-free bar in 1996 to give our guests a warm and inviting
place to meet clients or friends after work or to relax with a drink
the casual Cafe
Our guests told us that sometimes they'd like to come to the Pillar
House on the spur of the moment. They don't want to dress up or
make advance reservations. They also told us that sometimes they
prefer to eat lighter fare that's less expensive. In response to
these comments, we opened the Cafe upstairs next to the bar. It's
a bright spacious area with lots of windows and a great view of
the cars hustling up and down Route 128. In fact, we used to call
the Cafe the 128 Room and it was a favorite of our lunchtime crowd
as depicted in 1970 on our History timeline.
I want to
personally inform you that we have decided to close the Pillar House this
coming June 29, after nearly half a century of continuous operation as
a family business,
of elegant dining in a relaxed atmosphere is, unfortunately, part of a
bygone era. And as many of you know, other institutions such as the Ritz
Dining Room reached a similar decision. As we have never been willing
to compromise our style or our standards, we have decided now is the time
adequately express how deeply I treasure your support and friendship these
many years. We have always viewed our customers as guests in our House
and will forever be grateful that you allowed the Larsen family and Pillar
House staff to help you celebrate so many special occasions.
I will miss
you all as part of our Pillar House family. If you have a chance to stop
by and say hello, Id enjoy saying thank you in person.
below appeared in The Christian Science Monitor April 4.
Has a rose after
dinner lost its charm?
since owner Tom Larsen announced two weeks ago that he will close the
Pillar House restaurant in suburban Boston in June, his telephone has
been ringing-and ringing. Loyal patrons have been calling to express regret
at the loss of the locally famed establishment and to wish him well.
comment about their memories, but they also say they understand,"
Mr. Larsen says.
understand is his reason for closing the restaurant, started by his father
in 1952 in a handsome 170-year-old residence and named for its four majestic
pillars. The landmark institution features a huge urn of fresh flowers
in the dining room, crisp linens, soft music, and attentive service. All
women receive a long-stemmed rose at the end of the meal.
explained in a letter to more than 7,000 guests and friends, "Our
tradition of elegant dining in a relaxed atmosphere is, unfortunately,
part of a bygone era." Even Boston's Ritz-Carlton, he notes, recently
closed its formal dining room.
has changed," Larsen says philosophically in a telephone interview.
with remarkable regularity these days, and the phrase "the end of
an era" can easily become a cliché. But in Larsen's case,
the words are carefully chosen and accurate. For many patrons, memories
of the Pillar House era run deep. Here marriage proposals have been made
and accepted. Birthdays and anniversaries have been celebrated. Business
deals have been forged. Friendships have been nurtured.
the Pillar House's historical timeline is also to track the sociological
fault lines of American life in the past 30 years. The restaurant becomes
more than simply the story of a local landmark ending a half-century run.
It serves as a mirror reflecting broader national trends that have produced
gradual shifts in customs and expectations.
250-seat establishments like his, Larsen finds that "the boutique
restaurant, the storefront, the 60-seat restaurant is what a lot of people
want today." He adds, "People like food, but I don't think they're
as concerned about the environment and the service."
as an innovator in the restaurant business, Larsen has made his share
of brave decisions. In 1972, long before the phrase "family-friendly
workplace" was coined, he closed on weekends so his staff could have
Saturday and Sunday off.
the Pillar House became the first restaurant in the state to ban smoking.
Two years ago, Larsen also banned the use of cell phones in the dining
room, restricting their use to other areas.
noontime business fall from 40 percent to 20 percent of his business,
Larsen stopped serving lunch in 1995. "People wanted a fast lunch,"
he explains. "And 'fast' just doesn't fit with the slower pace at
Pillar House." He adds, "Now business people take their lunch
finds a silver lining. "One good thing is that the three-martini
lunch is a thing of the past," he says. "Not good for my business,
but good for society."
changes have also demanded flexibility. Five years ago, Larsen revised
the dress code. No longer must men (or "gentlemen," as he call
them) wear a jacket and tie. "We truly would be out of business by
now if we hadn't relaxed that," he explains.
aren't the only institutions facing changes like these, sartorial and
otherwise. Ever since casual Friday invaded the corporate world, managers
and employees alike have grappled with the question: How casual is too
finding that casual sometimes means sloppy, are now testing a novel idea:
Dress-up Monday or Dress-up Thursday. The Bush White House has also instituted
a dress code.
dotcom workers accustomed to a jeans-and-sneakers uniform are having to
polish their wardrobes. They need - gasp! - an interview suit, or at least
a tie and jacket, the very attire than became a burden for some Pillar
elegance and a degree of formality eventually come back in style, satisfying
a hidden hunger for order and beauty? Even if they do, nothing will change
the Pillar House's future.
29, the restaurant will greet its last guests, serve it final order of
pan-seared salmon, hand out its last rose. Lights will be turned off and
doors locked as the building awaits redevelopment as a high-end office.
One era ends, another begins.