The Little-Known History Behind a Well-Known Watering Hole

One of four businesses left from Boston's Ole Scollay Square, the Red Hat offers cheap bar food with a touch of history and moxie.

Beacon Hill has never had a reputation for swinging.

Boston Brahmin fathers were happy to leave that to the surrounding "steerage" neighborhoods of the West and North Ends and the all-but-forgotten Scollay Square. Government Center wasn't always the sigh-inducing, concrete eyesore it is now. For most of the city's history, the now windswept expanse of brick was the heart of the entertainment district and renowned for tassels, speakeasies and all things racy.

Ironically, "Ole Scollay" died for the sake of urban renewal in the early sixties. The destruction was so total that more relics exist of the biblical Sodom than Boston's old red light district.

The Red Hat Cafe on Bowdoin Street is now one of only four businesses left from those days. Since 1907, the old brass taps have filled more beer mugs and bellies than almost any other place, albeit a few blocks removed from its original site in Scollay Square.

Now catering to the collegiate and bureaucratic fringes of Beacon Hill, the Hat stands as an old school tribute to blue-collar Beantown, even if the actual clientele is more mixed. Happy hour's dominated by state workers and local staffers, while nights are left to the students of nearby Suffolk University and young professionals living around or on Beacon Hill.

If not for the value, perhaps customers come for their friendliness is unquestionable and refreshingly free of the familiar "flair" of chain restaurants.

History fans might also enjoy the memorabilia. The stained glass above the upstairs bar is original as is the top hat. In the back, under a sheet of heavily tinted glass, you can make out the old neon sign that once shone out over Scollay Square.

The Red Hat is a rare reminder of Boston's yesteryear, bringing an earthy spice to the more refined palate of Beacon Hill -- an unpretentious watering hole to gain some courage for the climb.

Find Us

The Red Hat

9 Bowdoin St,

Boston, MA 02114

Phone. 6175232175