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If you have any public domain photographs of historical interest to donate, whether scanned or printed please contact the webmaster, Roger Chartier and your submission will be credited if it is displayed on this site.

By Roger Chartier


St. Helena Restaurant - Cafe
Sommers Dining Room - Hairdresser
83 Union St. Boarding House
Bethel and Union Streets - New Bedford, Ma.

1800's and 1900's photos (below) of the St. Helena Restaurant - Cafe - 83 Union St cor. Bethel. (Johnny Cake Hill).

Located downstairs on the corner of the men's boarding house of the time. The boarders were laborers and plumbers and tradesmen for the most part.

A bit of research shows that It was built in 1820 and was owned by brothers Seth and Charles Russell.
They used it for a dry goods store.

In  the years around 1830, it was partly used by a family of watchmakers called the Kelley's.

In 1850, it was where the first edition of the New Bedford Evening Standard was published there.

In 1887, the boarding house and the restaurant was owned or managed by Henry Dutheridge, in 1892 It was managed or owned by William Carter, and he lived at 30 Walnut St.

In 1897, it was owned or managed by Frank Sommers.
The name was changed to "Sommers Dining Room".

n 1906, the dining room was owned or managed by Emily Martin.

In 1911, and at least until 1914 run by R. R. Sylvester who lived at 169 Emerson St..

In 1917, the restaurant section operated as a "Men's Hairdresser" or a barbershop by Manual C Souza who lived at 173 Cedar St.

I suggest that you do open up an enlargement to see some really interesting details.
In 1916, most of the east side of Bethel street was demolished to build the Whaling Museum.

The sign above the door advertises "Best 15¢ Dinner".
It would be great to be able to read the rest. The sign on the Bethel St. side reads "St Helena Cafe".
The sign on the front says St Helena Restaurant.

The name "St. Helena" is also the name of an island alone in a large expanse of the Atlantic where the Whaler's often went to get supplies while at sea.

The fountain in the street is a really nice touch. I was told that horses would drink from there.

On the brick wall of the restaurant just near the second step it can be seen that at one time the brick wall was altered. It was filled in with more brick to bring the wall closer toward the front of the building.
It may have been a door at one time.

The low spot at the bottom of the stairs had to be a problem with rain or melted snow in the winter as it is lower than the side walk near it and the wooden door or window would have been a problem with the water..

The stairs coming into the buildings at a side angle right off of the sidewalk are similar to those on many Nantucket homes in the thickly populated center of that town.

The British burned much of the city on Sept. 5, 1778 so this having been built in 1820 might have been an empty lot or perhaps another building that was knocked down prior to the 1820 construction.

It looks to be quite old at the time of the top photos.
In the top photo we can see a shadow of the electric lighting for the street and a telephone pole.
Look to see an electric wire - top left, and far left shows a telephone pole.

In the second photo, on the far left can be seen a telephone poles with no wires yet in place.
Telephones were put in New Bedford starting in 1879 - 1880. This photo was taken around that date.

In 1886, the Edison Illuminating Company brought electric light and power.

On January 18 of 1977 a large amount of gas leaked in to the buildings there from a cracked main into the basement of O'Malley's Tavern, and the resulting explosion destroyed several of the buildings there.

The building next door, to the corner called the Sylvia-Macomber Building had no insurance on it. It had been renovated by (WHALE) at a cost of $41,000.00 and was to be sold the next day! The entire corner was blown up or burned as well as other bearby buildings.

The whole area is now demolished, and up the Hill on the right we now find the Whaling Museum.
The bottom of the hill where the restaurant once was has been made into a small park honoring a local black man named Paul Cufee who earned a lot of money locally and who had a store next to the restaurant.

Four images and a map below.

Just up the hill on the left and out of view is the Seamen's Bethel, a chapel completed on May 2, 1832. Enlargements below.

Here you can view and download different file sizes of the top photo.
The bigger the numbers the more detail.
200 DPI - 1.35MB 300 DPI - 2.72MB 600 DPI - 9.15MB 1200 DPI - 32.6MB
1800's New BEdford - St Helena Restaurant - cafe - Union and Bethel St. -
Below is the Sommer and later the (in this picture) Carver Dining Room photo taken between 1887 and 1897
1900 Bethel Street - Sommers Dining Room New Bedford, Ma -
Below we can see that there was a street light but yet no telephone wires any longer.
The date is early 1900's as we can see automobiles in the photo.
st_helena_rest_area -
2014 Google image of the general location  below.
Union Street and Johnny Cake Hill (formerly Bethel Street). where the St Helena restaurant etc had been located many years ago - Currently whre the Paul Cuffe park is located
Below you can see the original map the same corner lot location was owned by Seth Russell in 1765
Map of New Bedford - Prospect hill -