James’s Gate was a ‘third place’

It has now been several months since we were all shocked to learn that the James’s Gate Pub had closed. And the sadness hasn’t lessened. Why is this, we ask? What made this local pub with peeling paint, faded sign, and not-exceptional pub food land into our collective spirit and take hold?

Years ago, I read an excerpt from Ray Oldenburg’s book, “The Great Good Place” (1989) and theory regarding the “Third Place.” This concept contends that we have three major circles in which we travel on a daily basis: the first is your home, the second is your job, and the third is a place to get away from the stresses of the first two.

A third place is where you go to meet your friends and let your hair down and shake off the daily grind. It doesn’t much matter where, so long as it is a place that “anchors” the community life and “fosters a broader, more creative interaction.”

James’s Gate was such a place. It was an anchor for the community, a place that brought people together and bonded. How many friends did I make there? How many kind words and comfort did I receive when I lost my job or just plain wasn’t having a great day? All I know is that it was a place I could go to and find a familiar face. Someone to raise a glass with and share a laugh.

I have attended weddings at the Gate. Been to somber wakes there as well. Baby showers and bachelor parties. Post softball-game celebrations, trivia nights, and poetry readings by the Carpenter Poets. Art openings, fundraisers, birthday parties and World Cup matches. And if you ever had the privilege to attend the annual Christmas night at the Gate, you know the warmth and glow of what true community means.   Charles Dickens couldn’t have conceived of a more convivial and generous place where anyone could go and feel a part of something much larger than themselves.

Now, we, the diaspora of the Gate, have been left to wander. Some have gone to one local establishment, others to another. But we are not together now. We have separated.

I miss the bartenders who always knew what IPA I preferred and kept a tab going – even when I might forget to pay it until the next day. I miss Brian who encouraged me and helped me find the strength to finally have my first solo exhibition at the Gate. I miss the cooks in the kitchen, and the warm hugs from José. I miss Christie and his generosity. I miss the waiters and waitresses. I miss the warmth of the fire on a snowy night. But mostly, I miss my community.

I hope that somehow a miracle might happen and the Gate will rise from the ashes of the fireplace, like some sort of slightly tipsy Phoenix, and once again, I can go down and find myself a place at the bar.

Melissa M. Hamel

Jamaica Plain resident


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