Snapshot: Doyle’s Cafe

Those seeking a shot of authentic Boston-Irish atmosphere this month need look no further than Doyle's, where it comes literally wall to wall.

Snapshot Doyles Cafe

Photograph by Vito Aluia

Those seeking a shot of authentic Boston-Irish atmosphere this month need look no further than Doyle’s, where it comes literally wall to wall. The treasure trove of Hub memorabilia filling this 128-year-old Jamaica Plain pub got a serious boost when Gerry Burke’s family took it over in 1971, and decided it could use some local color beyond its Depression-era murals. “We didn’t have any money—we were down to our underwear,” Burke says. “So we did it a little at a time.” The collection now spans more than 100 artifacts, and includes an entire room devoted to legendary Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald and his family (dedicated by Ted Kennedy on, of course, St. Patrick’s Day).

A: This beer sign is a nod to the day in 1986 when businessman Jim Koch came in hawking a beer he’d created called Samuel Adams. Though the pitch “put me to sleep,” Burke says, he agreed to be the first bar to carry the brew. Koch still returns the favor by filming ads in Doyle’s.

B: In 1939 the WPA paid local artist Max Beichel to paint these murals of Massachusetts history. Look closely and you’ll see that Beichel, for all his talent, did have one weakness: “He didn’t do hands,” Burke says. “That wasn’t his forte.”

C: A relic from the Doyle-family era, this clock has hung in the pub for decades (interestingly, an identical one from the Burkes’ former bar faces into the other room). When the Doyle clan decided to sell their bar, they offered right of first refusal to the Burkes, for providing bootleg liquor during Prohibition.

D: That’s not a moon in the sky above Paul Revere’s famed midnight ride: It’s a plaster plug concealing a bullet hole left during a 1964 holdup. As the robber made his getaway, then-owner Billy Doyle shot him four times. “They were the only shots he ever gave away for free,” Burke says.

E: About 15 years ago, Boston police lieutenant Stanley Philbin offered Burke a unique gift: a photo of Ted Williams standing in front of a police lineup. Philbin had let his buddy be photographed against the height chart, which shows the Splendid Splinter standing 6-foot-3.

Burke’s toughest decisions are not what to hang up, but what to take down to free up space. After acquiring this portrait of mayors Kevin White, Ray Flynn, and Tom Menino, Burke had to move another Ted Williams photo down to the pub’s basement.